It’s with a bit of a heavy heart that much of the music world greeted the news of Michael Jackson’s series of concerts at the o2 this July (and, after ‘massive demand’ more in August). While it’s undeniable that, in his 70s and 80s pomp, there may not have been a better performer on the planet, since Bad, his career, and his life, have been one slow, painful descent into the abyss. Albums retreating further and further into schmaltz and saccharine pop, a shadow of his former self, and that was the good news. Sexual abuse allegations, failing health, baby dangling. It was a car crash that you couldn’t even bear to look at.
So, you have to ask the question: are we flocking to see him instigate a career renaissance, or to laugh at the freakshow? It’s no secret that, while this is billed as a gift to his many UK fans, The King of Pop is broke, so this is as much to probably pay his tax bill as much as give his die-hard (and probably blinkered) fans one last chance to see him. Compare it to Prince and it’s not hard to see where the pathos is heading.
Mind you, it could be worse. You could have to sit through U2’s latest album.
Since Tuesday afternoon the world feels a fresher place, and while Barack Obama’s near-deification over the last eighteen months has at times taken on unrealistic proportions, his first days in office have been cause for great optimism: the closure of Guantanamo Bay (or its start), the dismantling of US intelligence’s ‘Black Sites’, the repealing of the 25-year gag order on US funding for organisations that are linked to abortions, and the freezing (and ultimate reversing) of many of Bush’s late-breaking laws.
And one song seems to be echoing round my head today – Marvin Gaye’s sublime What’s Goin’ On? The lyrics are as resonant today as they were when the song was released, but they now sit against the backdrop of a hope for a brighter future, and that is something that means I can wake up with a smile on my face each morning, however cold it is.
While those slightly behind the times may still see minimal as the sound of the underground, they’re the same that probably think Berlin is the sole arbiter of teuton cool. Robert Johnson, the pint-sized Frankfurt club, nestled in Offenbach, is one of many reasons to refute this. It has been busy getting on with its thing, long before Berlin became the place-du-jour, and 2009 sees it launch its first mix series. And it’s been worth the wait. My sneak preview of Chloe’s Live at Robert Johnson Vol 1 left me utterly inspired and in awe of the most aurally pleasurable house music I’ve heard in a long time. No fanfare, no big branding, just sumptuous music. And, being those paragons of design, there’s even a limited edition for the chin-strokers. Bliss.