Dangerous Talk with Susan Fast

Willa:  This week I am thrilled to be joined once again by Dr. Susan Fast, whose new book on the Dangerous album will be coming out September 25 from Bloomsbury Press. I just want to say up front that I’ve read this book twice now, and I’m still staggered by it. For the first time we have a detailed, in-depth analysis of one of Michael Jackson’s albums, and it’s amazing – it reveals how he conveys meaning through every layer of musical creation and performance. Some sections I’ve read numerous times, going through sentence by sentence with my headphones on, trying to catch all the details and nuances of meaning Susan identifies. I was quite simply blown away by it.

Susan, your book is such a treasure trove of ideas, as well as new ways of listening and thinking about his music. There’s so much I want to talk with you about! Thank you so much for joining me.

Susan:  Thanks for having me back to Dancing With the Elephant, Willa. It’s such a pleasure to exchange ideas with you again. Sorry that Joie can’t be with us this time around.

Willa:  Me too. Joie is starting a new career, which is exciting, but it’s keeping her really busy.

Susan:  Very exciting; I wish her the best of luck! And thanks for your incredibly generous comments about the book and for being so helpful when I was writing it:  you read through drafts of every chapter (some more than once I think) and made such thoughtful suggestions, which have certainly made the book stronger. And it helped make the writing process feel less lonely which, as you well know, it often is.

Willa:  Oh, I thoroughly enjoyed it! And I love the fact that you focus on Dangerous, which tends to get a lot less attention than Off the Wall or Thriller. Most critics seem to think those two albums were the high points of Michael Jackson’s artistic output, and it was all downhill from there. I don’t know how many times I’ve read that …

Susan:  Yes, I point to several critiques like that in the book and they keep coming; the 35th anniversary of the release of Off the Wall just passed and Mark Anthony Neal wrote an essay that called it Jackson’s “signature achievement.” It’s a brilliant album, but all of Jackson’s albums are brilliant. As I’ve thought about it more, I actually don’t know how his albums can be compared; they’re like apples and oranges, each conceived of and framed in a unique way. I think we need to get away from putting them in a hierarchy that, in my opinion, is at least partly based upon nostalgia for the young(er) Jackson – for many complicated reasons.

Willa:  That’s a really good point, Susan, and we could easily do an entire post just exploring those “complicated reasons.” I think a lot of it is nostalgia, as you say – both for the younger Michael Jackson and for our own younger selves, for the people we were when we first heard those early albums – as well as a reluctance to see him as a grown man and a mature artist.

And part of that, I think, is a deep discomfort among whites with the image of the “angry black man.” That image carries a lot of emotional weight, especially in the US, and I think a lot of people were very troubled by the idea that the sweet-faced Michael Jackson we’d watched grow up before our eyes – a celebrated success story and a symbol of integration and racial harmony – could become an “angry black man.”

But we do see flashes of anger in his later albums. And he is certainly speaking with a mature voice, as you emphasize in your book. I was interested that you see Dangerous as a significant milestone in that progression. In fact, you begin your book with the defiant claim that “Dangerous is Michael Jackson’s coming of age album.” I love that! – in part because it boldly contradicts the conventional wisdom that Dangerous was simply another stage in his decline.

Susan:  The decline narrative is so misguided, in my opinion, but as you say, it depends on what you’re looking for and what your experience has been with Jackson’s music. I’ve loved the Dangerous album for so long and have always thought of it as an immensely significant artistic statement. Having the opportunity to spend so much time with it was an amazing experience; I’m grateful that the editors at 33⅓ thought it was a worthwhile project. And I’m really thrilled that they’ve chosen to make this book, the only one on Jackson in the series, the 100th volume. I’m sure this was partly an accident having to do with individual authors’ deadlines, but it warms my heart to know that such an important artist will occupy that significant milestone spot.

The series – each book is devoted to a single album – doesn’t prescribe how records should be interpreted, there’s no formula for the books – indeed, some volumes don’t talk much about individual songs or how they’re structured. But in part because I’m a musicologist, and in part because there’s been so little written about how Michael Jackson’s songs work, I really wanted to focus on that, always keeping in mind, of course, that the way musicians organize sound is inextricably bound up with the social. Musical sound doesn’t transcend time and place; it comes from somewhere, helps define that somewhere.

Willa:  Yes, I love the way you explore the “anatomy” of his songs, as he called it on more than one occasion, and also provide important historical contexts for approaching Dangerous. For example, before taking an in-depth look at his songs of passion and desire, you take on the “pathologizing [of] Jackson’s sexuality,” as you put it. I think that discussion is incredibly important, especially since you are the first critic I’ve read to validate what so many fans have been saying for years: that he was unbelievably hot! Obviously! And not just in the 80s, but throughout his life. It felt so liberating to me to read that. It was like, Yes! Finally! Here’s a critic who really gets it – who understands the power of his music and his performance and the sheer presence of his body on many different levels.

Susan:  The denial by so many critics of Jackson’s sexuality, or – more often – the relegation of his electrifying sexual presence to a performance – in other words, put on when he was on stage, but not “real” (whatever that means) – is something I felt compelled to address, especially because sex and lust are themes featured so prominently on this record. The thing the critics miss is that it makes absolutely no difference whether or not the person Jackson was on stage carried over to his life off stage; acting is powerful, we’re moved by good actors, they make us believe in the moment of the performance and perhaps long afterwards. Jackson did that.

Willa:  That’s very true. He did.

Susan:  Beyond that, I don’t see the incongruity between his commanding, aggressive, sexy onstage self and his quiet, shy offstage self as problematic in the way that so many critics do. It’s only a problem if we think in binaries; Michael Jackson was much too complex for that kind of thinking.

Willa:  Yes, and as you point out in your book, that intriguing contrast of the bold onstage presence with the shy offstage demeanor was itself very sexy for a lot of women, myself included.

There were also important cultural and historical reasons for him to be cautious in how he presented himself offstage, especially with white women. Eleanor Bowman, who contributes here sometimes, recently sent a link to an NPR piece about Billy Eckstine, one of the first black artists to cross over to a white audience. To be honest, I’d never heard of him before but his biographer, Cary Ginell, told NPR that at one time “Eckstine’s popularity rivaled Frank Sinatra’s.” However, his career was derailed overnight by a photo in LIFE magazine:

“The profile featured a photograph of Eckstine coming out of a nightclub in New York City, and being mobbed by white teenage girls,” Ginell says. “If you look at the photograph, it looks very innocuous and very innocent. It’s actually what America should be like, with no racial tension, no racial separation – just honest love and happiness between the races. But America wasn’t ready for that in 1950. White America did not want Billy Eckstine dating their daughters.”

Eckstine’s crossover career abruptly ended with that one photograph: “Eckstine continued to record and perform, but white disc jockeys would not play his records.” And it’s almost like he was erased from public memory – at least, white memory. But Michael Jackson was a well-read student of history, especially black history, and I’m sure he would have known about the backlash experienced by public figures before him who had been perceived as too friendly with white women – people like Jack Johnson and Chuck Berry and Billy Eckstine.

Susan:  What a tragic story this is. My overarching point in the book on Dangerous is that the politicized and sexualized adult persona that Jackson revealed on that album and the short films that went with it were incredibly threatening. And as you say, I think he knew that he had to be careful, given stories like Eckstine’s and many others, which is why that soft, sweet, off-stage public persona was so important. At the same time, he really pushed the envelope – dating high-profile white women, for example. I do address this in the book. For a long time he maintained a delicate balance, but eventually, when he started presenting a more adult, sexualized self in the late 1980s and early 1990s, this balance was thrown off. His performances couldn’t be so easily dismissed.

And what’s so interesting to me is that many critics and others could not, would not, and still cannot see him as an adult – don’t believe him as one – and I think this is one of the reasons why he is so often vilified or infantilized. Witness the recent tabloid story in which unnamed maids who supposedly worked at Neverland reported that they witnessed him “peeing” in his house and threatening to throw “animal poop snowballs” at the help; this is a very particular kind of denigration – including the kiddy language used – that strips Jackson of his adulthood. We could say it strips him of a lot of other things – dignity, the ability to be taken seriously, perhaps his humanity …

Willa:  I agree! It denies his humanity in a very literal sense: peeing on the floor and throwing feces is something an ape would do, an animal would do, not a human. When I heard those stories, I immediately thought of the chorus of “Monster”:

(He’s like an animal)
He’s a monster
(Just like an animal)
He’s an animal

I think he really understood this impulse by certain segments of the population to characterize him as a monster, an animal, a bogeyman, an Other, and he forced us to acknowledge it.

Susan:  Yes, for sure. But I think the use of the childish language points very specifically to the desire to relegate him to prepubescence, to childhood – in a bad way, not the way he would have embraced! In his insightful analysis of the short film for “Black or White,” Eric Lott says that at the beginning of the panther dance “something so extraordinary happened at this moment that the video’s initial audiences couldn’t take it in.”

Willa:  I agree!

Susan:  Me too. Elizabeth Chin elaborates on this by saying that many found the panther dance “unintelligible” in the way that encounters with the unfamiliar often are; she uses Freud’s concept of the uncanny, “the recognition of a truth that has been suppressed,” to help articulate what happened for many viewers at this moment. I think this can be said about Jackson in general, especially as he got older and started to challenge his audience more profoundly around social issues. Critics and some of his audience couldn’t take it in, couldn’t see what he was saying, or doing.

Willa:  That’s true. And that’s an excellent way of describing much of his later work, isn’t it? – that he was forcing us, at some level of consciousness, to acknowledge “a truth that has been suppressed”? And the panther dance is an incredible example of that. More than 20 years later, we’re still trying to uncover the “truth” of that performance – we’re still stunned by it and can’t take it all in, to paraphrase Lott.

So Susan, reading your book I was repeatedly blown away by your insightful analysis of the “anatomy” or musical structure of specific songs, as well as the album as a whole. One thing that immediately caught my attention is how you see the overall structure of Dangerous as being like a book with “chapters,” or clusters of songs exploring a related theme. In fact, you use a similar structure in your book, so your book mirrors Dangerous, chapter by chapter.

Susan:  Yes, I hear Dangerous as a concept album; the concept is loose, but it’s there. Of course the songs can be listened to and appreciated individually, but I think Jackson was going for something bigger, more cohesive, an over-arching narrative. It’s a strikingly different approach than the one he used on Thriller or Bad which – at least as far as I can hear – don’t have this kind of narrative cohesiveness. This is why we need to start thinking about each album individually, paying attention to its particular contours, themes, ideas.

Interestingly, he said in his interview with Ebony in December 2007 (and he said a similar thing elsewhere many times) that the approach to Thriller was to make it an album of hit singles. In his words:

If you take an album like Nutcracker Suite [by the classical composer Tchaikovsky], every song is a killer, every one. So I said to myself, ‘why can’t there be a pop album where every …’ People used to do an album where you’d get one good song and the rest were like B-sides. They’d call them ‘album songs’ – and I would say to myself ‘Why can’t every one be like a hit song? Why can’t every song be so great that people would want to buy it if you could release it as a single?’ So I always tried to strive for that. That was my purpose for the next album [Thriller].

(Here’s a link, and this quote begins at 3:38.) His use of Tchaikovsky as an example is so interesting to me: what pop musician models commercial success on a record of classical music?? But Tchaikovsky’s idea wasn’t far off from Jackson’s. The Nutcracker ballet was long, complicated, and required a lot of resources to mount; why not create a “greatest hits” suite that could be performed as a concert piece? I think it’s also interesting that there are eight pieces in the Nutcracker Suite, most of them quite short – the whole thing is about 25 minutes long. I can’t help but draw a parallel to the structure of Thriller: nine songs, about 42 minutes of music.

Willa:  Wow, that’s a really interesting way to interpret that quote. (By the way, here are YouTube links to the full score of The Nutcracker  and to the Suite.) You know, I’ve seen the ballet many times, and certain parts of the score are really popular – it seems like everywhere you go at Christmas you hear the music for the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy playing in the background, and it was also included in Disney’s Fantasia. (Just for fun, here’s a link to that too.) But I don’t think I’ve ever just listened to the music to The Nutcracker all the way through, separate from the ballet, and I never thought about the Suite like an album. That’s so interesting, especially when you put it side by side with Thriller

Susan:  Yes, that was Tchaikovsky’s aim in creating the Suite: he wanted the piece performed more often, realized it couldn’t be because of the length and cost of mounting it, and so pulled what he thought were the “greatest hits” from it and created the Suite.

But back to Thriller, the length is average for a pop album, but it’s a small number of songs, really, the smallest number of any of his solo records. And, as we know, just about every song on Thriller was a hit single. My sense is that people take this as the way he thought about putting albums together in general, but I don’t believe this is true (in fact if you look at the above quote carefully, you’ll see that he’s referring specifically to Thriller). Thriller is a very particular and uncharacteristic instance of concision from an artist who liked to be expansive.

In a May 1992 interview with Ebony, one of the questions the interviewer asked was what the “concept” for Dangerous was; I think it’s quite a striking question for the very reason that Jackson’s albums had not been particularly “conceptual” up to that point: what made the interviewer think there was a concept? The cover art work? Something about the music? In any case, in his answer Jackson again pointed to Nutcracker, but here his thinking about it was very different:

I wanted to do an album that was like Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. So that in a thousand years from now, people would still be listening to it. Something that would live forever. I would like to see children and teenagers and parents and all races all over the world, hundreds and hundreds of years from now, still pulling out songs from that album and dissecting it. I want it to live.

Well, the dissecting has begun! I have to admit that while I’d read this interview before, I didn’t remember this quote until after I’d finished writing the book: what a shame. But I feel somewhat vindicated now in thinking that Jackson did, indeed, have an overarching concept for this record, that he was not thinking in terms of hit singles (or not exclusively or primarily), but of a series of interconnected songs, laid out in a particular order, that tell us a story. And a pretty complex story, too, one that he saw as requiring a lot of analysis to unravel (the idea that an artist wants his work dissected is pretty thrilling for someone like me).

The way I see it, that story is about very big ideas: it’s about examining and challenging the state of the contemporary world with energy and resilience and allowing oneself to get lost in all the complexities of love (and lust!), of feeling hopeful, invigorated … and then being deeply, deeply, betrayed and wounded, not just by love, but by everyone and everything. From my perspective, he never completely recovers from that sense of betrayal on this record, though he does do a lot of serious soul searching. The songs are grouped, allowing ideas to be explored in considerable depth, examined through different musical and lyrical lenses.

Willa:  Yes, that was so interesting to me. I’d never thought about his albums like that before – that they include groupings of related songs, like chapters in a book, and that they move us through a sequence of emotional experiences, like a novel does. But now that you’ve pointed out that structure in Dangerous, I see it in HIStory and Invincible as well.

For example, Invincible begins with three painful songs about a disastrous relationship with an uncaring woman: she’s trying to hurt him, she doesn’t understand him, she rejects him without giving him a chance to explain or win her over. And interestingly, that reflects his relationship with the public right then: the press (and the police as well) really were out to get him, people didn’t understand him, and they rejected his later albums and wouldn’t give them – or him – a chance.

Those songs are then followed by a series of five songs where he’s imagining scenes of genuine love – and pretty steamy sexual passion also. It’s like he’s trying to imaginatively conjure up the love and desire that was denied him in the first three songs.

Susan: Yes, those two groupings are certainly there on Invincible. He seemed to want to explore a theme through more than one song, in back-to-back tracks, in these later albums. Look at something from more than one angle.

Willa:  Exactly.

Susan:  Another narrative strategy on a later album that I’ve been struck by is his decision to end HIStory with “Smile.” After all that anger and venom, all that commentary on social injustices both personal and broadly cultural, delivered through some of the most aggressive grooves he ever created, he ends the album with that tragic ballad and its directive to “smile though your heart is breaking” (which his must have been); it’s very powerful.

Willa:  It really is, especially when you consider that “Smile” was written by Charlie Chaplin, whose life story parallels Michael Jackson’s in significant ways. Chaplin was immensely popular in the 1920s and 30s, but then was falsely accused of fathering a child out of wedlock. There was a very public trial, and a paternity test proved he was not the father. But he was found guilty anyway, both in court and in the press, and the public turned against him. He spent the rest of his life in exile, something of a social pariah.

Given that context, I imagine “Smile” spoke to Michael Jackson in a very powerful way. And since HIStory in some respects is a response to the allegations against him, it makes sense that he would end the album with “Smile.” He rarely included cover songs on his albums, but he made an exception for “Smile” – it was that important to him.

Susan:  Precisely. The point about cover songs is really significant. As you say, he didn’t really do them. The only other cover that appears on his solo albums is “Come Together” on Bad.  I’ve always been intrigued by that choice as well.

Willa:  I have too! He also places “Come Together” in a very prominent spot at the end of Moonwalker, and as Frank Delio has said, that movie was very important to him – he put a lot of time and energy, and his own money, into making it. So it feels like there’s something going on with “Come Together” – something important. Maybe we can do another post on that sometime and try to figure it out.

Susan:  Great idea!

Willa:  So it’s really fascinating to look at his later albums as made up of “chapters” of songs – and that structure seems to begin with Dangerous. As you pointed out with the two Nutcracker Suite quotes (and how interesting that he referred to it twice, in such different ways!) he doesn’t seem to have used this approach with his earlier albums. Thriller is more a collection of hit singles, as you said. But with Dangerous, he seems to be taking listeners on an emotional journey as we progress through the album – which suggests that something is lost when we listen to these songs in Shuffle mode on our iPods.

Susan:  Or we just have a different kind of experience, which is fine too. I like looking at formal structures, though, and I think it’s interesting to view the album as a whole. “Jam,” for example, serves as a kind of overture on Dangerous (“it ain’t too much to Jam.” Now let me show you how it’s done for the next thirteen songs). I’m also struck by structural details, for example the first time we hear Jackson on Dangerous it’s through his breath – before he starts to sing – at the beginning of “Jam”; this aggressive use of breath returns in the last song on the album, “Dangerous,” in effect bringing the record full circle. I don’t think a detail like this is coincidental; when you listen to his music with your ears open you start to hear how intricately constructed it is, how nuanced.

Willa:  Yes, and I feel like you’ve been opening my ears! There are motifs running throughout this album that I hadn’t really noticed or thought about before, like the use of his breath, or the recurring sound of breaking glass, or the visual image of the globe that appears repeatedly in the videos for this album (in Jam, Heal the World, Black or White, Will You Be There) as well as occupying a central position on the album cover. And as you point out in your book, the meaning of these motifs seems to evolve over the course of the album.

For example, the breaking glass gains new meaning once you’ve seen all the breaking glass in the panther dance of Black or White – specifically, it can be read as expressing anger at racial injustice. And once you’ve made that connection, it’s very interesting to then go back and listen to the other instances of breaking glass and see how that affects the meaning there as well. For example, I think there’s a racial component to In the Closet, as Joie and I discussed in a post a while back, and we hear breaking glass at significant moments in that song and video. And the album as a whole begins with the sound of breaking glass, so what does that tell us about the album we’re about to hear?

Susan:  Indeed. What. The “non-musical” sounds on this album are really important to take into account – they help shape the narrative. The sound of breaking glass recurs in various places, as you say, and I think its meaning is multiple and complex. But one of the ways that I interpret the sound as it’s used at the beginning of the record is as a metaphor for a broken world.

Willa:  Oh, that makes a lot of sense, Susan. And it really fits with the recurring image of the globe, and the feeling that he’s focusing on “very big ideas” on this album, as you said earlier.

There are also some recurring musical techniques you identify in your book that I found really intriguing as well. For example, you point out that both “Jam” and “In the Closet” include a bass line in the chorus but not in the verses – a pronounced absence, if that makes sense. And that creates a very unsettled feeling in the verses, as you point out – like we’re dangling over a void with no ground beneath us. I love that image because it describes so perfectly my uneasiness when listening to “Jam” – something I feel rather intensely but had never really thought about before or traced back to its origins, and certainly never associated with the lack of bass. And that unsettled feeling fits the meaning of the lyrics because in both songs the verses are describing a problem: a broken world, a romantic conflict.

The bass then appears in the chorus, which as you point out in the book provides a feeling of reassurance – like, Whew! Now we’re back on solid ground! And that reinforces the meaning of the lyrics also since the chorus suggests a solution. In “Jam,” he tells us the solution to a broken world is to “jam” – to come together as a community and make music together, both literally and symbolically. So the ideas and emotions expressed in the lyrics are reinforced in sophisticated ways by the music.

Susan:  Yes, this is a great example of how musical sounds map onto social ideas. How does it make us feel when that grounding bassline isn’t there? How does the keyboard part that nearly mirrors the vocal line – but an octave higher and with a timbre that makes us feel tense – contribute to the sense of anxiousness in this song? Not to mention Jackson’s brilliant vocal in the verses, which is rushed: he’s constantly ahead of the beat – on purpose of course (this is really hard to do consistently, by the way).

Willa:  I love the way you put that, Susan: “how musical sounds map onto social ideas.” To me, that’s really the essence of what’s so fascinating about your book. I don’t know enough about music to uncover that on my own – to figure out how specific musical details translate into creating meaning and emotion. I don’t even hear a lot of those details until you point them out, and then, Wow! It’s like I’m hearing elements of these songs for the first time – like that high unsettling keyboard line in “Jam” that you just mentioned. I hear it so clearly now since I read your book, but don’t remember ever hearing it before. So it opens up an entirely new aspect of his brilliance that’s closed to me without help from you or Lisha or others with your expertise.

Susan:  I hope it’s useful to think about these things. When people say that Jackson was a perfectionist, it’s details like this that they’re talking about (along with lyrics, his dancing – which I don’t have the skills to say much about – etc.):  the choice of a particular instrument or timbre, the placement of a breath, the decision to create a song in a particular genre, or to add an unsettling sound somewhere (one of the most intriguing examples of this last idea – to me at least – is the percussive sound heard after the last iteration of the chorus in “They Don’t Really Care About Us,” just before the guitar comes back in – at about 4:15. It’s just sonically interesting in and of itself, but why the dissonance at that point, why the new timbre that hasn’t been heard before in the song?). Some of these ideas came from his producers, I’m sure, but he OK’d them. The point is, he understood and appreciated the power of the musical detail. To say the least.

Willa:  Absolutely. Well, it feels like we’ve really only talked in detail about the first chapter of your book – there’s so much more to discuss and explore! I hope you’ll join us again sometime. It’s always so fun to talk with you.

Susan:  Yes … and we elaborated on what’s in that first chapter in some interesting ways! Thanks for the opportunity to explore these ideas with you; I’d be happy to join you 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 September 4, 2014, in Michael Jackson and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 55 Comments.

  1. Oh thank you thank you, Susan Fast, for writing this book!

    Your fascinating analyses join a prestigious but very short list of intelligent collective appreciations for the absolutely unique style of music and art created by an absolutely unique man.

    I was amazed to see your comment about “Jam” (specifically that MJ deliberately stayed slightly ahead of the beat with his vocal to create a very specific effect) because I tried in vain once to explain that to a group of friends as a wonderful example of his micro-focus on the subtlest of musical details. That and his intriguing way of making sure that any perceived moment that needed a percussive element but didn’t get one from the music somehow, got one instead with his personal vocal percussive improvisations.

    Ahead of the beat, behind the beat, against the beat, over it, under it, around it… he simply was the beat, and it was him.

    Dangerous has SO many terrific moments, and so many terrific stories within it and about it.
    And so many contrasts!

    -“In the Closet” for instance: could not recall any previous use of an almost atonal vocal line as he did here. Not to mention some pretty doggone provocative lyrics!
    -The electrifying “church” and confession of “Will You Be There”.
    -The poignant story of the recording of “Keep the Faith”.
    -“Remember the Time”, which may be the single most voluptuous and satisfying vocal performance he ever laid down on any album.

    And I can’t wait to hear what you decide to point out about my favorite track (on an album of so many great ones), the one that really summarizes every musical element that Michael Jackson does better than anyone in my humble opinion: “Can’t Let Her Get Away”.

    And thank you again, Dr. Stillwater, for featuring and creating such amazing discourse.

    • Hi Chris. I agree! Every time I listen to Dangerous, I’m struck by “the electrifying ‘church’ and confession of ‘Will You Be There’” as you put it – it almost feels like camp meeting, which I went to fairly often as a kid growing up in the South. And I get a similar feeling from the song that leads into it: “Will You Still Be There.” The opening line of “Hold me like the River Jordon” is so beautiful – one of his best lines ever, I think – and clearly evokes the kind of spirituals common in black churches, especially.

      So thinking about Dangerous and the “church” feeling of those songs, I was interested in this video about the making of In the Closet:

      According to the reporter, Jeanne Wolfe, the second building in the video is a church. And that wasn’t coincidental – there didn’t just happen to be a church there – they intentionally built it out of styrofoam for the video shoot.

      To me, this is yet more proof that, as Susan said in the post, “he does do a lot of serious soul searching” on this album.

      • Ohhhh yeahhhhh! THAT church! Willa, the details that catch your eye are truly jaw-dropping.

        (Any significance to the edit that takes the viewer directly from a shot of the “sacred cow” calmly chewing its cud, right to Naomi Campbell writhing on the ground? Oh oh!)

  2. I can’t wait to get my hands on this book Susan – I thought it would be something special and I can see that it is. So great to have this sort of preview of it.

    I came to Michael after he had died and in fact Dangerous was the 1st album I bought, and the 1st DVD, and I have always thought it the best one. It has coloured how I view his music because he was already a mature artist and not the child star, and I have never understood how anyone can say that his music was ‘on the decline’!!! All the songs are fantastic, but I think (hard to decide really but…..) my favourite is Keep The Faith because it seems to me that he did just that right until the end, and that has always inspired me to do the same.

    I am going away for 3 weeks, but will try to tune in at Internet cafes when I can, as I fancy this is going to be a very interesting discussion.

    Just wanted to say thanks to Veronica also for her great book on Michael’s Childhood, and for making it free to us fans. I found it fascinating on 1st read, and am sure I will go back to it time and time again.

    It is soooooo great to have access to all of you who are looking at Michael’s work and not all the drama – so tired of all that – in fact I don’t read any of that stuff anymore. I know that he wanted to be remembered in 1000 years time as one of the worlds greatest composers etc., and for a long time I have said that he will be the Mozart of the future – yes his music is that GREAT.

  3. Thank you so much for this post. “Dangerous” is my favourite album and I’ve listened to it countless times, but there really were a lot of things in your conversation that I didn’t know or never really thought about. In recent years, I tend to listen to music on my ipod or through itunes, and most of the time I just play a playlist in random order. I can’t recall when I really listened to the”Dangerous” album in its entirety (and intended order) for the last time.

    So it may be in part because of this that I never thought about the idea of the album being a concept album or its songs being grouped into chapters. Although I think “Dangerous” *sounds* more cohesive than “HIStory” or “Invincible”.

    When I thought about how to group the 14 songs into chapters, I came to the conclusion that among the first twelve songs always two songs belong together. “Jam” and “Why you wanna…” belong together thematically, then “In the closet” and she drives me wild”, and so on. I’m not sure about “Gone too soon”, though. It seems to stand apart from the other songs. (That reminds me of Jochen Ebmeiers brillant – German – book on MJ, where he also makes out this song as the one that doesn’t quite fit to the others.) And “Dangerous” (the song) then completes the sonic circle of the album by sounding similar to the first few songs, but is it a “chapter” in itself? A conclusion, maybe?

    My view of grouping the songs together is open to interpretation, of course. I can’t wait to read Susan’s book and I’m sure I’ll gain a lot of new insight into my favourite album from it. (I hope I won’t have to wait too long for the book – at the moment Amazon Germany tells me it will arrive in November…)

    • Hi Maximilian. You raise some good questions about the placement of “Gone Too Soon” and “Dangerous” – and in her book, Susan finds their placement interesting as well. She suggests that “Gone Too Soon” could have served as the conclusion of “Dangerous,” though a pretty depressing one! But then “Dangerous” follows and functions like a Coda, restating some of the important musical ideas raised earlier in the album and bringing it all to a finale.

      And when grouping the songs, she actually connects “Dangerous” with “Jam,” the first song on the album. She suggests they serve as bookends to the album, and also give it something of a circular structure, so we end up somewhat where we began, but with a much better understanding of where that is exactly, having taken that “dangerous” journey over the course of the album …

      btw, I’m curious about Jochen Ebmeiers’ book – is it available in English?

      • Hi Willa. No, as far as I know Jochen Ebmeier’s book isn’t available in English. It came out in 1997 with a second edition being released in 1999 and was the first book about MJ that I read (apart from Moonwalk and Dancing the Dream). I think it’s even out of print in Germany, and I’m surprised it wasn’t published again after Michael’s death. Although mainly a biography, it was one of the first books that took MJ serious as an artist – it has a few chapters analysing his music and putting it in a historical context, as far as I can remember. The author wasn’t a fan of MJ, but clearly was very interested in his art and his personality (I think he has a degree in philosophy). And I always loved the book because of its detailed descriptions of Michael’s visits to Germany and his appearances on the German tv show “Wetten, dass…?”

  4. Thanks once again for a wonderful dialog. I’ve been pondering (and Susan may be addressing this in her book) about the title for the album. He usually named his albums after a song on that album, not unusual. But given some of the themes in the songs on this one, I’ve been puzzled how some of them fit the idea of “Dangerous”: Heal the World, Keep the Faith, Gone too Soon…Dangerous? I’d like to see some others’ ideas on this.

  5. Hi Susan and Willa — Thanks for a great post and I can’t wait to read the book. I just got a notice from Amazon that it is supposed to arrive today. Like Maximilian, I listen to MJ on my iPod and I rarely hear any of the albums as Michael meant them to be heard. But, I am certainly going to remedy that situation. Create some different playlists or something.

    Like Caro and so many others, I love his later music and can’t begin to understand the prejudice against it. Or… maybe I can. Wish I couldn’t.

    I love your comments on “Smile.” As Susan says about HIStory —

    After all that anger and venom, all that commentary on social injustices both personal and broadly cultural, delivered through some of the most aggressive grooves he ever created, he ends the album with that tragic ballad and its directive to “smile though your heart is breaking” (which his must have been); it’s very powerful.

    It is an ending that is so very Michael — and so heart breaking.

  6. I love the fact that each of Michael’s albums have their own character and style and I like them all, but if I had to pick one as my favourite it would be Dangerous. So when I heard about Susan Fast writing this book I got very excited and I couldn’t wait for its release. I ordered it last week on Amazon, I can’t wait to get it. Finally, someone gives a serious look into an MJ album that is not Thriller or Off The Wall! I think HIStory is similarly underrated and exciting. That album would be a great theme for another 33 1/3 book.

    Regarding the Billy Eckstine story. It reminds me of a story I read in Joseph Vogel’s book. It comes from a woman who commented after Michael’s death, sharing this memory: “I was 11 years old and the daughter of a policeman when the Jackson 5 came on the TV. I watched for a minute, then I said, ‘He’s cute.’ The rage in our house from that innocent comment will never be forgotten. I had never seen a black person; my dad’s racism and anger was unstoppable. I defended Michael Jackson that night and [my dad] took me in my room and beat me till I promised never to talk about him again. Until today I really haven’t been able to talk about what happened. I just saw for the first time the video ‘Black or White’ and I wished I had seen it years ago! I was right and Michael was right. Thank you Michael from a little white girl who didn’t see black or white.”

  7. I always thought that Dangerous sounds musically (because of choice of songs tempo and partly keys) like symphony, similarly to the Bad and Invincible

  8. Susan said, “As I’ve thought about it more, I actually don’t know how his albums can be compared; they’re like apples and oranges, each conceived of and framed in a unique way. I think we need to get away from putting them in a hierarchy…”
    My nephew, who is in his middle 20’s, just moved from the USA to Japan to spend a year there as an English instructor. I told him about the Japanese love of Michael Jackson. My nephew has started listening to some of MJ’s music, and asked me what my favorite album was. I thought about it, and realized that it was impossible for me to answer that. Each album fills a different need in my soul. As my mood changes, so does the album I reach for. I am glad to see that Susan feels the same way.

  9. Thanks for this fascinating post, Willa and Susan!!–I agree very much MJ saw the albums he produced himself as cohesive works and he wants us to pay attention to the placement/arrangement of songs, the structure and tone of the album, etc etc as chosen with care for a deliberate effect. So apropos that he ends HIStory with “Smile”–an homage to Charlie Chaplin and an arrow pointing to the connections between him and Chaplin, which, as you say, Willa, are profound.

    About those non-musical sounds–I was driving and listening to MJ and suddenly could not figure out if the sound of honking I was hearing came from another car or the song–lol!

    Caro–thanks so much!!

  10. Willa and Susan, I think the following exchange is so interesting, from a couple of standpoints —

    “Susan: [M]any critics and others could not, would not, and still cannot see him as an adult – don’t believe him as one – and I think this is one of the reasons why he is so often vilified or infantilized…; this is a very particular kind of denigration – including the kiddy language used – that strips Jackson of his adulthood. We could say it strips him of a lot of other things – dignity, the ability to be taken seriously, perhaps his humanity …

    Willa: I agree! It denies his humanity in a very literal sense: peeing on the floor and throwing feces is something an ape would do, an animal would do, not a human. When I heard those stories, I immediately thought of the chorus of “Monster”:

    (He’s like an animal)
    He’s a monster
    (Just like an animal)
    He’s an animal

    I think he really understood this impulse by certain segments of the population to characterize him as a monster, an animal, a bogeyman, an Other, and he forced us to acknowledge it.”

    Yes, he did. But that is not all he did. I certainly agree that white culture wanted to keep him a boy, which is what all black men in the south were called when I was growing up, and I agree it was a way of refusing to acknowledge his — or any black man’s — full humanity. Takes dignity and worth away — and any sense of moral obligation. I also think that the tabloid stories you refer to not only infantilize him, but “animalize” him, deliberately. But, I think that his approach to such “slurs” in his lifetime was to embrace them, not to try to distance himself from them. So, he makes a career of honoring the child within, not assuming a defensive posture. And, he embraces and celebrates his animal (panther) nature, fully inhabiting his body, showing us that we are all embodied, we are all animals, and we are all an integral part of the fabric of the natural world. He was a master at turning tables. Reminds me of Chinese martial arts, where you use the energy of the attacker to your own advantage.

    And, as Susan says, he does not think in binaries, he does not see honoring the child within as making him any less an adult, he is just pointing out that that child and childlike wonder is available to us all and we would all be better off if we accessed it, but generally we wall it off.

    And he does not believe that being an animal makes him inhuman, but rather that as all humans are animals, it is a little ridiculous to deny our animal natures; and, perhaps, being the observant person he was, he saw that non-human animals actually are noble beings and treat each other a lot better than human animals do. That we should be honored to be part of the animal “king”dom.

    He takes the shadow side of white culture — the side whites project onto blacks — and lights it up.

  11. Wonderful comments from everyone; so rich, and so much to think about. Just two quick thoughts. Chris, I was under such space constraints writing the book that I ended up not saying very much about “Can’t Let Her Get Away.” Tragic! Perhaps I’ll do a post about this on my own blog at some point soon. And Eleanor, I completely agree with you that MJ embraced the “slurs” rather than pushing them away. I especially like your comment: “And he does not believe that being an animal makes him inhuman.” Again, we fall too easily into our binaries (human/animal, in this case), whereas he did not think in those terms.

    • Dr. Fast: I understand the realities of making editors happy – would love to read your blog re “Can’t Let Her Get Away” if that wants to get written. Perhaps I’ll do the same! Thanks so much for your awesome insights re MJ the musician and MJ the man.

  12. Willa, re your comment that “Invincible begins with three painful songs about a disastrous relationship with an uncaring woman,” it made me think about that so I went to the album and the first song–Unbreakable–does not appear to me to be about a male-female love relationship gone bad. It seems to me to much more solidly addressed to those adversaries, i.e. prosecutors, esp. of course Tom Sneddon, and maybe the media too, who tried to ‘break’ him. Apparently MJ wanted it to be the first single and the first short film, but Sony chose You Rock My World instead. I also read somewhere but haven’t located where that MJ had a entire plan for the short film (does anyone else have a link to that?). No doubt this was very disappointing to him.

    Re his sexual presence on and off stage that you and Susan address with such brilliant insights–oh, yes!! His physicality is palpable in just a photo–one thing that strikes me so much is the repose–stillness–of his body and how graceful are the postures he assumes. Even when he is dancing vigorously, the still photos or freeze shots show the same grace and balanced harmony.

    • Stephenson, I remember reading somewhere that his planned video for unbreakable involved him falling from a very high place and breaking apart as he fell, and then somehow coming back together again. I don’t remember where I read that. I will look for it.

    • Hi Stephenson: I saw that “script” for the Unbreakable short film that didn’t happen too – might have been on the Archives. I loved the story line — sounds just like something MJ would concoct. The timing would have been just right for a cheeky defiant film too.

      I think back on that approximate moment in time a lot – early 2000s – such a place of turning points and yet possibilities…and fervently wish that ANYTHING had come along to effectively deflect and divert the horrible entrance of Bashir into MJ’s life (cue the theme from Jaws) and take MJ’s attention elsewhere. One of several maddening and defining “If Only” moments that replay in my head when I can’t shut them out.

    • Thanks, sfaikus and Chris, for the info on the short film for Unbreakable that MJ planned–if you find anything more on that it would be great–I will look too (Chris, what Archives?). I like idea of him falling and breaking apart only to come back together again (thanks for that info, sfaikus). Maybe Sony thought the song was too ‘heavy’ in terms of aggressive response and so they went with something ‘sweeter’ like You Rock My World??

      Yes, I agree, Chris, (and that is a very funny reference to the Jaws theme) that this was a crucial turning point where Bashir came into the scene in the early 2000’s. MJ also put an end to his relationship with Boteach and their collaborations around that time too. And it was a huge turning point for us all as well in 2001 with 9/11 and the fallout of massive proportions.

      Re the ‘If Only’ moments–I wish with all my heart that MJ and Santana had performed Whatever Happens on TV as they were supposed to. Sony stopped most of the promotion after MJ produced what Vogel says was the most expensive album ever–at $30 million–and after the falling out with Mottola.

      I always find it very poignant that MJ was making the short film for One More Chance when the raid occurred in 03 and MJ’s world was upended–something so sad about that appeal for One More Chance. I love that song and the short film too, simple as it is. Love how he jumps on the tables and kicks the glasses!

      • Stephenson and Chris, I found the video plot for Unbreakable. It is on page 202 of Frank Cascio’s book, My Friend Michael:
        “Michael even knew exactly how he wanted to open the Unbreakable short film. He would be on the roof of a very tall building that was under construction, held over the edge by some thugs, and then they would let him go. He would go hurtling to the ground, seemingly dead, but slowly, his body parts would come together and he would turn into fire – dancing on fire from scaffold to scaffold as his body parts reassembled themselves. Michael envisioned creating a dance for Unbreakable that people would remember forever.”

        • Yes! That’s it! Would have loved to have seen it.

          The dancing on fire part reminded me a bit of his friend Michael Flatley, another unique dancer and massively popular entertainer with strong visual instincts, who named his second world tour “Feet of Flames” (after the great success of “Lord of the Dance”).

          The fact that they spent time together at Flatley’s estate in Ireland was poignant to me.
          I’d bet they danced together, but Flatley won’t say.

          There’s even a Youtube video that celebrates them together called “Michael Flatson Jackley”, which I thought was pretty cute….

        • Oh – also wanted to say that I think the lyrics to “Unbreakable” can be “heard” in several ways:

          As comments directed at those who would “break” him like the media, his determined detractors, the vendetta-minded law enforcers, as Stephenson says…

          Also as a retort to a love affair who is giving him a great deal of grief as Willa says – perhaps like the significant and complicated one in his own life with his ex-wife that was finally grinding to a halt during this time?

          And a third way, as evidenced by the specific Biggie rap he included which comments on how friends can rob you and trust is difficult, which could directly connect to more pain for Michael, the dissolution of the Schmuley and Geller connections, also at that time.

          • Yes, Chris, I agree the lyrics can be read various ways, although I never heard the interpretation that it refers to a love affair gone wrong before. Re the Biggie rap, maybe you are thinking of the 50 Cent rap on Monster re friends robbing me? The Biggie one doesn’t mention that as far as I can see.

            Good point re Feet of Flames–I would have loved to have seen a Flatley/MJ dance video–wow–what a treat that would have been. Great that they were pals.

          • Thanks Stephenson – you’re right, I am mixing up my Biggie raps — it’s the rap Michael included on This Time Around that mentions friends robbing him. Sure seems appropriate to apply to the alleged end of the Schmuley friendship though…

            The one line in Unbreakable that always shoots me right through the heart is when he says “No matter what you do, I’m still gonna be here”…
            He could be saying that to an awful lot of people, sadly.

            If Only…

          • Wow–thanks, Chris, for straightening me out on where that rap is–This Time Around! (Also re the B.I.G rap on Unbreakable Michael took it from “Shaquille O’Neal feat Biggie – You can’t stop the reign,” according to what I read.)

            Yes, it’s sad he is not here on the physical level, yet he is here in his influence, and in that way will always be Unbreakable.

            “Don’t you ever make no mistake
            Baby I’ve got what it takes”

            Got what it takes–and how!!

            One funny comment online: “This song goes out to all the haters and the Illuminati”

        • Thanks so much, sfaikus! I seemed to remember there was something about fire in it. In fact, it makes me think now of the Pepsi commercial and MJ’s burn–and yet he wanted to work with fire again. That’s pretty amazing in itself. I do so wish he had made that video! I can see how the dancing would have been phenomenal. Also it’s interesting in terms of fire that he wanted the jacket to burn on This Is It at the end of Beat It.

    • sfaikus, thank you so much for the description of the planned “Unbreakable” video. How tragic that video didn’t get made!

      And Stephenson, I agree that “Unbreakable” is about much more than his relationship with a woman. During the song, he repeatedly addresses someone as “Baby,” which to me suggests that he’s speaking to a girlfriend or lover. But then a lot of his romance songs are about much more than a romance – just off the top of my head, I’m thinking of “Leave Me Alone,” “Billie Jean,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Dirty Diana,” “Blood on the Dance Floor,” “Who Is It,” “Dangerous,” …

      I mean, just look at these lyrics:

      Her mouth was smoother than oil
      But her inner spirit and words
      Were as sharp as a two-edged sword
      But I loved it
      ‘Cause it’s dangerous

      Wow, what’s he really talking about here? To me, all of these songs – and probably a lot more also if I really went through and thought about it – are ostensibly about a romance, but when you really look at the lyrics, they’re about so much more …

  13. What a wonderful post to start with after summer break. Off to order Susan’s book.

  14. You’re right, sfaikus, the whole place goes up in flames on YRMW–I forgot about that. MJ was trusting to go for that.

  15. Thank you so much, Willa and Susan! This is fascinating….

    I have to say that I never fully appreciated “Dangerous” until now! I probably shared Alan Light’s view that there were too many similar-sounding songs (at least in terms of the basic groove) grouped together, and I wish they’d been spread out more. I also didn’t know how much these choices were attributable to Teddy Riley, and how much to MJ.

    But thanks to this post (and starting to read your book, Susan, which I was able to order thru amazon in the US), I can now see very different layers of the album’s structure as a whole, as I’ve gone back to listen to it more closely.

    Thinking in terms of four thematically-similar “chapters” can really put a whole different complexion on the experience of listening.

    I also find compelling so many facets of MJ’s music that you’ve explored in your book, Susan (I’ve read up to halfway through the chapter on “Desire” so far.) Thanks so much for unpacking the meanings of “jam” as a verb…. it’s really helpful. It’s wonderful to think about how daring it was, in “Jam” and “In the Closet,” for for Michael to remain at a lighter and more “weightless” level in the verses, without the bass…

    An aggressive, “crashing” sense comes not only with the sound motif of broken glass, but also a percussive beat where bass and drums (and possibly horns?) land simultaneously a “Jam!”

    I’m also really enjoying your analysis of black dandyism, one topic I’ve been exploring in my own musings/writings about Michael Jackson.

    I wonder if Michael seems to be approaching a quasi-Flamenco dance style in “In the Closet.” If so, it seems to dovetail with Herb Ritts’s remarks about wanting to achieve a Spanish look in the film (with the church, etc.).

    I look very forward to further installments here… .and to reading the rest of your book, Susan! Again, many thanks, all.

    • Hi Nina – so nice to meet you in LA last June.

      Funny you should say that about the “quasi-Flamenco” dance style in ITC – while watching the “Making of” segment referenced by Willa, I noticed MJ doing what seemed to be just that for a group of cameramen while another person was actually holding a microphone near his booted feet!

      Ya never know what’s coming next with Michael Jackson, do ya…

  16. Reblogged this on mjjjusticeproject and commented:
    Dr. Susan Fast, whose new book on the Dangerous album will be coming out September 25 from Bloomsbury Press.

  17. I got my copy and I’m reading it now. I just finished the chapter “Desire”. I like it very much so far. Just a quick note: it seems to be a pattern to me that whenever Michael was in a video with a female partner (The Way You Make Me Feel, Remember The Time, In The Closet) how quickly the critics always jumped in to deem it immediately “not credible”. They judged him based on preconcieved notions they had about him and his private life (not even realizing that those notions might be wrong) not based on what you saw in those videos. To me In The Closet especially is pretty credible, LOL. But I find it interesting how predictable those critics were about Michael’s representations of anything romantic/erotic. Meanwhile totally ignoring the very real phenomenon that millions of women found MJ and his performances very, very sexy.* If that is so then it could not be so “non-credible” after all. Maybe it’s more that some people deliberately do not want to acknowledge it. Threatened indeed.

    * While he probably was attractive to some gay men as well I always found that MJ was especially sexy to straight women, which is really interesting considering his non-conventional masculinity. And I guess that is why straight men with more conventional masculinity felt threatened by him. I do not know about the sexual orientation of Joe Pereles or any of those critics who tried to dismiss MJ’s sexy performances as “not credible” but if they are straight men then it’s especially funny that they want to decide whether MJ was sexy or not instead of letting his audience (straight women or even gay men) decide that.

    • jacksonaktak: Great comment. If it hasn’t already been the subject of an entire article here, it easily could be.

      “Threatened indeed.” You said it! I love that song and wrote about the power of the lyrics in a review a while back. That he could deliver his truth in such a sizzling, self-aware, sardonic fashion (and as was mentioned here about the track logic of Dangerous, Threatened closes the circle begun by Unbreakable on the Invincible album) in the form of a musical middle finger and still retain his dignity… The man was CLASS.

  18. By the way, I noticed that Michael is sometimes not even acknowledged as androgynous. I have seen several articles about androgynity in pop music where he is completely “forgotten”. They always mention David Bowie. Boy George, often Prince, but I noticed that MJ is often left out. Especially where androgynity is discussed as something cool and progressive. Given his status in pop music that is an odd omittion. As if he is even “other” to fans of androgynity, as if he is outside of any category – even androgyny. I guess that also has to do with the reluctance of acknowledging him as sexy or a sexual being, because in those articles androgyny is often discussed in the context of sexuality.

    • “By the way, I noticed that Michael is sometimes not even acknowledged as androgynous … as if he is outside of any category – even androgyny.”

      That’s really interesting, jacksonaktak. And when his “ambiguity” (not androgyny) is mentioned, it tends to be discussed as something pathological, rather than a bold artistic or cultural/political statement as with the other figures you mentioned.

      I wonder if this gets back once again to the intentional fallacy – that an artist’s work can only mean what he or she intended it to mean. Michael Jackson refused to interpret his work for us – as he wrote in his Manifesto way back in 1979, when laying out his strategy for how to become a great artist, “I will do no interviews.” (He also says, “I will study and look back on the whole world of entertainment and perfect it, take it steps further from where the greats left off.” So he was really thinking in broad terms about who he wanted to be, and what he wanted his place in history to be.)

      So instead of limiting his work to his own interpretation, he insisted on leaving it wide open to a broad range of approaches and responses. And honestly, I think that is the path of the true artist. But there’s a price for that: because he refused to explain what his work means, some critics seem to think it doesn’t mean anything. And that extends to his public persona, as well as his music and short films.

  19. I am currently in the “Desire” chapter, p. 62, where Susan Fast is discussing the intro to Remember The Time, where MJ laughs and speaks. Susan Fast hears MJ saying “do you want to try me?” I have always heard MJ saying, “I don’t know, what you want to try, intimacy?” What do you hear?

    • Hi sfaikus. I hear it as, “I don’t know, whatcha wanna try?” and then “Whatcha see?” (as in, do you want to try what you see, which is me) but I could easily be wrong! I should probably listen to it more carefully with headphones on …

  20. Just finished the ” Desire” chapter. Lots of interesting ideas there! I was hoping to find some clarification of the use of the white ox in the video, but Dr. Fast doesn’t discuss it. I did some searching on the internet and found some quirky things about oxen:
    — Oxen were used in Latin countries for grinding tequila out of agave plants on a big stone
    — the bible says “do not muzzle the ox because his labor is worthy of his pay”, meaning the ox should be able to eat some of what it is grinding.
    — The white Chianina ox, only fifty years ago a fixture of every Tuscan landscape, is the largest extant breed of cattle in the world. Large cattle were known in Lucania during Roman times and the Chianina cattle of the Val di Chiana may well trace back to these. The oxen now known as the Chianina were praised by the Georgic poets, Columella and Virgil, and were the models for Roman sculptures.

    I don’ t see any connection to the song, do you? Why did MJ want an ox in the video?

    • Well, an ox is a castrated bull…they castrate them to make them more placid and easy to work with. They are seen as a symbol of hard labor. So we can make of that what we will in relation to the song. (I haven’t figured it out myself!).

  21. Sorry, me again… Since the Dangerous album is meant to be listened to as a unit, and since In the Closet and Remember the Time are together on the album, maybe that explains why the film for In The Closet has a Spanish theme. In Remember The Time, MJ asks us to remember “… In Spain”.

  22. I finished the book today and enjoyed it very much. Fanatstic analysis of MJ’s work. “Dangerous” is my favourite album and it deserves to be taken seriously. Too bad the book had to be so short and some things had be left out, like a detailed analysis of “Can’t Let Her Get Away” and some of the short films.
    I’d like to point out that the voice during the “Dangerous” performance saying “You know you want me” and “Get the point? Good. Let’s dance” belongs to Michael’s sister Janet. The segments were taken from her albums “Janet.” and “Rhythm Nation 1814”, respectively.

    • “I’d like to point out that the voice during the “Dangerous” performance … belongs to Michael’s sister Janet. The segments were taken from her albums ‘Janet’ and ‘Rhythm Nation 1814’, respectively.”

      Thanks for clarifying that, Maximilian! I’ve been curious about that voice for a while. It’s interesting that she was sitting in the audience during that performance, and the camera cut to her a couple times – so she was sitting in the audience listening to her own voice! That’s funny.

    • I just finished Susan’s book and I came here to say exactly this. She did not realize that it was Janet’s voice. I always found that interesting and wondered what Michael wanted to express with that.

  1. Pingback: Parlare di “Dangerous” con Susan Fast | ONLYMICHAELJACKSON

  2. Pingback: Susan Fast: Dangerous (Buchrezension) | It's all happening!

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