‘Suppose Twice’ podcast examines Michael Jackson’s legacy : NPR


Michael Jackson performs throughout the Tremendous Bowl Halftime present in 1993, the 12 months that “Suppose Twice” picks up his story.

George Rose/Getty Photos

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George Rose/Getty Photos

Michael Jackson performs throughout the Tremendous Bowl Halftime present in 1993, the 12 months that “Suppose Twice” picks up his story.

George Rose/Getty Photos

Greater than a decade after his loss of life, Michael Jackson continues to encourage new artwork — from successful Broadway present to an upcoming biopic — regardless of the a long time of controversy which have plagued him.

Sexual abuse accusations, investigations and lawsuits in opposition to the “King of Pop” date again a long time. They resurfaced prominently within the 2019 HBO documentary Leaving Neverland, wherein two males share their tales of allegedly being sexually abused by the singer as kids (which his property denies).

However despite the fact that a lot has already been stated concerning the singer and his sophisticated legacy, journalist Leon Neyfakh and hip-hop commentator Jay Clean wished to take one other look.

“In case you make an effort to see the story with recent eyes and discuss to individuals who watched it unfold from up shut, however who have not essentially been interviewed one million occasions, you are going to find yourself surfacing a lot that is going to really feel new to most of your listeners,” says Neyfakh, who hosts the podcast Fiasco and hosted the primary two seasons of Sluggish Burn, about Watergate and the Clinton impeachment.

“And it may not be like breaking information, however it goes a way in direction of bringing again to life a narrative that, in lots of instances, has type of calcified or change into frozen in amber over time.”

The result’s “Suppose Twice: Michael Jackson,” a 10-part podcast from Audible and Wondery that might be out there solely on Audible and Amazon Music on Thursday. The title is a lyric from Jackson’s hit track “Billie Jean.”

The collection explores Jackson’s endurance regardless of the disturbing allegations, providing new views on how he was formed by American tradition and vice versa. Listeners will hear from over 100 individuals who performed some half in Jackson’s story, Clean advised Morning Version: musicians who got here up with him in Gary, Ind., and followers who confirmed as much as assist him at trial.

It isn’t a biography of Jackson, says Neyfakh, “moderately a social historical past concerning the world he operated in and the individuals who liked him and the customers of his artwork.”

“That is as a lot a narrative about us and about how American tradition works, how international tradition works, and the way historical past and reminiscence work, as a lot as it’s a story about Michael himself,” he provides.

All 10 episodes might be out there on Audible and ad-free for Prime members on the Amazon Music app as of Thursday.

Audible and Wondery

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Audible and Wondery

All 10 episodes might be out there on Audible and ad-free for Prime members on the Amazon Music app as of Thursday.

Audible and Wondery

The place to start?

The collection begins in 1993, what the hosts take into account the center of Jackson’s story. He was on the top of his fame — “he was as huge as he’d ever been” — when he had the primary allegations of kid sexual abuse leveled in opposition to him.

“In 1993 you see either side of the Michael story,” Neyfakh says. “The meteoric rise and the unimaginable cultural standing, however then additionally this tragic and tough interval that adopted the place, no matter what you considered the allegations, you could not actually take a look at him the identical manner.”

One of many central storylines of that first episode is a brief movie referred to as “Is This Scary,” which Jackson co-authored with horror author Stephen King however by no means launched (although elements are nonetheless viewable on YouTube).

Within the movie, Jackson performs an odd man in a haunted home, accused of scaring kids from the close by city along with his magic and jokes. A mob of offended dad and mom goes after him with pitchforks.

Neyfakh calls the video a “forgotten artifact” — and says what’s most hanging about it’s that it was made earlier than anybody had accused Jackson of something.

“The truth is, the accusations occurred throughout the manufacturing, which was referred to as off when the primary media stories about Jordan Chandler got here out,” he added. “And I used to be simply so fascinated that this was the story Michael wished to inform in a really public kind.”

The collection additionally delves into race, unpacking how Jackson considered his racial identification and what position he performed in bigger cultural conversations (together with his 1994 NAACP Picture Awards speech).

Clean says Jackson had extra of an “funding and a connection to his Blackness” than most individuals assume, whereas additionally striving to “be this common determine for everybody as nicely.”

“And I believe that that tug-of-war over time, together with all the opposite methods he was making an attempt to navigate being within the brightest highlight anybody’s ever been in, I believe you see that reverberate via his life in so some ways,” he says.

How ought to we take into consideration Jackson’s music?

The hosts deliver totally different views to the mission. Neyfakh did not develop up listening to Jackson’s music, however Clean did — actually, he says he seems like “I knew him since I used to be a child and … since he was a child.”

Over time, Clean says, he got here to see Jackson as “this type of heartbreaking, tragic determine and somebody who might nicely have completed terrible issues to others.” And he is nonetheless undecided what to assume now.

“That continues to be actually unsettled for me,” Clean says. “What to do with all of that, in a manner that is totally different from numerous different artists, the place I might extra simply type of compartmentalize and both stroll away from them or discover a method to hold holding on to them.”

And he isn’t alone in these emotions. Neyfakh stated that, particularly within the wake of Leaving Neverland, he did not know what to really feel when he encountered Jackson’s music.

“Folks simply do not know what to do along with his greatness and his genius, on the one hand, [or] with the profound injury that he is alleged to have completed to the individuals in his life,” Neyfakh says. “I wished to offer individuals new methods to course of these contradictions by offering all this new uncooked materials, all this firsthand testimony, about how Michael Jackson turned Michael Jackson.”

What broader classes can we be taught from Jackson’s story?

The hosts say they don’t seem to be making an attempt to steer anybody to both boycott or assist Jackson’s music, simply as they don’t seem to be aiming to show or disprove the allegations in opposition to him. However they need to discover how people — and society as an entire — strategy the concept of separating the artwork from the artist.

Clean admits that he feels a rush of pleasure he feels when “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” comes on the radio, proof of his emotional relationship to Jackson.

“I believe it is vital to all the time query how efficiently we are able to compartmentalize,” Clean says. “However realistically, that compartmentalization is all the time going to be part of our relationship with artwork.”

Reena Advani and Adam Bearne edited and produced the audio model.


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