MJ Echoes – 2

All the thoughts of Michael Jackson offered in Resistible Demise have drawn me back to his music, as they should, and I noticed one or two interesting things. ‘Like a Virgin’ — with its 3-3-2 swamp-synth bass against tub-thumping drum machine, its synth-string stabs, its iv-i bridge, and its tonic chorus with decisive switch to 4 (signified by MJ in the 1 -2 -3 -4 spot-leap bridge he always seemed taken over by at this point in performance, a flourish that even if it wasn’t, at least seemed genuine) — is surely a day-glo cousin of ‘Billie Jean’. Madonna’s Virgin strongly echoes Jackson’s Jean in form and cultural impact, if not so much in emotion (or inspiration?).

Second: the gorgeous ‘Stranger in Moscow’, until its unexpected and emotive switch to a warm A-major seventh tonality on the chorus, eerily pre-echoes recent Radiohead. The circling chromatic sequence on guitar and glabrous synth, the spare and cold arrangement, the intricate, allusive lyrics (‘Armageddon of the brain’, ‘Kremlin’s shadow belittlin’ me, Stalin’s tomb won’t let me be’) that are enunciated with murky shadow, as if too personal to be shared (though Yorke makes a business and an art of maculate line), and the general sense of claustrophobia and fizzy thanatopsis – the rhyming is uncanny!

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