Friday, November 23, 2012

Common Ties Between Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, LMFAO, and PSY's Gangnam Style (Video)

In this 1989 music video from Janet Jackson for her hit "Alright," you will see two of today's popular dance moves, PSY's "gangnam style" dance and LMFAO's "shuffle" from Party Rock. Watch and see.

And in this 1955 video of Bill Bailey tap dancing, you'll see the move associated with Janet's brother, the late, great Michael Jackson, "the Moonwalk."

As Michael fans know, the King of Pop watched a lot of musicals, as did many of us born around the same time as he, but unlike the rest of us, Michael was a gifted dancer and creative genius. In the dance moves of classic artists, he saw what he could re-purpose for his own musical productions and theatrical vision. I think he studied mime, as well.

I had a mime class as a teen and know that the Moonwalk is also part of that discipline. Furthermore, the great French mime Marcel Marceau was popular during the 70s when Michael Jackson and I were teens, and I recall that Michael was a fan of Marceau. So, Michael drew from multiple sources to create his masterpieces; he excelled at putting the old in context of the new.

Janet had similar visions. In her "Alright" video she pays homage to Cab Calloway, Cyd Charise, and the Nicholas Brothers in the same way that her brother, Michael, paid homage to Fred Astaire in his "Smooth Criminal" music video.

I guess one could say LMFAO, which is made up of two of Motown founder Berry Gordy's descendants (Redfoo is Berry Gordy's son and SkyBlu is Gordy's grandson) also have that same some sampling/mixtape creativity: the ability to cut, paste, and reshape multiple pieces into something appealing and new (the art of bricolage).

As all Michael Jackson and Jackson family followers know, Gordy signed the Jackson 5 when Michael was nine years old, drawing in as well Janet during their television show period. And if you saw Spike Lee's documentary on ABC last night, "Michael Jackson: Bad 25," you were reminded of how the Motown influence shaped Michael Jackson's artistic discipline. Likewise, Motown influenced Janet.

Of PSY and his "gangnam style" dance moves, as well as his pop music style, I see it as fun, yes, but also I see it as more evidence of this postmodern age's hyper-bricolage: the synthesis of multiple multicultural pieces (a good bit of it from HipHop culture these days). PSY draws on his own experience and culture, but also the cultures of others. So, I peg his work also as more evidence of humanity's attraction to simulacra and this era's mix-it-up, small-world aesthetics.

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