Joseph Vogel is the author of the books “Man in the Music: The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson” (2011), “Featuring Michael Jackson: Collected Writings on the King of Pop” (2012), “Earth Song: Inside Michael Jackson’s Magnum Opus” (2012).
Interview published in MICHAELzine #5 (2012) :
MICHAELzine : Your book starts by a rather long introduction which brings about creativity, inspiration, imagination. Why did you decide to write a book about Michael Jackson pointing out his artistic work and creative process?
Joseph Vogel : I decided to do it that way because that’s what interested me most. In addition, I felt that there were so few professional, indepth books that focused on his music and creativity — I could read about other artists that interested me, but there was very little of substance about Michael. So I decided to give it a shot.
«Man in the Music» is a remarkably structured book, which is based on the facts and develops a very thoughtful analysis. Does this approach come from your university career?
J. Vogel : Probably. I had written other books before this, so that helped just in terms of structure and organization. And certainly the discipline and attention to detail you learn as an academic helps.
My goal was just to do some justice to Michael as an artist, which, to me, meant making the book as professional and accurate as possible. So many books on Michael, at least at the time, were sloppy or lacked sources.
I felt that if Michael was going to be taken seriously it had to get the presentation right and the tone right. I wanted it to sound fairly objective, but also provide enough appreciation and enthusiasm to make people want to dig back into these songs and albums.
In your book, you describe a very negative reaction of many music critics to “Bad” album release (which was in opposition to the common success of the album). Will the “Bad 25” release have some bitter taste? Were these reviews justified?
J. Vogel : Well, in retrospect, my take on «Bad» may be pretty Americentric. In the U.S., there was a huge backlash to Michael after the success of Thriller. But I think globally, Bad (and Michael) were much better received. In any case, I think it’s interesting to examine how critics and journalists were responding to Michael and why.
Most of the reviews were absurdly hyperbolic and full of unjustified ad hominem attacks.
There was an undercurrent of racism and resentment of both his difference and his success. Bad was still an incredible success, but it was the beginning of a shift in terms of how he was covered.
Your essay on « Earth Song » and your article on « BOTDF» published on theatlantic.com website, develops still more the description of creative process and its stages. Every time you bring in the information which has never been published. We can imagine that it’s so time consuming, but are you going to publish any other “essays”, like the one on “Earth Song”?
J. Vogel : I would like to. As you say, to do these things right, it takes time and requires cooperation from a lot of people. But I have a few projects in the works, including a long piece on «Stranger in Moscow».» I really love being able to focus in on one song and learning about its back story. «Stranger in Moscow»,» to me, is one of Michael’s absolute best works.
After all this noise about the posthume « Michael» album release, the fans are looking forward to catching Michael Jackson Estate out.
At the moment, we don’t know what will be the contents of BAD25 box. What do you think about the beginning of its promotion, about the choice to release this CD with 2 songs : a cover of the original single, “I Just can’t stop loving you” with its introduction speech and the genuine demo track of “Don’t be messin’ Round” (1986).
J. Vogel : It’s impossible to please everyone, but for me the Bad 25 package looks very promising. I’m a big advocate for leaving Michael’s work as he last left it — raw and unembellished. So I’m excited to hear more of his demos, which really illuminate his genius and craftsmanship. I’m also excited to see the concert at Wembley and the Spike Lee documentary, which I was a consultant for. All in all, I think it will be really good for Michael’s legacy and continue to introduce him to new audiences.
Mr. Vogel, Thank you for having accepted to answer our questions and thank you for the attention to Michael Jackson fans. We wish you good luck for your new projects !