Sunday, July 05, 2009

Pop icon

You were just this fourteen or fifteen-year old kid then growing under one of Asia’s long-running dictatorships back in the 80s. One fine day, some of your classmates in high school, probably bored with their lessons on conjugating Spanish verbs, started having this nasty notion that you bore an uncanny resemblance to the zombie-looking Michael Jackson in that famous Thriller video. Must have had something to do with those big deep-set eyes and bony sunken cheeks. How do you think would your pubescent self-concept take it? Well, as one of the nerdy bunch then, you just tend to take everything in stride. Besides, you might have provided everybody quite a clear idea of what a walking corpse looks like, but that scary apparition is still Michael Jackson. Every adolescent who has some iota of a desire for coolness back then must be into MJ’s songs and dance moves. MJ is hip personified. And if you have to resemble even somebody from the pits of Hades to be identified with the guy, so be it. And that's true especially if you don’t have a single piece of a performer’s genes in your body.

Fast forward to the present, 2009. You go to breakfast at this hotel’s café somewhere in Manila, with a slight hangover from two cans of beer the previous night. Your Cambodian friend at the other side of the table tells you in garbled English that some famous person died. Was that MJ’s name he just mentioned? Yes, it was. He mentioned the name several times to make sure he got it right. But nothing seemed to sink in. Finally, back in your room, you put up your laptop’s browser and there it was. The King of Pop is really gone. One part of your brain tells you that everything is fine. Francis M., a local icon, died in his early 40s. There are only two Beatles left on the planet. MJ is dead at 50. People die. It’s not really about the number of years you spent breathing on the planet man. But there’s that other part that clings to the surreal in what had just happened. Icons are not supposed to fade away and then stop breathing just like that. They either die at the height of their glory and turn into legends, or they simply become legendary.  Period. So you’re in this state of disbelief for a few days.

And then you think about getting that 3-CD compilation of MJ’s songs. Just to hear “Ben”, “I Will Be There”, “Heal the World”, “You Are Not Alone”, and "The Girl Is Mine" (with ex-Beatles Paul McCartney) a few more times. Before they fade in your consciousness.

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