The MJ tributes will surely continue to pour in all day and, indeed, all week. Many, like the celebrity quotes compiled by Rolling Stone and Salon, are relatively pro forma. Here's a collection of the most insightful, bizarre, and touching tributes that have popped up so far:
Drew McWeeny from HitFix has a fun story about working at a video store that Jackson used to frequent after hours:
"This was the week that "Home Alone" had just been released on laserdisc, and so we'd been playing the movie on an endless loop at the store, over and over and over, and we were all sick of it at that point. That's important because when Michael showed up, he had a guest with him. Macaulay Culkin.
My manager … was on the phone with a friend, and as Michael went to look around and shop, Macaulay stopped, listening to Anthony as he ranted. " ... and if I have to watch that movie again, I'm going to stab my own eyes out. Seriously. That kid ... it's like he's haunting me. I go home, and all I can hear when I'm trying to go to sleep is him taunting Pesci and Stern, and I wish there was a cut of the film where they caught him. That's what I'd watch."
By that point, it was obvious what he was talking about, so Macaulay settled in to wait for Anthony to turn around. Michael noticed what was going on. Finally, Anthony turned around, and there was Macaulay, right behind him, hands on his face just like on the "Home Alone" cover, and as all of us, Michael included, burst into laughter. That moment, watching Michael trying not to laugh as we all waited for Anthony to figure out what was going on, was the least guarded thing I saw from him."
50 Cent won the race to release a tribute song by slapping a sample from "I Wanna Be Where You Are" on prerecorded track and tweeting it.
John McWhorter, The New Republic:
The problem was that as he got older, parts seemed to be all there was; the whole became increasingly difficult to perceive. The skin bleaching was strange enough — and his telling Oprah that it was vitiligo and expecting to be believed even stranger. Here was a black man and one who was a megastar actually using the kinds of products that look so peculiar and degrading in ancient black newspaper advertisements today. And then the facial surgery, which made him look not only whiter but more feminine.
The question, which he never even ventured an answer to, was why. Who was this personage supposed to be? White? Gay? Perhaps we were to allow that he was just being "him." But leaving unanswered just who that "him" was supposed to be was, most charitably interpreted, too far ahead of our times. It left him a faintly gruesome cipher.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic:
"Ray Lewis may well be an accessory to a man's murder. But when I watch him run up and down field on Sunday, it sparks something in me. Woody Allen wooed his wife's adopted daughter, and may well be a child molester. But I think Bananas makes me laugh. Mike Tyson is, among other things, a convicted rapist. But I had not lived until I saw him demolish Trevor Berbick. And so on ...
I guess I could peel these people out my life. I guess I could stop separating art from men. Regrettably, I think, I wouldn't be left with much art worth admiring. Sometimes awful people, do beautiful things. One doesn't cancel the other. And mourning the loss of human life, does not excuse the sins of that life."
Hua Hsu, The Atlantic:
Jackson was one of the last figures of our time who could, in his very presence, describe the possibilities of pop. He wasn't just the King — he was the entire domain, the rules and regulations, the dream-horizon of the citizenry, the place where the land met the heavens. Jackson was one of the first (and last) artists whose new videos, tours and albums were actual, global events, as when he debuted his "Black or White" video in 1991 after an episode of The Simpsons. This was the cultural history of the pre-digital age: simultaneity, mass worship, millions sitting in front of their TVs at the exact same moment. (The closest analogue now: millions around the world, sitting in front of their computers, carefully recomposing Michael's Wikipedia entry the moments after his death was made official.)
Jody Rosen, Slate:
Jackson was a confessional artist; he always started with the man in the mirror. Though he aimed bigger and broader than any pop star before or since — he wanted every single person in the world to buy his records — he never compromised. His music is the strangest and darkest ever to achieve blockbuster success; by comparison, Sinatra, Elvis, the Beatles, and Madonna are positively milquetoast. Consider some song titles: "Bad," "Dangerous," "Leave Me Alone," "Blood on the Dance Floor," "Scream," "In the Closet," "Cry," "The Lost Children," "Threatened." Repulsion, sexual anxiety, implacable sadness, violence, terror, celebrity stalking — these were his great themes.
Chuck Eddy, Rhapsody:
Michael Jackson never quite seemed mortal until today. He spent at least 40 of his 50 years trying to escape from his past and his fears and his race and his self, and at least 30 of those 50 years singing about it, and today, he finally found the door out. Michael Freedberg, the great disco critic from the Boston Phoenix, said once that Michael lived Robert Johnson's life in the plain view of everyone on earth, always watching out for hellhounds over his shoulder.
Tom Ewing, FreakyTrigger:
Jackson’s brutalisation by his father is the kind of horror story we associate with the worst parts of pro sport — the mechanisation of ability in a drive for perfection. It’s rarer in showbiz, because the structure of success is looser. Michael Jackson’s success — and what success! - sits on a double fluke: that he managed to funnel his talent through his dehumanisation, and that the public responded in such phenomenal numbers to his unique perspective.
That success led to a second dehumanisation, which Jackson himself colluded in. Here am I, writing what might have been an obituary type piece, and all I can think about are history and abstractions: the real, dead man is too remote. The Jackson it’s easy to empathise with fell into shadow a long time ago. When I heard about his death the music I wanted to play wasn’t Off The Wall, or Thriller, but the strange, sad, overblown records he made in the 90s — overshadowed by headlines and accusations, but home to some of the oddest and darkest pop of any era.
John Marshall, TPM:
Found myself more shocked than I usually am by these things ... not sadder or more upset, but more shocked. And I was thinking last night, what feels different about this?
I think it's because so much of Michael Jackson's life seemed like make believe. Sometimes farcical. But always like play acting, somehow. So much theatrics. So many costumes. And on various levels the desire — often frighteningly realized — to deny or defy his physical self, his age and much more. Even the things that seemed terribly serious, perhaps especially those — the trials for child molestation which could have landed him in jail for years or decades — never seemed to stick. Whether he was truly guilty of these accusations or not, it always blew over. All together it conditioned me to think of Jackson as someone whose drama was always just drama — whether it was the threat of prison or vast debts or bizarre physical tribulations — all of it would pass or blow over, perhaps not even have been real, leaving him more or less in place, as weird or surreal as ever, but basically unchanged.
M.I.A., Rolling Stone: “MICHAEL JACKSON the first 2 english words i eva spoke . the future sucx!”