There is no such thing as stasis in this universe: either you’re expanding or you are in the crabbed grasp of entropy and contracting. Michael Jackson was in heavy expansion mode for close to 20 years, long after he had lost the cultural or economic juice to support it.
Jackson’s contraction had been in effect for several years, especially since the appalling Living With Michael Jackson documentary aired in February of ’03, but his world imploded with the fury of a violated balloon last year as grim, tawdry, and distastful details of his life were revealed via his criminal trial on child molestation and conspiracy charges.
Although he was acquitted on all charges, the damage was such that Jackson felt compelled to beat an ignominious retreat to the shelter of the autocratic Middle Eastern sand castle of Bahrain shortly after the trial’s conclusion last June.
In the fall MJ promised with trumpeting bravado the delivery of a gala multi-artist charity single for the victims of Hurrican Katrina, which was reported to be “nearing completion” last November, but now appears to be stalled in permanent limbo.
The former King of Pop was sued in January for unpaid veterinary services for the care of his Neverland managerie (with giraffes, elephants, orangutans and flamingoes in the mix), abandoned when the master ran away to the Gulf. And then last month, Neverland was shuttered completely, the dream of perpetual childhood in a private Willy Wonka preserve finally put to rest among shattered illusions, twisted dreams, and squandered talent.
A final slap of reality came yesterday when Jackson adviser Grahame Nelson announced in a statement that the singer “has restructured his finances with the assistance of Sony.” Jackson had been due to pay back $200m in loans in December, which had been secured against his half of the Beatles music publishing catalog, jointly owned with Sony.
The Wall Street Journal and New York Times reported that the deal would ultimately see Jackson sell half of his 50% share in the billion-dollar catalog to Sony, leaving his share at 25%. As well as 200 Beatles songs, the Sony/ATV catalog includes songs by Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Babyface, Beck, Neil Diamond, Stevie Nicks and hundreds of others, though the Beatles portion is thought to account for up to two-thirds of its value.
As a a result of the deal, Jackson escapes financial ruin; but the world — and perhaps even finally he — are now pointedly aware that his role in our cultural galaxy has diminished all the way from supernova to brown dwarf.