Tuesday, July 09, 2002

HE'S BLACK, HE'S WHITE: Clearly, the Jacko reborn as panther stunt this week has been more about wounded pride at poor sales and the loss of the Beatles back catalogue, but let's try to take Jackson's claims about the music industry seriously - or as seriously as we can when a man holds up a placard marked 'the good, the bad, the ugly' and has chosen his own face to illustrate the first of these.
Jackson claims that the record company treats artists like shit. This much is true. He also claims that certain music industry figures are stinking racist scum. That is probably true; shamefully unremarkable. The problem comes when Jackson tries to special plead and claim that black artists are singled out to be shafted by the industry. That, of course, is bollocks. Go tell it to Courtney, to George Michael, to Michelle Shocked. Then try to tell it to Beyonce, to Prince (who at least left the race card underplayed in his record company dispute), to Dre, to your own sister. Jackson claims
"The record companies really, really do conspire against the artists. They steal, they cheat, they do whatever they can. Especially against the black artists." And, if it wasn't for that pay-off, you'd have to agree with him. But those five words are bitter little pills, designed to elevate what is a business dispute into a race issue. Jackson is trying to force Sony's hand in a boardroom battle by crying "is it cause I black?" No, Michael, it's not.
First up, it's as ridiculous as believing that Eminem sits down to answer his fan mail at a big desk to assume that the execs who make the decisions to crush their artist's dreams down to make some juice have any idea if the names on their pieces of paper are black, white, women or men - EMI, for example, axed one of its entire Scandanvian wings because it didn't even know it existed. Second, if the industry is so stinkingly racist, and shafting black artists, how did you make the money to buy Neverland, and to keep chimps in the luxury to which they've become accustomed? Isn't it a bit funny how the sudden realisation that you're working for the Klan coincides with really, really bad album sales? See, from where we're sitting, it looks like Sony have been incredibly supportive of you since Thriller, during a period of time when you've been doing Interesting things, accused of appalling crimes, and making mostly awful records. Sour grapes and bitterness are one thing, but to try to hijack an issue as divisive and dangerous as race to get your own back on a bloke you've fallen out with is disreputable.
Multi-millionaire Michael Jackson has something to say [Guardian] - it's not 1950 anymore, and you're no Billie Holliday...

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