The M.J. Comeback We’ll Never See

Slate's Culture Blog
June 25 2009 8:04 PM

The M.J. Comeback We’ll Never See

As saddened as I am by Michael Jackson's death , I'm equally shocked that it didn't happen sooner. A few years back when I covered M.J.'s trial and sat a few feet from him on a daily basis, I found myself constantly marveling at his frailty. Jackson wore his suits tailored tight, with fitted jackets and stovepipe trousers, yet still the fabric billowed around his bird-boned frame. He was always limping down the courtroom aisle, clutching at his ribs, taking shallow breaths. He showed up late to court one day looking on the verge of a violent retching attack. The consensus within the trial's press corps held that Jackson spent his days in a haze of Jesus juice .

Now that he's gone, obsessive Jackson watchers will wonder what hidden truths might at last emerge. Some theorized that Jackson had been paying off his ex-wife Debbie Rowe and perhaps others in an effort to conceal the actual biological provenance of his children. Will anyone come forward now and clear up the origins of Prince, Paris, and little Blanket?


Jackson's many creditors will no doubt lament the death of his ability to tour and to rack up new revenue. They'll squabble over his valuable song catalogs and his less valuable tacky home furnishings.

And then there are the rest of Michael's fans, the millions who loved the music but were unsure what to think of the man. I've always been agnostic on the question of Michael's guilt or innocence and felt that he was, at heart, an 8-year-old boy with the equivalent excitability and moral sophistication. And so I'm mainly sad that the gloved one won't get a chance to bask in his inevitable cultural reappreciation. M.J. was due, somewhere down the line, for a Johnny Cash-style re-emergence. An Elvis-in-black-leather moment. It would have been tinged, of course, with the lingering memory of M.J.'s alleged transgressions. But never underestimate people's thirst for a comeback. Michael would have lit up like a small child at the opportunity to make one more moonwalk across the world's stage.

Seth Stevenson is a frequent contributor to Slate. He is the author of Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World.


Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

Subprime Loans Are Back

And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

  News & Politics
Sept. 22 2014 6:30 PM What Does It Mean to Be an American? Ted Cruz and Scott Brown think it’s about ideology. It’s really about culture.
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
Sept. 22 2014 4:45 PM Why Can’t the Census Count Gay Couples Accurately?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 9:17 PM Trent Reznor’s Gone Girl Soundtrack Sounds Like an Eerie, Innovative Success
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 22 2014 4:34 PM Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.