Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"Rock With You" (1979)

56. Michael Jackson, "Rock With You" (Nov. 24, 1979, #1, 4 wks.)

I remember this song playing always at night and I heard it most often when I was driving. It got under my skin right away, so sinuous and groovy and focused so deceptively on its dance floor preoccupations to a degree ironically almost credible. After all, I don't want to "rock with you" on the dance floor as such. That is intended, appropriately, as the prelude. But that's how Michael Jackson did it. It was always the alluring glow of the distance that exists between the performer and the fantasy and the reality, and the potential of the glamour within those spaces. And that's all it ever has to be, just about the dance, because the dance is ultimately about everything. And that's also how Michael Jackson did it, however you tend to identify and define "how" and "did" and "it." He was a master—and here I have to give all credit to his unerring pop instincts, which he had and they were true, which ultimately helped to earn him the rather sad and misleading label of the "King of Pop," even if it was true enough in its way and in its day. Much about Michael Jackson, including this lovely interlude, seems to me now to be extraordinarily timebound, of a particular and peculiar era that is bounded on one side by various disco convulsions and on the other by hideous and notably painful media excesses. In between, this suave and confident young fellow made the case for the return to mystery wherever he could find it and make it. He sure as hell wasn't a little kid anymore. He was all growed up now, and he seemed to be onto something with both his arms around it.

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