One of the late Michael Jackson's nephews ordered a stun gun online, received it in the mail, and used it to zap the holy heck out of a piece of paper. Now, if one of my nieces pulled a stunt like this, she'd get grounded and lose the stun-gun, and that would be the end of it. But when it happens to a diety-level celebrity's relative, it's news -- which is depressing, because seriously, who cares that Jaafar Jackson bought a stun gun?
(Something I learned from all of this that I didn't know: Jermaine Jackson has a son named Jaafar! That's spectacular and fitting, for reasons I can't quite put my finger on right now.)
All of this highlights how desperate news outlets are for stories. A fact occurs, is framed within rumors, innuendo, and the refutations of a spokesman, and emerges as a milkable meme. Because, you know, there wasn't just an earthquake in Chile, the president didn't just explain that he'll be seeking to shove the healthcare bill through Congress. Those things didn't happen because we were too busy gorging ourselves on celebrity non-news stories like this one. I mean, maybe we should worry some; 13-year-olds shouldn't be walking around zapping people for any reason, but it's not like the L.A. Department of Child Services caught him with a bag of crack rock or an Uzi. In the grand scheme of things, a stun gun is small stakes -- though I'd lose my shit if I caught my own son with one.
Anyway, this story got me to thinking about my elementary school days, and Michael Jackson: us boys trying to breakdance to impress the girls, and coming to school with MJ sunglasses and gloves, all that. (No stun guns, though. The world wasn't that twisted yet.) We'd try to spin on one foot while doing the crotch-grab move, which we unconsciously understood was part of the source of Jackson's strange, slightly alien appeal and high-pitched singing voice. Later, we'd connect "grabbed or punched nuts" and "high voice" more directly with crippling, agonizing pain -- not unlike the excruciating sensation of being hit with several dozen volts of electricity. Thinking about that, and thinking about Jackson's paternaturally vocals, I made some nebulous connections and devised this chart after spending a couple hours listening to Number Ones:
Three Stuns to the Nads: Jacko Astride the Northern Lights
Early on in his solo career, Jackson sang like a dude who manned up for a quick four stun-gun shots-to-the-nuts cocktail prior to entering the studio, didn't he? Homeboy screamed and shrieked like Brooke Shields and the four horsemen of the apocalypse were on his heels: witness the impossibly breathless falsetto all over hits like "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough," "Thriller," and "Beat It." He wasn't even human on those cuts; he was some kind of lithe, effeminate demigod. Like Prince. Cha'mon.
Two Stuns to the Nads: Jacko Eases Up
Then the Jacko magic subsides, and he's just a really good singer who stops pushing himself to the outer limits. Which was fitting, because "Man in the Mirror" was intended to be an introspective, mature song (nevermind the message-heavy video) and "You Are Not Alone" was all ballad. Aging pop princes can dope themselves up and overspend on disfiguring plastic surgery all they want, but after a certain point of no return, the body can only withstand so many brutal, sadistic stun gun shocks to the nads.
No Stuns to the Nads: Jacko on Autopilot
I'm not going to lie: I actually liked "You Rock My World," but probably more for the beat and the Chris Tucker starring video than for any of the singing, which was totally muted and unstrained; you can tell that the producers multiplied Jackson's vocal to create the aural illusion that the singing was more fulsome than it sounds, but the Great Gloved One was running on fumes by that point. Ditto for "Smooth Criminal," to a lesser extent.
My constant references to stun gun shocks may seem unfair, insensitive, and overreaching, but it's worth noting that part of what made Michael Jackson an amazing entertainer in his prime -- the vocal acrobatics, the eye-drunk dancing, everything -- was that the man brought a kind of, well, electricity into the room whenever he was on television or blasting from speakers. He did, didn't he? He was one-of-a-kind; we miss him, and obsessing over asinine non-stories about dumb stuff his surviving relatives do is our way of trying to hold onto him, even when we know much, much better.