He's Back: Michael Jackson Returns, But is it Substance or Image People Will See?

by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website:

When you make it big like Michael Jackson has, it makes you wonder what can possibly be in it for him to come back for one more series of live concerts? But, except for the weirdness, he may be living the life many performers want for themselves. Jackson has just announced that he’ll be performing a series of concerts this summer in London.

There are two aspects of the singer/songwriter business that work in tandem to produce a career: substance and image. And usually the image comes second, bolstered by initial substance. Then, usually long after the substance has faded, performers keep their careers going (and their pocket-books well-lined) by cashing in on the image that they’ve crafted over the years. In other words (not surprisingly), substance fades long before the image does.

There are few performers that can claim that the end of their career has showed the same art, craft and expertise that the high-point of their career produced. I’d put Leonard Cohen in that category of rare performers who still seem to be producing quality music late in their musical life. Others? Joni Mitchell, maybe Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen? But there’s not many.

Jackson’s concert series this summer will feature his hits, but also new music, and so we’ll get a chance to judge him as an “aging artist.” (Who ever thought we’d be talking about Michael Jackson as an aging artist?)

Every songwriter I’ve ever known wants to have the kind of career where, after the limelight fades, the mere mention of their name could fill an arena. And trust me, Jackson will sell out every concert he does this summer. But will it be warranted?

I think it will be.

Every hit Michael Jackson has ever had has been a justified work of art, and much of it a work of genius, in my opinion. And for however weird this guy’s private life may be, there is no denying that the man is a musical genius. I don’t like everything he has done, but I think it’s not really possible for Jackson to put out garbage. He’s just too good.

And so my guess is that once the concerts take place this summer, concert-goers will be talking about a new level of genius from the King of Pop. And when it comes to the question: “Is it mostly image, or is it substance?” – the answer to the question will be: IT’S BOTH.

Read about Gary Ewer’s songwriting e-books at “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting

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