Critic Armond White's New Book Keep Moving Chronicles MJ's Career
Two-time New York Film Critics Circle chairman Armond White is about to release his first collection of criticism in nearly 15 years: Keep Moving: The Michael Jackson Chronicles. The 118-page book brings together 21 pieces that have appeared over the last 25 years in publications such as The City Sun, The Village Voice, New York Press, and First of the Month.
Keep Moving is a product of independent publishing collective Resistance Works, WDC. Its concept is one unlikely to be supported by a major publishing house: As the promo material states, "Armond White uncovers the deep meaning in Michael Jackson's art -- especially the songs and music videos created and associated with the Bad, Dangerous, HIStory, and Blood on the Dance Floor albums." Jackson's slept-on '90s period is his most fascinating and challenging. Devastation and hope rubbed shoulders on the dance floor; his music-video montage mingled defiance and brotherhood ("Earth Song," "They Don't Care About Us").
Copy editor John Demetry had this to say:
From the Introduction ("Moving Forward") to the final chapter ("Twenty-First Century Renaissance"), the following four narratives move through Armond White's Keep Moving: The Michael Jackson Chronicles:
1) Armond White tracks MICHAEL JACKSON'S ARTISTIC EVOLUTION (as he takes command of his megastar status), specifically his articulation of anger, from the fascinatingly misjudged iconography of Bad ("Understanding Michael Jackson") to the dance coda of Black or White ("The Gloved One Is Not a Chump") to the vocal articulation in "Scream" ("Screaming To Be Heard, Book I & II") to his exhortations to "keep moving!" on the Blood On The Dance Floor remix project ("Hear, My Dears").
2) These essays provide insight into THE OEDIPAL DYNAMICS AND FAMILIAL COMPETITIVENESS THAT COMPELLED MJ to transform pop culture, as fleshed out in articles about sister Janet ("Janet, The Last Black Jackson"), brother Jermaine ("Sibling Song"), and patriarch Joseph ("Father Figure").
3) The book charts ARMOND WHITE'S DEVELOPMENT AS A CRITIC as revealed through his changing responses to MJ's own maturation as artist; as White rises to each of MJ's challenges ("Montell and Michael Exploit/Explore Happy-Negro Fallacy"), he refines his analyses ("Jackson and Jam-Lewis Hope Louder in New Remix"), increases his esteem ("Lists & Prizes in the Arts for 1995"), and modifies his emphases ("Song of the Day: Man in the Mirror") in response to the needs of the culture ("Remembering 'Ben'") and the emergence of a lynch-mob media ("In MJ's Shadow").
4) A POETICS OF MUSIC VIDEOS -- a singular critical-theoretical approach to an art form -- results from the collected works by the man (AW) who invented music video criticism about the man (MJ) who pushed the boundaries of the medium to encompass: ethnic history ("'How Deep Is Your Afrocentricity?'"), private sexuality and sexy solidarity ("Michael Takes a Bow for Jam"), capitalism's triumph ("Jackson's TV ad Makes Rhetorical History"), and the metaphysics of the pop star ("Earth Song Moves Music Video Mountains"); an interview ("Jackson Pop: Music Video Artists and Hollywood Influence") and an essay ("Videos Change the Style of 'Black Film'") help make this collection as definitive a statement of critic, artist, and art form as Andre Bazin's anthology on Jean Renoir.
This experiment in self-publishing is, I think, necessary because mainstream media (i.e., dumbed-down) discourse is the source of so much of the misunderstanding about MJ. Relentless, prejudiced scrutiny of his personal life has always taken precedence over clear-eyed examination of this pop artist's amazing body of work. As Jackson's music and videos grew more and more sophisticated, no mainstream voice emerged to guide us through the complexity. So deep was the confusion that at the turn of the millennium, we were still asking, to quote an Iraqi character from the movie Three Kings, "What is the problem with Michael Jackson?"
If you're able to get to Lincoln Center this Sunday, August 30, you'll want to attend "Keep Moving: Michael Jackson's Video Art," a lecture by Armond White that will feature a selection of MJ videos (on the big screen) and White's clarifying commentary. This event will be your first chance to get a copy of Keep Moving and have it signed.
Newcomers to White's work should check out "In MJ's Shadow," which assesses MJ's meaning and legacy. If you want more information on Keep Moving, or to place an order, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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