The Leave Me Alone video is a trip. Not merely one aboard a rocket and a rollercoaster, but also in the psychotropic sense. Watching it is like dropping LSD then getting lost in the Dangerous album artwork – witnessing the rich, exotic imagination of it all becoming animated before your very eyes.
It starts with Michael being ejected from a trailer park, foreshadowing the subsequent short film Michael would release – Black or White – when the fat, patriarchal embodiment of North America is blasted into Africa for an educational experience. Upon the doorstep of the trailer van is thrown the tabloid junk that distracts the masses from the real problems of the world. This is one of the themes of the Leave Me Alone short film, an issue later echoed in the Dangerous track Why You Wanna Trip On Me.
In Leave Me Alone, the sun is setting on Michael’s Barnum-comparable circus. The red stars that appear on the rollercoaster presage those on the Dangerous album cover. Michael pilots a rocket and laughs gleefully as he loses the dogs in suits that chase him – the same dogs that during the video’s denouement attempt to keep him tied down. Before Michael the Gulliver-esque giant frees himself – as effortlessly as he had danced with the ball and chain earlier. A dance performed alongside the reanimated bones of a stylised Joseph Merrick.
Immortal and omnipotent in legend. Unconstrained by physicality or death.
The short film is fertile in its symbolism. There are pirates attempting to down Michael’s rocket. During the part in which his friend and solace Elizabeth Taylor is featured, Michael closes his mouth and stops singing out of respect for her. There’s even a rotating barber’s pole, which may well be a reference to Michael’s hair loss and reliance on wigs. There’s a haunted mine, a goldfish bowl and a peacock – the latter of which Michael was fond of using as an emblem for racial equality. He rescues Bubbles from slavery. Michael bursts through doors that when closed form a broken heart.
Long before conspiracy theorists were analysing pop music videos for signs of Illuminati messages, Michael was incorporating such themes into his art. There’s a Baphometian pushmi-pullyu, as well as pyramids and reptiles aplenty – even an alligator controlling a piano spinning atop its snout. Other things spin. Michael’s brain. From which are cast depictions of a cookie, a nose, a scalpel and planet Earth. Polarities of importance? Or how both personal and macrocosmic issues matter? There is a perspicacious use of Orwellian CCTV cameras.
By the final “Make that change” of the Bad Tour, Michael’s exorcising of the importance of commercial success as a barometer for self-worth was in full swing. Michael had thrown his all into an attempt to ensure Bad outsold Thriller. It dawned on him that this was an impossible, self-defeating task. And rather than let the obsession control the rest of his career, Michael psychically discarded those shackles. The Leave Me Alone short film was a segue into the Dangerous project. It shows Michael embracing his responsibility as “The World’s Strongest Man” – as a poster in the video illustrates. Michael focused his energies on humanitarianism and philanthropy: “There’s a time when you’re right… / There’s a choice you must take”.
This emancipation from his self-imposed rules of success (a liberation that cannot have pleased his record company) enabled Michael to move forward artistically, without the expertise of Quincy Jones as his Executive Producer. It allowed him to experiment with different musical genres on the Dangerous album. The themes of which are loneliness, humanitarianism and self-fulfilment.
Dangerous was Michael’s coming-of-age magnum opus, in which he courageously incorporated religiosity. In the song Jam, Michael laments the confusion in creed and its incongruity with world peace, proclaiming, “She pray to God, to Buddha, then she sings a Talmud song.” Michael began using the Sign Of The Cross in his choreography (often followed by a crotch grab). The lyrics of the song Dangerous quote the Bible. As well as describe a woman as “Divinity in motion.” In Will You Be There, Michael begs us to remember that he’s “only human”, whilst also, with the words “lift me up, lift me up” implores that we elevate him high as a totem for peace.
Divinity exists. Inside every human. But Michael was the most famous one that ever lived, and the reality of divinity is evident in this man’s choice to use his peerless fame as a catalyst for peace.
And whilst the dogs in suits might continue to chase, we can forever throw our heads back in untouchable glee.
Italian translation available here: http://amzn.to/1O85aRV