Monday, 23 July 2012
Sunday, 8 July 2012
Find my review of Earth Song: Inside Michael Jackson’s Opus by Joe Vogel HERE
A second title on Michael Jackson from the author Joseph Vogel will come as a welcomed prospect to those fans who have already had the pleasure of reading his 2011 tome ‘Man in the Music: The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson’ which, arguably, has already become a must-read for any serious Jackson fan.
Following the release of this in-depth and indispensable book quickly came a short volume on a particular Jackson song that Vogel described as “one of Jackson’s greatest artistic achievements” and “one of the most powerful anthems of the past century.” He was talking about ‘Earth Song;’ the track that Vogel believes to be the most important song of Michael Jackson’s entire back catalogue, and in ‘Earth Song: Inside Michael Jackson’s Opus’ Vogel makes a compelling argument, which, if it fails to make you elevate the song to the same heights as Vogel, it certainly will challenge your current conception of the track and illuminate new ways of understanding it.
Just as this is a short, swift read, it is also equally sharp. Vogel works through the chronology of ‘Earth Song’s’ history, from Michael’s initial inspiration, to the long, drawn-out gestation period of recording and developing the track, and also maps out and analyses the epic short film and infamous performances that accompanied the song. But whilst providing a wealth of facts about ‘Earth Song,’ the true strength of this examination lays in Vogel’s ability to align the track with noteworthy cultural references which includes allusions to the Bible, classical mythology and a notion of the natural world that takes unmistakable inspiration from the literature and philosophy of the Romantic era.
Whilst these intertextual references flow freely throughout Vogel’s analysis, he finds himself stumped to find any contemporary comparisons or even forefathers for ‘Earth Song’ in the sphere of pop music. It is this exact conundrum that seems to be at the heart of the harsh reviews ‘Earth Song’ received from music critics in 1995, and the uncomfortable reactions that such a confrontational song provokes, as it was not only an anachronistic track, but, according to Vogel, a prophetic one; a song that was way ahead of its time in terms of its political and social messages which were delivered in an alarmingly antagonistic fashion from a man who, just three years earlier, was optimistically telling us that mankind had the power to “Heal the World.”
When remembering the huge production Michael Jackson was planning and preparing for his performance of ‘Earth Song’ during his ‘This Is It’ shows, and the spotlight, both physical and metaphorical, he wanted to shine on man’s ill treatment of nature, Vogel’s labelling of ‘Earth Song’ as Michael Jackson’s “magnum opus” and his sensitive examination of it, surely would have been an endeavour much appreciated by Michael himself.
Written for The Michael Jackson World Network
Sunday, 1 July 2012
Find the original review HERE
There have always been dark undercurrents to the sweetness and nostalgia of Summer Camp’s dream pop. From the kitchen sink tragedy of ‘Was It Worth It?’ on their debut Young EP, which featured lyrics of marvellous deadpan candour (“It makes me feel so down, / Like I’m gonna die, / If we weren’t at your parents’ house, / I’d probably cry”), to the hidden lives of the inhabitants of Summer Camp’s fictional American suburb Condale where “Families build houses on the graves of those they’ve loved.” If you require visual evidence, please see the seaside town murder the pair commits in their latest music video (‘Always’).
Unsurprisingly, the bleakness continues with ‘Life,’ the opening track of this EP, as Elizabeth Sankey sings of her “bloody hands”, “dark soul” and “icy breath” over desolate piano chords, playing a similar dangerously infatuated character as the stalker with bloodthirsty, yet affectionate, tendencies of ‘I Want You.’ The aforementioned sinister track from their 2011 album Welcome To Condale, in fact, seems to be the chief influence over this five track EP as Summer Camp have taken the electro dance sound they occasionally dabbled in on their album, and run with it. Gone are the 80s movie sound bites that prefaced the majority of their previous tracks and gone are the wistful shoegazing ways of ‘Ghost Train’. Summer Camp have curtailed their endearingly geeky teenage Americana obsession in favour of becoming the king and queen of the indie dance floor.
‘Life’, and title track ‘Always’, are the sparklers of this largely electronic disco collection, with both numbers effecting euphoric lifts like it ain’t no thang. Who knew the Mr and Mrs of understated pop could do funk so well? A further surprise comes in the form of ‘City’; a slowed down, R&B flavoured jam which, one imagines, would have been a number one single for All Saints in their heyday. Although, it must be noted that Sankey hits the kind of notes most girl bands can only dream of.
So rather than singing about coming-of-age tales and experiences, have Elizabeth Sankey and Jeremey Warmsley, musically, come of age? This release largely feels like something of an experimental concept EP, what with its Donna Summer-gone-indie vibes and strict single word song titles, but it does make us wonder whether Summer Camp will return to their much loved C86 stylings. Either way, they still rock in their own charmingly polite way.
- Kate Allen
Written for NOTION