Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2010

Michael Jackson in Sound and Vision

By David Luhrssen
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Michael Jackson’s career began with his voice but was transformed by his visuals. His ascent as King of Pop coincided with the rise of the music video, and it was through those videos that he stamped his image on the world.

Michael Jackson’s Vision is the first DVD set to collect all of Jackson’s videos and short films, some of them previously unreleased or seldom seen since their original run on MTV. Many feature dancing and Jackson’s moves were always worth watching, even in the cheesy early videos for “Don’t Stop ‘Till You Get Enough” or “Rock with You.” Steeped in the Motown choreography of the ‘60s, Jackson had been drilled since childhood in live performance. His steps were well rehearsed to be in the moment—not the result of countless retakes. At his best, Jackson combined the insolence of Elvis with the grace of Fred Astaire.

By the time of his epochal album, Thriller (1982), the production values of music videos finally caught up with Jackson’s talent. He drew from elements of West Side Story for “Beat It” and crime movies for the anxiety-ridden “Billie Jean.” Working with director Jon Landis, Jackson shaped a short horror movie around Thriller’s title track, complete with a snappy ghoul’s dance and a theme from classic Hollywood horror—sexual arousal as the trigger for a monstrous transformation. As the years went by, Jackson would work again with prominent filmmakers, Spike Lee and David Fincher, whose work is included in the set.

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