Vulnerable and Mature, A Counterpoint Review of Michael Jackson’s “Dirty Diana”

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I get it. People generally wouldn’t say MJ was a mature man. But then again, no one really knew him, did they? Just like no one knows Sam Smith. So, taking their respective singles as simply stand alone art, I see no reason that the man who built Neverland for real shouldn’t get a fair shake.

Have you ever read the lyrics to the number one single “Dirty Diana”? I feel like I have memories of watching the video from childhood, though I can’t place from when or where. I know I certainly didn’t know what the song was about until about a decade ago. Then I was shocked. Who knew he ever sang about such things?

Contrary to Smith, MJ’s masterpiece lacks introspection or self-reflection. It starts slow, builds, and then reaches a climax all the while admitting a terrific weakness of character. For my money, it is perfect art for the precise reason Tolstoy was leery of music’s power. Tolstoy once wrote, “Music transports me immediately into the condition of soul in which he who wrote the music found himself at that time.”* (Since reading that, I haven’t been able to get that concept out of my head. Good art makes the listener/viewer feel the way the creator felt. Nice. Simple.)

And just like Smith, there is something in MJ’s voice that sounds personal. These are two clearly torn artists. But unlike young Smith, not-quite-as-young Jackson didn’t feign insecurity or doubt about his station in life. He knew the score. And that was in 1988, which was a few years before Smith was born. Point being, when will we ever learn? Jackson didn’t want to do it, but did. Smith did it and now questions his decision. Me? I’m with MJ on this. At twenty-two, Smith is too old to waffle. Ignorance is not bliss. You knew what would happen. Grow up. Everyone has to.

I guess I’m just bothered because I liked the song. And I wasn’t alone in liking it. But then I saw that it wasn’t what I thought. And I don’t like being taken. Argh!

*Tolstoy, Leo. Master and Man ; The Kreutzer Sonata ; Dramas. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1904. Print.

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