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 motif in the Leave Me Alone short film would later be 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 in pursuit of him – the same dogs that during the video’s denouement are attempting to keep him tied down. Michael the Gulliver-esque giant frees himself from their constraints with the same gleeful ease we witnessed as he danced fastened to a ball and chain accompanied by the reanimated bones of a stylised Joseph Merrick in an earlier scene.
Immortal and omnipotent in legend. Unconstrained by physicality or death.
The short film is fertile with symbolism:
Pirates attempt to down Michael’s rocket; during the sequence in which Elizabeth Taylor is featured, Michael stops singing out of respect for her; there’s a rotating barber’s pole – very feasibly a reference to Michael’s recent hair loss and subsequent reliance on wigs; there’s a haunted mine, a goldfish bowl and a peacock – the latter of which Michael had been fond of using as an emblem for racial equality since The Jacksons’ Destiny album; Michael rescues Bubbles from slavery; he bursts through doors that when closed form a broken heart.
Long before conspiracy theorists were over-analysing pop music videos for signs of Illuminati messages, Michael was incorporating such themes into his art:
There is a perspicacious incorporation of Orwellian CCTV; there’s a Baphometian pushmi-pullyu; there are pyramids and reptiles aplenty – even an alligator controlling a piano that spins atop its snout. Other things spin: Michael’s brain, rom which cascade depictions of a cookie, a nose, a scalpel and planet Earth. Polarities of importance? Or how both personal and macrocosmic issues carry equal importance?
By the final “Make that change” of the Bad Tour, Michael’s exorcising of the significance of commercial success as a barometer for self-worth was in full swing. After unsuccessfully throwing his all into efforts that would surely ensure Bad outsold Thriller, it seemed to dawn on him what an impossible, self-defeating aspiration it was. Sales of Thriller were a phenomenon, insurpassable due to the project’s uniquely perfect storm of brilliance, endeavour and happenstance.
So, rather than let the obsession control the rest of his career, Michael psychically discarded the shackles. The Leave Me Alone short film was a segue into the Dangerous project. It showed Michael embracing his responsibility as “The World’s Strongest Man” – as a poster in the video depicts. 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 standards of success (a liberation that cannot have pleased his record company) enabled Michael to grow artistically. Quincy Jones’ expertise as Executive Producer was bravely, poignantly abandoned, allowing Michael 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 both quote the Bible and 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 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