MJ’s Art: Taking Us Higher

Joie:  A few weeks ago, Willa and I were talking about Michael’s repeated use of an on-screen audience in many of his short films. And during that conversation, we talked a lot about the performance videos – the videos that portray a “staged” concert – and how they have a different feeling about them than simply watching actual concert footage. Well, since that discussion, I have not been able to get Give In to Me out of my head. I started watching it over and over shortly after we posted Part 1 of the on-screen audience conversation and what I realized is that there are a lot of interesting things going on in both the video and the song.

I have often heard “Give In to Me” described as a love song and that always puzzles me because, in my opinion, nothing could be further from the truth here. To me, this is not a song about love; it’s a song about lust. And it’s really very raw and frank in its lyrics. In the first verse, he tells the object of his desire, “Don’t try to understand me / Just simply do the things I say.” Then in the second verse, he tells her, “Don’t try to understand me / because your words just aren’t enough.”

I believe there is something much deeper going on here, and we’ll get to that in a minute. But, on the surface, I believe he’s talking about very base emotions: sexual desire, lust, physical satisfaction. He’s telling her that he doesn’t want to connect with her on any emotional level. “Don’t try to understand me,” he repeatedly sings. Then he goes on to say this:

Love is a feeling
Quench my desire
Give it when I want it
Taking me higher
Love is a woman
I don’t wanna hear it
Give in to me
Give in to me

Every time I listen to this song, I’m struck by that line, “I don’t wanna hear it.” He repeats it several times throughout the song. It’s like he’s saying he doesn’t want to talk at all, he just wants to have sex.

Willa:  I agree, especially when he follows it up with the line, “Tell it to the preacher.” It’s like he’s saying, save the romantic talk for someone who cares, because I don’t. He just wants her to “quench my desire” and be quiet about it. A preacher may care about love and commitment, but “I don’t want to hear it.”

Joie:  It’s such an insensitive, cold, unfeeling thing to say, and those are attributes that we don’t usually associate with Michael Jackson but, there it is. Whether he himself ever felt this way, we will never know – and it’s totally none of our business anyway. But he did write a song about it and performed it very convincingly. The frustration and sexual tension in his vocal delivery is palpable, and combined with the sultry rhythm of the music it makes for one very sexy song.

Willa:  You know, everything you’ve just said is so interesting, Joie, because on the one hand, I know exactly what you’re saying. There are some lines in this song that, if someone I cared about said them to me, I would find pretty hard to take – lines like “Don’t try to understand me / Just simply do the things I say.” I can understand why you zeroed in on that one because it really jumps out at me too. No woman I know would tolerate something like that. And while we need to keep in mind that these are the words of a character Michael Jackson is portraying in song and not necessarily his own thoughts and feelings, it’s still a shock because they seem to completely contradict everything he was about.

Joie:  Exactly!

Willa:  But I tend to interpret this in a different way. I agree that “Give In to Me” is a song about passion – and sexual passion is definitely part of that, as we see in those steamy images in the video. But it’s also a song about artistic passion. As we’ve talked about many times, Michael Jackson frequently represents his relationship with his audience as a love affair. We see that double relationship throughout his work: in Dirty Diana, Remember the Time, Who Is It, Blood on the Dance Floor, You Rock My World, and One More Chance, to name a few. And I see that same parallel relationship here. In fact, it’s very explicit – after all, he isn’t with a woman in the images for this video. He’s on stage, singing to an audience. But he keeps cutting to some pretty steamy scenes, so it seems to me that he’s very deliberately juxtaposing those scenes of couples in a sexual passion with him on stage in a creative passion.

Joie:  I agree, it is very deliberate, isn’t it? And that’s the “something deeper” that I alluded to earlier.

Willa:  I think so too – as with a lot of his work, you can intuitively feel that “something deeper” even before you dig in to see what that something is. And if we look at those troublesome lines that way – as an artist speaking to his audience – they make a lot more sense. When he says, “Don’t try to understand me” and “Give in to me,” he means we should stop speculating about his love life and his boa constrictors and his mannequins and on and on, and stop trying to psychoanalyze his relationship with his father and his mother and his siblings – in other words, we should stop looking at his personal life and stop trying to understand him that way – and instead, we should simply “give in” to him as an artist, and let ourselves be swept up by the power of his art.

But as usual with his work, I don’t see this as an either/or situation, meaning I don’t think we have to choose one interpretation over the other. Instead, I see it functioning both ways. To me, this is a song about sexual passion AND creative passion, and it explores both at the same time.

Joie:  Willa, I agree with you completely, although I don’t like to use the words “sexual passion.” To me, that implies a loving relationship is in existence here but, that’s clearly not the case. But for lack of a better word or phrase to use, I think we’re talking about the same thing here. Basic lust – no strings attached gratification.

As for the relationship between the artist and his audience – I think we have to look at which segment of his audience he is really speaking to here. Clearly he’s not addressing those of us who were already on his side or he would be expressing feelings of love. I think this is another one of those songs where his intended audience is everyone who’s giving him grief over his eccentric lifestyle. All those people who are so busy speculating about the rumors and his private life that they can’t enjoy the music anymore. They’re too busy trying to psychoanalyze him, as you said.

But you know, Willa, even though I see this mainly as a song about lust, I also see something else very interesting happening in the song itself, which the short film sort of echoes. In the second verse he says,

You always knew just how to make me cry
And never did I ask you questions why
It seems you get your kicks from hurting me  

Then, in the bridge of the song, he goes on to say,

You and your friends
Were laughing at me in town
But it’s okay
And it’s okay
You won’t be laughing, girl
When I’m not around
I’ll be okay
And I … I gotta find
Gotta … some peace of mind, oh  

So, even though on the one hand, he says he doesn’t want any emotional entanglements with this woman, in the very next breath he’s expressing his hurt feelings over the way she treats him. And we see this in the video as well. On the surface, it’s just a simple performance video but there are some interesting things happening in the background that really catch my eye. Interspersed with the “concert” are these really sexy shots of various couples kissing and touching each other. Then suddenly one of those couples is in the midst of a heated argument. The man is very upset with his girlfriend and we – the off-screen audience – can really feel his frustration. There are shots of people laughing – presumably at him – as they whisper and stare. He storms off and begins throwing things around.

Willa, continuing to view this song/video with this dual interpretation in mind, those lines in the second verse and in the bridge of the song make so much sense if he’s talking to that segment of his audience I mentioned earlier.

Willa:  Oh, I agree, Joie. Can you imagine putting your heart and soul into an album, and then having snarky critics mock you for your efforts? Just imagine what that would feel like. And that’s exactly what I think of every time I hear that line, “You and your friends / Were laughing at me in town.” He was a visionary:  he knew the value of his work, he knew it was ahead of its time, and he knew those critics were wrong. But still, that had to sting – to work so hard on something and have it be so horribly misunderstood and under-appreciated. But he was also very knowledgeable about art history, and he knew critics would come to appreciate his work some day. And that’s what I think of when I hear the lines, “You won’t be laughing, girl / When I’m not around.” And it’s proven to be true. We can see it happening already. Now that he’s gone, a lot of people are discovering or rediscovering his work, and starting to realize just how incredible and important it is.

Joie:  That is so true! And isn’t it amazing? Why is it that we never seem to appreciate the good things until they’re gone and it’s much too late? It makes me think of something my grandmother used to say quite a bit. She would always say ‘give me my flowers while I’m still here to enjoy them.’ And when I was younger, I didn’t really understand that. But now that I’m older and I’ve lost a few people who meant a great deal to me – her included – I understand so completely. What is it about human nature that makes us take so much for granted?

But getting back to what you were saying about putting your heart and soul into an album only to have critics mock your efforts … no, I can’t even begin to imagine what that must feel like. I mean, I would think it must be such a huge act of courage to devote yourself to your art – to labor over it and pour your soul into it, as you said – and then to actually be brave enough to share it with the world. Just writing this blog with you was such a major step outside of my comfort zone, Willa. And you remember how nervous I was about that!

Willa:  Oh, me too!

Joie:  I can’t imagine doing anything on the scale that Michael was doing it. That man just amazes me every time I think about his life and all that he accomplished. It just boggles my mind.

Willa:  I agree, and I think that in Give In to Me he’s dealing with both the exhilaration and the pain of that – of creating art that is witnessed by millions of people who may or may not understand it – by connecting it with all the intensely felt emotions surrounding sexual desire.

But I don’t think this is just a metaphor for him. I think he really did see a connection between artistic passion and sexual passion. In a wonderful 1982 interview with Gerri Hirshey, he told her,

“Being on stage is magic. There’s nothing like it. You feel the energy of everybody who’s out there. You feel it all over your body. When the lights hit you, it’s all over, I swear it is.”

Hirshey notes that, as he talks, “He is smiling now, sitting upright, trying to explain weightlessness to the earth-bound.” His mother told Hirshey that he fasted and danced for hours every Sunday, “a weekly ritual that leaves her son laid out, sweating, laughing and crying.” Hirshey goes on to write,

“It is also a ritual very similar to Michael’s performances. … There is nothing tentative about his solo turns. He can tuck his long, thin frame into a figure skater’s spin without benefit of ice or skates. Aided by the burn and flash of silvery body suits, he seems to change molecular structure at will, all robot angles one second and rippling curves the next. So sure is the body that his eyes are often closed, his face turned upward to some unseen muse. The bony chest heaves. He pants, bumps and squeals. He has been known to leap offstage and climb the rigging. At home, in his room, he dances until he falls down.”

In another interview, he talked about how, when he’s on stage and the lights hit him, it just feels electric – like electricity is playing across his skin – and that’s represented visually in Give In to Me. Especially near the end, we see blue streaks of electricity racing across the surface of his body. It’s really erotic, the way he describes the experience of being on stage, and I think in Give In to Me he’s trying to share that feeling with those of us who’ve never performed – as Hirshey put it so well, he’s “trying to explain weightlessness to the earth-bound.”

Joie:  What he’s trying to describe in that interview is the feeling of ecstasy.

Willa:  Exactly. He’s trying to express an inexplicable feeling to those of us who’ve never experienced it. I see something very similar in the beginning of Martin Bashir’s notorious documentary. I know a lot of people are morally opposed to watching the Bashir documentary, and I can understand that, but if you want to see the intro part, here it is.

About 30 seconds in there’s the reference to “classical” music that Utravioletrae mentioned in an intriguing comment last week. About 3 minutes in he tries to explain his creative process to Bashir, which is both fascinating and frustrating. And then about 11 minutes in he tells Bashir, “I love climbing trees. I think it’s my favorite thing. Having water balloon fights and climbing trees. I think those two are my favorite.”  Bashir immediately sensationalizes it, of course, saying, “Don’t you prefer making love?”  Michael Jackson just looks at him with this indulgent little smile and very patiently explains that he’s talking about hobbies, not passions. As he says, climbing trees is one of his favorite things “as my pastime fun. I can’t compare it to performing. Other people like to play football or basketball. I like to climb trees.”

What catches my attention in this conversation is that, for Bashir, the ultimate expression of passion is “making love.” But Michael Jackson knows a passion that goes even beyond that – the agony and the ecstasy of creative passion. It’s a type of passion Bashir will never know, and he doesn’t understand it and even kind of ridicules it. But I look at that scene and think, wow, Michael Jackson experienced intensities of emotion most of us can’t even imagine.

Joie:  And you’re probably very right about that, Willa. He did experience things in his life – both highs and lows – that most of us will never be able to begin to comprehend. And again, it just boggles my mind when I sit and think about the events of his life and his amazing career.

And, it is very interesting – and also very telling – that he obviously equates making love with performing. “I can’t compare it to performing,” he says. Bashir is talking about sex and, in Michael’s mind, “making love” equals being onstage. To him, that’s the only thing that can rival all the intense emotions one goes through when caught up in a sexual passion. That is fascinating!

But getting back to the video for a minute, I have to say that this has always been one of my very favorite short films. I love how dark and intense it feels, and I love the whole “concert” set up and watching Michael interact both with the fans in the crowd and with the other musicians on stage with him. You know, Michael himself said that this entire video was shot in just about two hours, which shocks me. When it debuted during his famous interview with Oprah, this is what they said about it:

Oprah: Sexy.

Michael: Yeah.

Oprah: So, we want to know how it starts on a piece of paper … quench my desire … and turns into that.  

Michael: Well, “Give In To Me,” I wanted to write another song, you know, that was kinda exciting and fun and had a rock edge to it. You know, like when I did “Beat It” and “Black or White.” And Slash, who’s a dear friend of mine … I wanted him to play guitar [on it]. We got together and we went to Germany and we shot this thing in just like two hours. We had no time at all to shoot it. We wanted it to be exciting and fantastical and fans, you know, like it’s a rock concert and that’s how it ends up, that’s the result.  

He makes it all sound so effortless, doesn’t he? Like, ‘oh anybody can do that!’ I just crack up every time I read that.

Willa:  He really does, though he almost always understated things in interviews, so it’s completely in character for him to say that. But even so, it was only the concert footage that they were able to shoot in two hours – and as you pointed out earlier, there’s a lot more going on in this video than just the concert footage. There are all those steamy scenes, and then the way he juxtaposes them is so interesting.

Joie:  The video was directed by Andy Moharan and features not only Slash, who at the time was still with rock group Guns ‘N Roses, but also GnR’s Gilby Clarke makes an uncredited appearance as well as Teddy Andreadis, who was GnR’s touring keyboardist at the time. So the concert scenes really have an authentic feel to them with all the talent on the stage and the excitement from the screaming fans in the crowd.

Willa:  It’s true, it does, and that intense excitement is really important to this video, both experientially and thematically. He wants us to feel what he feels. He wants us to experience the intensity of the artistic passion he feels on stage, and he creates that intensity through the screaming crowd, and the steamy scenes of couples in a sexual passion, and the jolts of lightning playing across his skin, and his incredible voice, and the way his body moves, and, wow – I can understand why this is one of your favorite videos, Joie! I think I need a drink of water – really cold water.

Joie:  Mmm, it is getting warm in here, isn’t it?

Willa:  It really is! But I want to get back to those steamy scenes you were describing earlier, Joie, and how that one couple is fighting. I’d never really noticed that until you mentioned it and then described it in detail, but I went back and looked and, you’re right, those scenes are so interesting, especially the way he echoes on stage what they’re doing off stage. At the beginning, the guy is murmuring reassurances to his girlfriend, trying to soothe things over, as Michael Jackson sings softly into the microphone:

She always takes it with a heart of stone
‘Cause all she does is throws it back to me
I spent a lifetime looking for someone
Don’t try to understand me
Just simply do the things I say

Then, as the woman slaps the man’s face and begins arguing with him, Michael Jackson’s voice becomes much louder and harsher as he breaks into the chorus:

Love is a feeling
Give it when I want it
‘Cause I’m on fire
Quench my desire
Give it when I want it
Talk to me, woman
Give in to me
Give in to me

Frankly, if someone talked to me like that, I’d feel really hurt and maybe want to slap his face too. I’ve never actually slapped anyone before, but I just might if they acted like that!  And then, as the man rubs his face from the slap, Michael Jackson’s voice softens and he begins quietly singing the second verse, which you quoted earlier:

You always knew just how to make me cry
And never did I ask you questions why
It seems you get your kicks from hurting me
Don’t try to understand me
Because your words just aren’t enough

So he’s telling us this isn’t just a one-time argument but a perpetual problem – as he sings, “You always knew just how to make me cry.”  And as he sings this verse, we see the couple trying to reconcile, but there’s an iron fence between them. There’s a barrier they can’t get through, though they grab it and shake it. They can speak through it, but their “words just aren’t enough.” Finally, the man staggers away in frustration, leans on the fence, kicks at it. By this point he’s inarticulate – there’s nothing more to say – and so is Michael Jackson. The electric guitar goes off on a raging solo while he remains completely silent, spinning and hugging himself on stage.

This is when things get really interesting, because suddenly the on screen images and off screen images diverge. So far, what’s happening on stage has precisely paralleled what’s happening off stage. But now it bifurcates. Off stage, the man reunites with his girlfriend, sort of: he’s trying to kiss her through the iron fence and they’re making the best of it, but they both seem pretty frustrated and unsatisfied. But on stage – oh my gosh. I need another long drink of cold water because Michael Jackson is, like, climaxing on stage: the electric guitars are going crazy, he’s in a dancing frenzy, blue electricity is sizzling all over his body, pyrotechnics are going off, steam is shooting up around him, and his voice is throbbing, “Give in to me. Give in to me. Give in to me.” Oh my. It is intense.

Joie:  Wow. … That was … good, Willa. That … was really … really … good. I hope it was good for you too!

Willa:  Actually, I’m feeling kinda woozy. No wonder he sold a gazillion records. So part of me wants to just settle in with a nice pitcher of iced tea and watch this video over and over again – just do what he says, “give in” to the experience, and just immerse myself in it and enjoy it. Believe me, I have no problem with that at all!

But then the English major part of me wants to figure out what it means, and it seems like he’s saying that, while sexual passion has its limits, artistic passion doesn’t. We live in an imperfect world with imperfect relationships, where it’s very difficult for people to really connect and understand each other, and our sex lives reflect that. Sexual relationships can be beautiful and exhilarating and nourishing to the spirit, like you’re closer to the person you love than you ever dreamed possible, but they can also be confusing and painful and frustrating, like you’re trying to kiss the person you love through an iron fence. But in many ways, art is a heightened version of real life. So artistically, you can take that frustration, sublimate it, release it through art, and discover a passion beyond sexual desire.

Joie:  Well, I think I agree with you 100% on this one. I think he was attempting to share what it feels like for him – being onstage – with the rest of us mere mortals. He was trying to explain that feeling of ecstasy he experienced when performing, and boy, did he do a great job of it! You know, like I said, this has always been one of my favorite videos but, I could never really explain why. I’ve never sat and dissected it like this before. Now that we have, I feel spent and I’m fighting the urge to cuddle. I will never be able to watch this video the same way again.

About Dancing with the Elephant contributors

Joie Collins is a founding member of the Michael Jackson Fan Club (MJFC). She has written extensively for MJFC, helping to create the original website back in 1999 and overseeing both the News and History sections of the website. Over the years she conducted numerous interviews on behalf of MJFC and also directed correspondence for the club. She also had the great fortune to be a guest at Neverland. She has been a Michael Jackson fan since she was three years old. Lisha McDuff is a classically trained professional musician who for 30 years made her living as a flutist, performing in orchestras and for major theatrical touring productions. Her passion for popular musicology led her to temporarily leave the orchestra pit and in June 2013 she received a Master’s degree in Popular Music Studies from the University of Liverpool. She’s continuing her studies at McMaster University, where she is working on a major research project about Michael Jackson, with Susan Fast as her director. Willa Stillwater is the author of M Poetica: Michael Jackson's Art of Connection and Defiance and "Rereading Michael Jackson," an article that summarizes some of the central ideas of M Poetica. She has a Ph.D. in English literature, and her doctoral research focused on the ways in which cultural narratives (such as racism) are made real for us by being "written" on our bodies. She sees this concept as an important element of Michael Jackson's work, part of what he called social conditioning. She has been a Michael Jackson fan since she was nine years old.

Posted on April 4, 2012, in Michael Jackson and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 57 Comments.

  1. Another great one!!!!!!! Off to watch Give In To Me…

  2. Theresa Biggerstaff

    Great work as always. I often think that for Michael Jackson his art was his true mistress. The place he goes to whether on stage or during his creative process, was the most important thing/feeling in his life. At least until his children came into his life, there was nothing more important to him. Any woman in his life would be in competition with his relationship with his art, not necessarily another woman.
    Michael = Music

  3. I’ve always loved this short film. There’s a subtle moment when Michael’s on stage singing and there’s a moment when he’s holding the microphone with his right hand as the music is playing as he pauses and his left hand starts at his throat and trails down his chest and across his tummy almost in a subconcious caress and I want to be that left hand. I can watch that moment over and over. Oh my, now that’s all I can see in my mind. Oh, I think I have the vapors!

  4. Thank you for this (once again) great post, Willa and Joie, I liked it very much and I never thought about Give Into Me in that way before, but the song and the video always touches me for many reasons. Reading parts of your thoughts about it really makes me cry, because it feels so true and so intense.
    At this point, there you say “… I think that in Give In to Me he’s dealing with both the exhilaration and the pain of that – of creating art that is witnessed by millions of people who may or may not understand it.. ” I thought of something, Michael told Geraldo Rivera in his Interview 2003:
    “I don’t know if it’s the psychology of it or what. I just love working hard on something. Putting it together. Sweating over it and then sharing it with people and then having them love it and I always pray that they like it. That’s what gives me great satisfaction as an artist.”
    He always gave so much of himself, he puts his heart in everything he created, sometimes completely opens up… and always took the risk, that people won’t understand him.

  5. thanks for another fantastic blog – I learn something new every week. MJ is such a fascinating person that it is difficult not to want to know more of the personal stuff, but oh so easy to “be swept up by the power of his art”. I love this short film and love how the lightening flashes all over his body and out of his hands at one time. I also love him with his hair loose. Oh let’s just admit it – I just love him, full stop. It is difficult to take one’s eyes off of Michael to the background, but now you have pointed it out I have had another look (before going to work) and indeed there is all that going on and your blog has made sense of it for me, as it does every time. Thanks also for the documentary clip – I have mixed feelings about watching it, but I feel that the ‘real’ Michael still shines through strongly despite Bashir, and I can just tune him out and concentrate on Michael.

  6. Willa and Joie, What an interesting discussion. As usual! This song has always troubled me, too. But, now I understand why. It is really embarrassing to admit, but I had not gotten the lyrics right. I thought he was singing: “Try to understand me/Just simply do the things I say” and it didn’t make any sense to me. But now that I know it is really “Don’t try to understand me” it makes much more sense. But my take is a little different from yours. I think he is saying that he wants to be loved, not psychoanalyzed. His love for her doesn’t penetrate; she doesn’t “feel” his love for her — “just throws it back.” If she would just do the things he says, as in not trying to psychoanalyze him. if she would just surrender and let herself feel, then everything would be OK.

    I am reminded a little of the lyrics in Rock With You, when he says “Relax your mind/Lay back and groove with mine/You’ve got to feel that heat/… although Rock With You was all about the euphoria of young love and Give in to Me is an expression of unbelievable longing and frustration and sadness.

    I will have to think some more about “taking this interpretation higher” — analyzing it in terms of his relationship to his audience or the public, but maybe he is telling us/them also to stop trying to psychoanalyze him and just enjoy his music.

    Thanks for a really thought-provoking discussion, again.

    • “my take is a little different from yours. I think he is saying that he wants to be loved, not psychoanalyzed. His love for her doesn’t penetrate; she doesn’t ‘feel’ his love for her — ‘just throws it back.’ If she would just do the things he says, as in not trying to psychoanalyze him. if she would just surrender and let herself feel, then everything would be OK”

      Hi Eleanor. I hadn’t thought of it this way, but what you’re saying makes a lot of sense – and it also ties in with something he said in Moonwalk:

      My dating and relationships with girls have not had the happy ending I’ve been looking for. Something always seems to get in the way. The things I share with millions of people aren’t the sort of things you share with one. Many girls want to know what makes me tick – why I live the way I do or do the things I do – trying to get inside my head. They want to rescue me from loneliness, but they do it in such a way that they give me the impression that they want to share my loneliness, which I wouldn’t wish on anybody, because I believe I’m one of the loneliest people in the world.

      So what you’re saying makes a lot of sense, and it ties in pretty closely with what Michael Jackson himself has said, so I think this is a really valid way to approach this song. Thanks for giving me another way to think about this!

  7. I think that great creative force that is pouring through Michael on stage is the same energy that gets so many preachers and ministers into trouble. Channeling that kind of energy stimulates the whole system, and at its height it’s indistinguishable from sexual energy. Those two streams are one, just two sides of the same coin. It’s why so many pious religious leaders get caught up in secret scandals. Activate one part of the stream and you get the other. It’s just about unavoidable.

  8. This discussion about Michael conveying (or attempting to convey) the ecstasy he felt on stage while performing, and relating it to sexual ecstasy/physical sensation/connection, brings Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough to mind. These lyrics are in keeping with your observations:


    Lovely Is The Feelin’ Now
    Fever, Temperatures Risin’ Now
    Power (Ah Power) Is The Force The Vow
    That Makes It Happen It Asks No Questions Why (Ooh)
    So Get Closer (Closer Now)
    To My Body Now Just Love Me
    ‘Til You Don’t Know How (Ooh)
    Keep On With The Force Don’t Stop
    Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough
    Touch Me And I Feel On Fire
    Ain’t Nothin’ Like A Love Desire (Ooh)
    I’m Melting (I’m Melting)
    Like Hot Candle Wax Sensation (Ah Sensation)
    Lovely Where We’re At (Ooh)
    So Let Love Take Us Through The Hours
    I Won’t Be Complanin’
    ‘Cause This Is Love Power (Ooh)
    Keep On With The Force Don’t Stop
    Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough
    Keep On With The Force Don’t Stop
    Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough
    Heartbreak Enemy Despise
    Eternal (Ah Eternal)
    Love Shines In My Eyes (Ooh)
    So Let Love Take Us Through The Hours
    I Won’t Be Complanin’ (No No)
    ‘Cause Your Love Is Alright, Alright
    Keep On With The Force Don’t Stop
    Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough

  9. Also just thought of this: He is also alone in the video for DSTYGE, dancing by himself. But he appears to be transported to a wonderful state of being, and to be inviting his “audience” to join in…

    • Oh, absolutely, Bentleymark. I think this ties in very closely with “Don’t Stop til You Get Enough” – one of my favorite songs, by the way. I really see that dual expression of creative/sexual energy in both of these songs and videos, and more subtly in a number of others as well. In fact, this is one of those themes that seems to extend throughout his work, from his earliest solo recordings to his latest. And I agree – I love the way “he appears to be transported to a wonderful state of being” in “Don’t Stop,” and how he invites us to join in, as you say.

  10. You know, I find this post interesting because I’ve always interpreted “Give in to Me” as an exploration of the emotional abuse that a man can suffer at the hands of a woman. There are songs that detail physical and emotional abuse at the hands of a man; in fact, Michael’s sister Janet has written two rock/opera songs covering the theme (“This Time” (1993) and “What About” (1998)). I don’t see why a man can’t explore the same concept. Consider the lyrics, and how he describes her treatment of him. She laughs at him behind his back with other people, makes him cry, acts cold towards him, hurts him for sport, and uses his emotions against him. It’s as if she considers him to be a “weak” man—thereby implying that he’s less than a man. Frankly, I consider his statements in the chorus to be his way of saying, “I’ve tried being compassionate, loving, and gentle with you, but you’ve spurned that, so I’m going to be rough and aggressive, I’m going to act the way you expect a man to act.” However, you can see that his heart isn’t completely in that ideology, because towards the end of the song he begs, “Talk to me baby,” and then ‘give in to me’ takes on a new meaning—he does want her to communicate with him, he wants her to come to him instead of laughing at him with her friends, to allow him to prove his manhood and his love on his terms for once. I believe that artistically speaking, in terms of his audience—at least the fickle segment of it—he was trying to convey the same message.

    • I think Alicia has a very good point here. We know that all of Michael’s works had a message,(especially after reading all these blogs I have seen that more and more) and I also wondered that this short movie seemed out of character for Michael in some ways – although one now wonders about anything being out of character, his range is so wide!! to think that he is pointing out male abuse for a change makes a lot of sense for me. He dealt a lot with female abuse, so why not look at the man’s point of view for a change. He was interested in all of life’s experiences, and now Give in to Me seems like another exploration of yet another facet of life. Brilliant observation thank you.

      • Thank you for saying so. You know, the album itself seems to re-examine a lot of society’s preconceived notions about how problems are dealt with, how issues are defined, it’s really fascinating.

      • @Caro says: ” …although one now wonders about anything being out of character…”.

        What a great comment. I was thinking the same thing when reading another post Willa and Joie did. I think it might have been the Who Is It post. People comment that that video is some how ‘different’ or ‘not the normal MJ video’ and such. But I think we are learning more and more just how deliberate Michael is with everything concerning his art.

  11. ultravioletrae

    Incredible post! Amazing analysis. This seductive song reminds me so much of the classical mythology of Pan and his flute. Pan is a frightening mythic creature who powerfully seduces the nymphs into a state of ecstasy through the sound of his flute. I assume Michael loved the story because at Neverland, there was a logo and signage that shows Pan and his flute: http://poolandpatio.about.com/od/decoratingoutdoorspaces/ig/Michael-Jackson-Gallery/Welcome-to-Neverland.htm Peter Pan also suggests this mythology, because of the name Peter Pan and because Peter plays the flute in the original story.

    Debussy wrote a piece called “Syrinx or The Flute of Pan”. The symbolism of the seduction is about moving into a higher realm of consciousness, and Debussy moves the tonal center of the music up to symbolize the nymphs as they “give in” to the intoxicating power of Pan’s flute. Here is the last few lines of text for Debussy’s piece:

    From the flesh of all of them a divine fire flows
    And all are inflamed with love for Pan
    And me the same ardor spreads through my veins;
    O Pan the sounds of thy syrinx, like a wine
    Too fragrant and too sweet, have intoxicated me.
    O Pan, I no longer fear you, I am yours.

    Is it just me? Or does that sound like a response to:

    I don’t wanna…I don’t wanna…I don’t wanna hear it
    Take Me To The Fire
    Talk To Me Woman
    Quench My Desire
    Not Like A Lady
    Talk To Me Baby
    Give In To Me

    The only way I can describe the music for Give In To Me is intoxicating. I love towards the end of the song where you hear the strings playing a 3 note ascending line, that keeps increasing in intensity. The line repeats, the 3 notes moving up, suggesting that it is “taking us higher.” I can see why Debussy was one of MJ’s favorites. They both loved symbolism.

    DMC said that Michael approached him with an idea for a song combining the concept of Steven Tyler’s “Walk This Way” and “Peter Piper.” Wonder if “Peter Piper” means Pan and his flute. Maybe Michael had another song in mind like this one! It’s about 2″ into this: http://youtu.be/_CoWrwJN0v4

    • Hi, Ultravioletrae–just read your post and am sending a quick reaction–I love the connection to Pan and the nymphs, and Peter Pan (absolutely, we need to look at the PAN in Peter–as you say, there is also the flute connection as well as Peter Pan’s identification with nature and the powers of nature). What you are talking about, the intoxication with the energy that Pan emits–via himself and as exemplified by his flute playing, is seen in the power he has over the nymphs–this power or sway is also what MJ himself had and still has! And another figure/myth that has this is Krishna–who also plays the flute (interestingly enough) and who is followed by the women who dance with him in a religious/sexual ecstasy. (I myself don’t see Pan as ‘frightening.’)

      Thanks for this connection–I will look at your links. If I can find some links to the many artistic representations of Krishna with his women devotees, I will include them later. There is definitely a religious/sexual merging here–as you point out with the Debussy reference–and as I find in other sources–for instance, Emily Dickinson: She has an amazing poem: ‘He fumbles at your soul, As players at the keys, before he strikes full music on, he stuns you by degrees, prepares your brittle nature, for the ethereal blow, by fainter hammers, further heard, then nearer, then so slow, your breath has time to straighten, your brain to bubble cool, deals one imperial thunderbolt, that scalps your naked soul, when winds hold forests in their paws, the universe is still.”

      • ultravioletrae

        Hi Aldebaran – I absolutely see the relationship to the Krishna. If my post wasn’t already so long winded, I would have mentioned it! I am thrilled you made that connection, because I see this too, very strongly. Did you see this recent article? http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-02-25/new-age-insight/31096132_1_maharishi-medical-students-vietnam-war
        On page 2, Dr. Chopra says that Michael had little Krishna statues all over the house when he first met him. I think Michael knew about Indian spirituality long before they met.

        Here’s another one you might not have seen on DTD, it gave me goose bumps: http://michaeljacksongod.blogspot.com/

        Also, I see a very close connection to Mozart’s opera “The Magic Flute” in “Captain EO,” and “Moonwalker.” All of these stories talk show the power of sound to raise consciousness, through the symbol of the flute. Honestly, I think you could write a whole book just on this topic.

        • Hello, Ultravioletrae–Thanks for the links and the info–amazing that MJ had the Krishna statues–I will check your links. Meanwhile, here’s a physical description of Krishna–does it sound like someone we know?

          “Krishna was physically irresistibly appealing. Ancient texts dwell at length on his exceptionally alluring countenance: a blue complexion soft like the monsoon cloud, shining locks of black hair framing a beautifully chiseled face, large lotus like eyes, wild -flower garlands around his neck, a yellow garment (pitambara) draped around his body, a crown of peacock feathers on his head, and a smile playing on his lips, it is in this manner that he is faithfully represented since the ancient times to the modern.”

          This gentle smile is very important–it is playful, sensual, divine, alluring, inviting, bewitching. Here is a quote from an Indian guru (Gurumayi Chidvilasananda) about the importance of the smile:

          “In the Indian tradition, in both word and image, the Lord is represented with a smile playing on His lips. It is an expression of His bliss, out of which the whole world is made. . . Benevolent grace always smiles. . . . Manda-smita–the gentle smile, the soft smile, the tender smile, the caring smile, the benevolent smile. . . . A true, genuine smile is like a cool breeze. It carries the seeds of serenity and ease and scatters them over the earth, where they take root. The destiny that grows from such a smile spreads its fragrance everywhere.”

          And we all know about MJ’s beautiful smile!!

          The gopis (the women who followed Krishna) were in love with him and his smile–the most beloved of these women was Radha–but all the women believed that Krishna was in love with them and could even be with them simultaneously.

          Thanks for your reply.

          • ultravioletrae

            I think we are the Gopis of Vrindavan! Btw, I love the poem you posted earlier. Beautiful.

          • whew if ever that is a description of Michael’s smile, I don’t know what is!!!! truly beautiful inside and out just like him. Interesting that such an sensual/sexual song and short film should have lead this discussion to these “elevated” and at the same time deeply spiritual levels. Michael would have approved – just the sort of thing he intended to provoke I am sure.

      • Wow! I am so sorry to get to this convo so late. I am very happy and exited to read about Krishna – MJ.
        My mother is a very big devoted of Gurumayi Chidvilasananda so, even if I havent follow her spiritual path, I grow up with her teachings.
        I love to read all this because for me Michael’s music is very spiritual and now I know I am not alone in this feeling 🙂
        Great post again!

  12. When the Dangerous album came out the first time I heard Give Into Me. I was so fascinated about it lyrically and musically. It blown my mind away the way he sang his voice is killing from the verses and the chorus. The solo guitar is unbelievable if I get the chance to meet Slash I would kiss his hands for his great work. The video is an amazing work too. I do believe that Michael meant the sexual relationship between him and his art just like what you said Willa and Joie. I don’t think that he wrote it for a real situation between him and another woman. We know how his life style was he was committed to his art. He mentioned those things in his interview with Oprah 1993 the same year when the video was premiered for the first time. Oprah asked him about marriage and he answered NOT right now because he’s married to his work and music. And also at the exact interview Oprah asked what kind of a girl that can quench his desire related in Give Into Me video and Michael answered Brooke Shields in a way that he couldn’t convince me really. So all the things you have said about this video make sense to me. Michael was and still the Greatest performer in the whole world. I think the bond between him and his art is something beyond our recognition. He was born to be performer he couldn’t fit in a real relationship.

    • I don’t know if he couldn’t fit into a ‘real’ relationship. Maybe the problem was that he had a unique way of defining relationships and a unique vantage point from which to view their dynamics, and there just weren’t a lot of people who could understand that point of view.

  13. Creativity is sexual energy.. kundalini rising. When we co-create with Life it is catalytic sexual energy. Michael knows how to experience this and he shows us over and over again. That is union… and then there is the false representation and the bastardization of such, speaking of Bashir… just couldn’t stomach watching him next to MJ’s light. Contrast… and GITM is about all kinds of contrast to me.

    Ladies, thanks for being vulnerable enough to share your art with us, so MJ of you!

  14. Mare and Ultravioletrae–yes, we do have ‘kundalini rising’ for sure–to expand on this image/phrase that Mare uses–kundalini is the snake lying coiled at the base of the spine. As she moves up the spinal column, she awakens the energies in the various chakras, or energy centers, from the solar plexus up through the heart, the throat, and ends in the third eye center, where we reach the lotus flower representing awakened consciousness or enlightenment. (this is a shortened version of the journey). If this song ‘GITM’ is about creative/sexual/spiritual passion and energy, then the phrase ‘give in to me’ also means to surrender to this energy (not necessarily a PERSON). Surrender is very hard for me, at least,–I am seemingly always holding myself in my own control. Surrender can be very challenging as we have to give up our limited consciousness for an expanded consciousness. To move from the smaller ‘self’ to the larger ‘Self’–to universal consciousness. Maybe this is where MJ was headed, as Akon said in the quote given earlier–he was on the level of ‘planets.’

    Back to Ultravioletrae’s comments about Pan and Krishna–the followers of Pan and Krishna are in a kind of mad ecstasy–they have lost their small sense of self and separation–‘taking me higher,’ indeed! Maybe MJ wants us as a whole to move from having a ‘heart of stone’ to a larger heart that encompasses the ‘Love Power’ in ‘The Force’ (DSTTYGE). Like the caterpillar that wants to be a butterfly–we have to break the shell in order to emerge and transform ourselves.

    So GIVE IN TO ME could mean surrender, let it happen, stop trying to understand (‘I spent a lifetime looking for someone’)–with your limited mind–b/c some things can’t be explained, and too much talking actually prevents experience and growth. Thus is why meditation is silent and a stilling of the mind. ‘Your words just aren’t enough’–words will not get you there unless they somehow touch you so deeply that the mind opens and even stops completely. (When I would go to certain powerful meetings I was told, no note-taking–just be present and experience what is going on.)

    When MJ touches himself in GITM, he is getting into the tactile experience that goes beyond words–a kind of inner bliss. This also reminds me of the merging of the physical and spiritual energy in kama sutra (love-making as a way to reach the infinite). MJ at the time of this film was probably still a virgin–Emily Dickinson–a famous spinster–both dealing with ‘The Force’ of ‘Love Power’ at the level of ‘erotic spirituality’ or the creative/sexual/spiritual energy that takes us beyond ourselves. It is love-making at the level of the third eye chakra (the ajna-chakra).

    Thanks to all for a great discussion–I got so much more of of this film that I ever did before!

    • ultravioletrae

      I think you hit the nail on the head Aldebaran! In a doctoral dissertation on Debussy’s “The Flute of Pan,” Laurel Astrid Ewell explains the metaphor of sexual seduction and awakening of consciousness: “This action requires a displacement of the object’s conscious world, where reason imposes boundaries of conduct and behavior, by the unconstrained spaces of the subconscious will, comprising emotion and dreams…In the act of seduction, consciousness governed by rational thought is overcome by the internal subconscious will which ultimately propels our behavior.” It seems to me that spiritual seeking requires this same battle between the rational thinking and subconscious will. It’s two steps forward and three steps back until the new insight is grounded and fully accessible. It’s a messy process, because the conscious mind doesn’t want to surrender. But when the surrender occurs, there is a real ecstasy, and you become grateful for the struggle and all the gifts it brought. Oh! I just had a thought! Maybe this is the metaphor for Peter Pan and his shadow!

      • So this is kind of off the topic, but did anyone happen to read the review of The Annotated Peter Pan in the latest New York Review of Books? Near the end it talks quite a bit about Michael Jackson, and concludes with this:

        Occasionally, young boys slept over in Jackson’s mansion; he was twice accused of having abused them, but never convicted. Today, the consensus seems to be that he was innocent. (According to both his wives, he was heterosexual and a lot of fun in bed.)

        Wow. Definitely seems that conventional wisdom is shifting.…

        • ultravioletrae

          Interesting article! I think the group wisdom has shifted, even though we may not always see it. My proof for that is just now when I went to the Toy R Us website and searched “Michael Jackson”, 46 products for children came up. MJ games, puzzles, DVD’s, but mostly child size MJ costumes. Would this be the case if people really believed he was guilty? Also on Amazon.com, if you search “Michael Jackson baby”, on the 1st page alone there are 8 different CDs of MJ tunes as baby lullabies. Bottom line, if MJ is safe enough for your baby’s nursery, MJ is safe.

          • Amen to that – at last!!! just such a shame that Michael had to go through that, but then look what came out of it in terms of his music etc etc etc. A true case of turning adversity into triumph. Michael may have been vitimized but he sure as hell wasn’t a victim!!!

        • Hi, Willa, Thanks for the link to this article. I think the writer, as far as her understanding of Barrie’s Peter Pan goes, is way off base. She writes, “The central facts about Peter Pan are as follows: he is a charming, charismatic child who wants “always to be a little boy and have fun” and gets his wish.” This is amazingly reductive and, I believe, inaccurate. She goes on to blithely say that Peter can fly and teach others to fly–apparently that doesn’t cause any reconsideration of her characterization of him as ‘a child.’ Peter Pan (as Ultravioletrae has made clear) is so much more than this reductive description. The ‘Pan’ is there for a reason. Peter Pan is magical–linked to magical figures–such as the mythological Pan–and to the Fairy King (very important to the culture of the British Isles–a figure like the Shakespearean Oberon and Puck). Peter Pan was RAISED by the fairies in Kensington Gardens (according to Barrie)–he knew the fairy language, could fly, and–this is important–could not be touched by humans–only by fairies. Also he did not want Wendy for a mother–he wanted her as a STORYTELLER–that is the reason he wanted her to come to Neverland.

          The other part of the article that was disappointing was when she spoke of Michael wanting to play Peter Pan as if that was something to make fun of. Michael would have been a superb Peter Pan–as he understood Peter probably better than anyone. Armond White has made an excellent point that Hollywood and the movie industry turned its back on MJ even though MJ had great talent as an actor (as we see in the films he made). A. White reminds us that white singers, like Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, and Doris Day, were in lots of Hollywood movies–yet MJ was never in a full feature film even though he wanted to be and would have been great. White sees this as a big loss for Hollywood–and for us too.

          • Thanks again, Willa and Joie, for this stimulating discussion! I love these ideas about Pan, Peter Pan, and maybe… the Pied Piper. This is a very rich vein to tap into; it seems Michael resonates with so many literary and mythological figures!

            I wanted to address something about Allison Lurie’s article. For many years, a long time ago, I worked at “The New York Review of Books,” in their type production department. I would see the writers’ manuscripts as they came in, and witness them transformed by the capable hands of the (then) two editors, who were, so to speak, the head honchos of the magazine. Knowing their editorial style, the reference to “attempts at extortion” would have been excised, even if Allison Lurie had originally chosen to write something of the kind.

            Thanks, Aldebaran, for fleshing out the story of Peter Pan, who he was, and what his extraordinary background and abilities were. I think Lurie’s article reveals her interest in exploring the multiple ways Peter Pan has been represented on stage and screen, throughout the years since Barrie’s book was published. Peter Pan’s active life has been dramatized variously by men, women, androgynous “gamine” women (Mary Martin, Mia Farrow), at various ages. So in her review, she seems to be more interested in exploring this aspect of a well-known story—and its psychological ramifications—than she is in the mythology of the Peter Pan figure.

            Lurie, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her 1984 novel “Foreign Affairs.“ was a regular contributor to the New York Review throughout the time I worked there, more than two decades ago. She frequently wrote pieces on children’s literature and clothing. Hilton Als, who wrote “The Other Michael”—the essay that was published shortly after Michael’s death—is mainly known as a staff writer for The New Yorker, where he writes mostly about theater. He has also written a couple of nonfiction books about the intersection of black and queer identities.

            Although his piece was discomfiting in certain ways, I was interested in a few things Als had to say about Michael’s appeal to black gay communities, specifically to groups of men who were on the downlow. According to Als, the lyrics Michael wrote for his song “Muscles” (performed by Diana Ross) and “Centipede” (performed by Rebbie Jackson) broadly hint at something other than a strictly normative relationship to gender and sexuality.

            It’s a complicated issue: certainly Michael’s gender-fluid performative style was often seen (perhaps mistakenly) as a key to his (perhaps) gay sexuality. However this might be argued, Als usefully outlines what was, and in many ways remains, at stake for young gay men who come of age in the conservative working-class black communities of which the Jacksons’ neighborhood in Gary, Indiana would be a strong example.

            “The chokehold of black conservatism on black gay men has been chronicled by a handful of artists—Harlem Renaissance poet Bruce Nugent, playwright and filmmaker Bill Gunn, James Baldwin, and AIDS activist and spoken word artist Marlon Riggs among them—but these figures are rare, and known mostly to white audiences.”

            I don’t know how true this is; at any rate, Marlon Riggs (whose work I know fairly well) was a filmmaker as well as a spoken-word artist. Certainly he, Baldwin, Gunn, and Nugent were artists. But so, in my opinion, was Michael Jackson! He had never operated within the kinds of millieux or in the terms, that these other men did. But, as “This is It” attests, and as we’ve richly discovered here, Michael Jackson certainly remained an artist until his death.

            The crux of Als’s argument seems to be based in the following suppositions:

            “Jackson couldn’t keep mining himself for material for fear of what it would require of him—a turning inward, which, though arguably not the job of a pop musician, is the job of the artist….. For Jackson to have admitted to his own freakishness might have meant, ultimately, being less canny about his image and more knowledgeable about his self—his body, which was not as impervious as his reputation….. After “Dangerous,” Jackson became a corporation, concerned less with creative innovation than with looking backward to recreate the success he had achieved more than ten years before ….”


            “For Jackson to have admitted to his own freakishness might have meant, ultimately, being less canny about his image and more knowledgeable about his self—his body, which was not as impervious as his reputation.”

            I have heard this same point argued before, in different words, by other critics: in this view, Michael might have, and could have afforded to, “turn inward” more often in his music than he did. (I can’t say I entirely disagree with this wish, by the way—so I guess I have mixed emotions about it.) At the same time, it could just as easily be argued that Michael wrote and performed music that was as personal as it could possibly have been—for himself—and I think this may have been especially true on the “HIStory” album, or even “Blood on the Dance Floor.” In the end, Als is mistaken to believe that Michael could (or should) have done what Baldwin, Prince, Nugent, etc. did, in the WAYS they did it. And it’s quite possible that Michael had acquired as much self-knowledge after his own fashion as these other artists had. Yet his manner of making this knowledge apparent to his audiences wasn’t necessarily consistent with the kind of self-revelatory art that Als yearned for him to deliver.

            That said, I guess I’m bucking the trend here. Though I think “The New York Review of Books” owes me a free lifetime subscription for all the work I did for them all those years (!), I wasn’t able to swing it. I appreciate and enjoy the magazine, as a whole, for its many excellent articles on books, the arts, and current economic and political matters. And since I can no longer read these articles while typesetting them (as I once did!) I’ve just renewed my subscription.

          • Hi Nina, The Als article is not the one I was referring to. Sorry for the confusion. And now i can’t find the one that set me off. It was an article that appeared right after Michael’s death, and, if it was not in the NYRB, which I was taking at the time, it was in a similar publication. Perhaps you remember it. It was by a woman and was an in-depth and very negative psychoanalysis of Michael based on her assumption that his changing skin color was proof that he was uncomfortable with being black. It was so incredibly pompous and so wrong.

          • Actually, Nina, after carefully re-reading the article, I’m sure it was the one I was remembering. So, again, sorry for confusing things.

            I think Als completely misunderstood Michael Jackson, as is revealed in the following:

            “While [James] Baldwin died in exile, he did not presumably die in exile from his body, and while Baldwin died an artist, Jackson did not. After 1991, Jackson’s focus was his career—which is work, too, but not the work he could have done. And his tremendous gifts as a singer and arranger, and as a synthesizer of world music in a pop context, became calcified. He forgot how to speak, even behind the jeweled mask of metaphor.”

          • Hi Nina. I just read the Hilton Als article, and it’s very interesting. I need to read it again, but it seems to me there’s a deep internal contradiction at the heart of Als’ argument. He’s positioning himself in opposition to a world that defines a proper person as white and straight (he begins his article against the backdrop of “female elders” warning him to watch out for “them faggots”) but it seems to me that his definition of “difference” is just as rigid as the world view he’s critiquing. After all, his main complaint against Michael Jackson is that he isn’t a proper gay black man, which is just as restrictive in its way as the dominant cultural voice denouncing him for not being a proper straight white man.

            In other words, Als seems to have no appreciation for Michael Jackson’s ambiguity, which he sees simply as a capitulation to the dominant cultural narrative and a failure to properly express difference. As Als writes, “Jackson was not quite that articulate or vocal about his difference, if he even saw it as such after a while.” But highlighting the area outside a boundary reinforces the boundary line just as effectively as highlighting the area inside – both rigidly maintain that boundary and therefore, ironically, reinforce each other.

            But Michael Jackson’s ambiguity breaches and blurs those boundaries, and ultimately is far more transgressive than the type of simplistic reversal Als advocates.

          • AMEN Willa! You said what i was feeling.

      • Hi, Ultravioletrae–I am intrigued by your comment “Maybe this is a metaphor for Peter Pan and his shadow!”–could you expand on that? Do you mean the shadow is the rational thinking part and Peter Pan the subconscious will? Or do you mean when they are re-joined, this is a union on a deep level between the 2? Yes, it is interesting that his shadow gets trapped in the drawer, along with Tinkerbell, and he needs Wendy’s help to reunite with his shadow.

        I recently read about Bob Dylan (in the Guardian–a book ‘How Creativity Works’ Jonathan Lehrer)–it talks about how Dylan retired to a cabin in Woodstock, NY, with just a notebook and wrote a breakthrough song/poem–‘Like a Rolling Stone’ and how it changed music as well as his own career. Dylan said he didn’t know where his songs came from–‘It’s like a ghost is writing a song.” Reminds me of MJ’s idea that the songs fell into his lap. Interesting too that the phrase–How Does it Feel?–was in that song of Dylan’s and also in MJ’s ‘Stranger in Moscow.” Although the 2 lines are given very different emphasis in each song. The next lines in both songs talk about being alone. Dylan: ‘When you’re on your own, with no direction home, like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone.” MJ “when you’re alone and you’re cold inside.”

        I like your phrase–‘the awakening of consciousness’–MJ was definitely a seeker–just wish he had found a better ‘spiritual advisor’ than the ones he had (that I know of): Deepak Chopra, Schmuley Boteach, June Gatlin. On the other hand, maybe he found enough clues within to find his own way. Lately, I came across an opinion that his death was ‘an ascension’–suggesting that he chose to leave at that time, right before the shows and yet after enough footage of the rehearsals was made to create ‘This Is It.’ Don’t know if I believe this, but it is an intriguing thought. I read that the numbers 50 are important to Kabbala (50 gates of understanding); also there were to be 50 concerts, and he died at age 50, on a date which is half of 50 (June 25th). The connection was also made that he died in the City of Angels (LA) in USA (50 states)–well–who knows?

        Regarding Willa’s point that there is a shift in how MJ is treated by the media–yes, the times, they are a’ changing–thank goodness for that.

        In this blog the connections/insights are multiplying–we are peeling the onion, for sure.

        • ultravioletrae

          Hi Aldebaran – would love to get your take on this since you have such a thorough understanding of the Peter Pan story. I have to admit, my only exposure to the story is through the 2003 film with Jeremy Sumpter and “Finding Neverland,” plus a few short articles here and there, an attempt to get inside MJ’s head. As I was writing about conscious rational thought battling the subconscious will, it just flashed through my mind the scene where Peter Pan is frustrated because his shadow won’t stick. I thought the shadow might be a representation of his subconscious dreams and desires. Peter Pan’s shadow isn’t operating automatically in the background, unaware. Peter sees his shadow, knows of it’s presence, and is trying to integrate it like others do, but for him it doesn’t seem to function the same way. His shadow isn’t cooperating with him by mimicking and fooling his rational mind. Peter knows he is different from others in this regard. That’s the idea that just flashed through my mind. What do you think? Does this fit the author’s intention?

          • Hi, Ultravioletrae–It’s kind of you to say I understand the Peter Pan story–but I am just working on understanding it, really. What I am basing my thoughts on is the play J.M. Barrie wrote (Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up), which was first performed in London December 27th, 1904. Another work by Barrie that preceded this is The Little White Bird of 1902. Barrie wrote other versions, in novel form, of the Pan and Wendy story, as well as ‘PP in Kensington Gardens.’ I recall seeing that MJ had a first edition of ‘Peter Pan and Wendy’–the novel form Barrie wrote after the play. The play was a huge hit and started the Peter Pan phenomenon. Re the 2003 movie, it is not accurate, as far as Barrie goes, in that it ascribes romantic feelings to Peter and Wendy–Wendy does have these but Peter does not. The fact that they kiss in the movie is sweet, in Hollywood/Disney terms, but again, Peter Pan can’t be touched except by fairies, as he explains in the play (‘No one can touch me’) and also has no desire to kiss Wendy. In the play, as Wendy grows up, she even has trouble seeing Peter Pan–she is allowed to go back to Neverland once a year to ‘spring clean’ Peter’s house. As adulthood nears, childhood imagination and wonder shut down. I got interested in Peter Pan in terms of trying to understand what MJ saw in the story and why he named his ranch Neverland. MJ had a prominent statue of Peter Pan below the train station at Neverland–in his statue, Peter has wings–I find that significant b/c that seems to be an unusual image of Pan–even in the statue of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, which Barrie himself had made and placed, Peter doesn’t have wings. So I see PP as himself a Fairy King–he certainly has full sway over Neverland (like MJ) and is linked with them in overt ways in the play. “Another theory is that the fairies were originally worshiped as gods, but with the coming of Christianity, they lived on, in a dwindled state of power, in folk belief” (from Wikipedia on Fairies). As someone who grew up in the UK, I can attest that the belief in fairies was commonplace–the rings in the grass were where the fairies danced, etc. And Barrie, a Scotsman, must have encountered these beliefs–very elaborate ones, as a child, too.

            I think a lot of fans would like to see Neverland restored–also there is a strong identification of MJ with PP. I wanted to understand that connection more. So I haven’t done a lot of research but probably a bit more than most. I think this connection MJ-Neverland–PP–is pretty important. MJ really was creating his own ‘magic kingdom.’

            As far as your reading of PP and his shadow–it is intriguing and I like it a lot. Peter is definitely different from others–even from the ‘Lost Boys.’ They ‘fell out of their prams’ and that’s how they got lost, but PP chose to run away from his family when he learned he was expected to be a man. He was then raised by the fairies in Kensington Gardens and learned their language and seemingly gained their powers. He comes to the Darling house to listen to the stories that Mrs. Darling tells her children before bed–and he then takes the stories back to the ‘Lost Boys.’ Maybe subconsciously, he wants to have a mother, have stories read to him, and be in a family once again. There is a longing there that MJ also had, for sure. It is interesting that he loses his shadow at that point of eavesdropping on the family scene, and that Wendy helps him re-connect it. In that reading, he does want to be a normal child–at least part of him does–and have a female nurturer in his life. Mrs. Darling ends up adopting all the Lost Boys, but Peter is not interested. But clearly, part of him IS interested. (his shadow?)

        • Thanks much, Aldebaran, for this intriguing “fleshing out” of the Peter Pan story. You’ve revealed so many details here that I’ve never known. I’ve been interested in investigating this rich history for awhile, as a possible source of Michael’s inspiration— it seems intricately connected with his life and work on so many levels.

          The only version of the story I ever knew was Jerome Robbins’s production of “Peter Pan,” which starred Mary Martin and aired on yearly on our black-and-white TV in the ’60s… which would definitely be some form of the Hollywood-Disney reduction! There’s so much more to learn.

          Also, I’m intrigued by the book you mention, “How Creativity Works,” by Jonathan Lehrer. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

  15. Willa said: So what you’re saying makes a lot of sense, and it ties in pretty closely with what Michael Jackson himself has said, so I think this is a really valid way to approach this song. Thanks for giving me another way to think about this!

    Thank you, Willa for providing a forum for this type of discussion. I am sitting here listening to GITM and the emotional complexity is overwhelming. But, I guess, what stays with me the most is such longing for connection and sadness and anger and frustration because it is out of his reach.

  16. You-all remember that precious video-interview of a very young Michael (with LaToya) standing in front of the cental fountain at Hayvenhurst? That’s the first time I heard him say that East-Indians were his favorite people. Seems like he had a life-time fascination with India and its spiritual traditions.
    My favorite MJ dance moment is in the second part of the Black or White film, where he does that incredibly sensuous dance that was so heavily criticized. In reply, Michael simply said, “I became the panther.” The only accompanying music was his panther-like sounds, ecstatic screams, foot-falls in water, and the divine melody of a zipper zipping up. That video still makes me blink.

  17. Amazing! A really different take, considering the hatchet job they did on MJ immediately following his death. It made me so mad, I cancelled my subscription. At last, the “serious people” are taking Michael seriously! Are the arbiters of social and artistic value finally waking up?

    • Eleanor–after you wrote this, I went and read the disgusting article appearing after his death–claiming with total confidence that MJ was not an artist! It truly was one of the most appalling, judgmental pieces I have read about MJ–where do they find these phony ‘arbiters of social and artistic value’?? So glad you cancelled your subscription!!

  18. In response to the book review article, though I appreciate the shift I think it should have said, ” he was twice accused of having abused them, but found innocent and cleared of all charges since both accusations were rooted in atttempts at extortion.” I still maintain – where were these people when he was alive? Of course, Michael was a lot of fun in bed – I think that is obvious.

  19. Re the NYRB article written in August, 09, which was the lead article for that issue with an illustration of MJ, I agree with Willa, Eleanor, and Mare that this writer doesn’t understand MJ or his deeply ‘transgressive’ and creative work. Nevertheless, I appreciate your insights, Nina, regarding the writers and the publication.

    In my view, many of the ‘arbiters’ writing about MJ, even now, do not know his later work (later than 1991 in Als case). If they did, they wouldn’t be making these wrongheaded statements. As people with a significant forum of expression, they have a responsibility to do some RESEARCH into the subject of their critique/analysis. (I do understand that this is demanding given the breadth and depth of MJ’s work. ) If Als knew of ‘Ghosts,’ how could he possibly say MJ was not self-reflexive about his own ‘difference’?? (‘Am I the beast you visualized?’ ‘So let the performance start’ ‘Is that scary for you, baby?’ ‘I’m gonna be exactly what you wanna see’). Also, if MJ was not a gay black male, why should he be obligated to express that he was?? If MJ was not ‘a freak,’ why should he ‘admit his own freakishness’?? Help me b/c I don’t get it. The article also has a really cruel conclusion that MJ was already dead before he died.

    ‘He forgot how to speak’???–where does Als come up with this idea? “After ‘Dangerous,’ Jackson became a corporation, concerned less with creative innovation than with looking backward to recreate the success he had achieved more than ten years before ….” Here Als is just parroting the ‘received wisdom’ about MJ that has been cut-and-pasted by others–notably Anthony de Curtis (in Joe Vogel’s book, when de Curtis, lamentably, wrote the Introduction). Many of these writers totally neglect works like ‘Ghosts’ and ‘Invincible.’ They do not understand MJ’s music or films, neglect to even mention his humanitarianism or environmentalism– haven’t read ‘Dancing the Dream’ (which was mocked when it came out). I read a recent review that claimed that the Cirque show deals with MJ’s ‘obscure’ songs not known to a ‘casual fan.’ I guess anything after Thriller is too hard for some reviewers to handle.

    Let’s face it, the received wisdom is (or was) that MJ declined as an artist after Thriller–even that he could not function artistically after he left Quincy Jones (even though Q. couldn’t recognize ‘Billy Jean’–‘I ain’t got no time for BJ”—and tried to block it from being on the album), and that is what this blog and many others–and Joe’s book–are trying to overturn and replace with a fuller recognition of MJ’s artistic development–as MJ said about ‘Invincible”: “Invincible is just as good or better than ‘Thriller,’ in my true, humble opinion. It has more to offer: Music is what lives and lasts. “Invincible’ has been a great success. When the ‘Nutcracker Suite’ was first introduced to the world it totally bombed. What’s important is how the story ends.” (quoted in Vogel, appeared in USA Today in 2001).

    I wonder if Als would take the same view today as he did in 09–hope not.

  20. Eleanor, possibly the hatchet job you were thinking of was the Andea Peysner (sp) garbage that appeared in the New York Post–it had the unlovely title ‘Freak of the Week’–this was probably in the history of journalism the worst, nastiest, most perverted piece written about a dead artist.

    • No, thankfully, I did not read that. The article I was referring to was in a publication that I subscribed to, and I don’t subscribe to the Post. So, it probably was the Als piece. But thanks for the suggestion.

  21. You know, maybe what Michael meant by “Give in to me” echoed by “Love is a feeling” is that he just wanted to be allowed to express his love, when he felt it, the way he felt it – on his terms for once. He was a very emotional, sensory oriented, sensual individual and he grew weary of having to explain in great analytical detail himself, his thoughts, and emotions and his expressions of them. Maybe he was saying, of course I love you but why do we have to plan, discuss, analyze our love all the time? Why can’t we simply let ourselves be enveloped by, swept up in, and embrace the moment of love/passion we feel and let ourselves be carried away by it and in it? Just “give into me” in that moment and fully experience it with me and be overwhelmed with the love at that moment with me.

  22. ultravioletrae, aldebaran

    I just found this site since you linked to mine at http://michaeljacksongod.blogspot.com/

    I just wanted to correct the description of Krishna you quoted. Krishna’s complexion is described in Vedic (Hindu) scriptures as the color of newborn monsoon clouds (dark rain clouds), and blackish (Syamasundara, a common name of Krishna, means beautifully black). The blue color associated with Krishna is found in artistic representations of incarnations of Vishnu. It’s a symbolic color used in art, the reasons given vary depending on the source. Some sources say it’s used to represent the color of the sky, as a metaphor for the all-pervasive nature of God. Other sources say it’s used to differentiate Vishnu (God) from other people or divine beings in paintings. In Hindu temples traditional icons (murti) of Krishna are either black marble or white marble (interesting how Michael is sometimes black and sometimes white). Although they can be made of brass, or wood, if people can’t afford the traditional marble. Some more modern wood ones are painted blue.

  23. Great review!!! I have a question: what meaning you attribute to the guy who smokes a cigarette at the end of the video?

  24. This was a very good discussion! Well done! Great job! I never noticed that as MJ was singing the lyrics that it was actually telling the story with the couples off stage, good observation. You all stated that Gilby Clarke makes an uncredited appearance as well as Teddy Andreadis, who was GnR’s touring keyboardist at the time. I was wondering if you all recognize any celebrities who played the couple scenes off stage?

  25. Hello. It’s been a couple of days and I haven’t got any repsonse. I was wondering if you all recognized any celebrities in MJ’s “Give In To Me” video who were off stage?

    • Hi Kate. I’m afraid I’m not much of an expert on celebrities, but always welcome an excuse to watch Michael Jackson’s short films! I’ll let you know if I see anyone I recognize.

  1. Pingback: MJ Academic of the Week 12/12 – Willa Stillwater & Joie Collins – Writing Eliza

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