Monday, June 29, 2009
Michael Jackson's impact on the pop-culture world was so powerful, several celebrities are already reacting to his death, not just with statements, but with songs. On Friday morning (June 26), 50 Cent dropped two songs paying tribute to the King of Pop. And on Thursday night, just after learning of MJ's passing, the Game orchestrated a symphony of performers to give thanks and reflect on Jackson.
Game's tribute track dedicated to Michael Jackson called "Better on the Other Side," debuted this morning on Los Angeles radio station Power 106. To assist on the track the rapper phoned in a few homies, including Chris Brown, Diddy, Polow Da Don, Mario Winans, Usher and Boyz II Men.
The piano-accompanied soundscape starts off with Diddy testifying about M.J.'s influence. "I believed I can do anything," he says. "You made the world dance. You made the music come to life."
Then a thunderous bass drops in, led by Chris Brown's vocals on the chorus: "This the type of song that makes the angels cry/ Look up in the sky and I wonder why/ Why you had to go, go/ I know it's better on the other side."
The DJ Khalil-produced track made its debut on the morning radio show "Big Boy's Neighborhood" as well as on Game affiliate DJ Skee's satellite radio show, "Skeetox."
"I told Game yesterday that Michael Jackson died, and he didn't believe me. He said, 'I'll call you right back,' " Skee told MTV News. "Then this morning, he hit me with this track, and I immediately started blasting it out. Game was in the studio with Diddy at the time I called. He reached out to Chris Brown and Usher and also got Boyz II Men, who so happened to be recording in the same studio."
On his verses Game reflects on the pop singer's influence on him growing up. "Who's Michael Jackson?/ You're Michael Jackson/ I'm Michael Jackson/ We all Michael Jackson/ I guess what I'm asking is/ Everybody bow their head/ For a legend, don't breathe for a second."
The Game continues with his heartfelt tribute and compares himself to Jackson. "Imma tell you my story/ Never had a family that close/ Never seen Berry Gordy walking through Interscope/ But just like me, they always had Mike in a scope/ No matter what you say imma love him and he's still dope/ Let me take you back to '85 when I was in a zone/ Dancing for my momma, 'Thriller' jacket with the zippers on."
"Other Side" concludes with one last statement from Diddy: "People can say what they want about you. We gonna remember the miracles that you showed us. Through your music, through your dance. You were the one that made us realize that you are the world. Through us your legacy lives on, Mike Jackson."
Rap Phenomenon® TV learns: Show included floating orbs, aerial dancers.
Following Michael Jackson's death on Thursday, 750,000 people who bought tickets to see him perform at the O2 in London will never get the chance to experience the stunning visual and musical spectacle the singer had in store for them. But, according to reports, AEG Live, the promoter of the "This Is It" 50-date residency, recorded enough of Jackson's rehearsal material to release at least one live CD/DVD.
Entertainment industry Web site The Wrap reports that Jackson's final rehearsal at the Staples Center on Wednesday was recorded in multi-camera, high-definition video and multi-track audio. The recording could be released as the singer's final album, according to unnamed sources close to the now scuttled tour, which was reportedly due to go around the globe following the O2 residency. The recordings were made as part of a deal cut by AEG Live with Jackson, which included plans to produce a live album and DVD of the singer performing his greatest hits. If the reports are true, the recording could help AEG Live recoup some of the estimated tens of millions of dollars it is expected to lose as a result of Jackson's untimely death. A spokesperson for AEG Live could not be reached for comment at press time.
The Wrap reported that Jackson had failed to appear at "many" of the scheduled rehearsals over the past two months, but he did appear at the full run-through on Wednesday in anticipation of the July 13 kick-off of the London shows. The final rehearsal reportedly included dancers, musicians and aerial performers, as well as Jackson suspended from a crane at one point and a 3-D view of a "Thriller"-inspired haunted mansion.
On Monday (June 29), USA Today pulled back the curtain on the closely guarded rehearsals, describing an over-the-top Jackson extravaganza that was to feature floating orbs, a flaming bed, lots of pyrotechnics, 20-foot-tall puppets, giant spiders and Jackson breaking out all his signature dance moves.
"He was trying, and succeeding, in structuring the biggest, most spectacular live production ever seen," said Johnny Caswell, co-owner of CenterStaging in Burbank, California, where Jackson worked on the show from late March to early June before shifting rehearsals to larger venues, according to the paper.
"By the time he left my facility, he had graduated through several studios and was on a soundstage taking up 10,000 square feet," Caswell said. "They moved to The Forum, outgrew that and needed the height at Staples. The show was getting so damn big, they couldn't finish it in time. That's why they had to delay." Caswell said reports that Jackson had delayed the start of the engagement due to health problems were "nonsense," explaining that the ballooning size of the production caused the push back.
While it has been reported that Jackson had been taking a number of powerful prescription medications prior to his death and that he died following cardiac arrest, the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office has deferred determining his cause of death pending further toxicology tests.
Despite some suggestions that the frail singer with a history of medical problems might not have been strong enough to complete his first full-fledged tour in 12 years, according to USA Today, he was very engaged during Wednesday's final rehearsal at the Staples Center, where he worked with a crew of more than 80 dancers, choreographers, band members and crew to polish the show.
Jackson began what would be his final rehearsal by putting on a headset and walking to an elevated platform to sing the song "Dangerous," at first a cappella, then joined by his band.
"Misfits of Magic" founder Ed Alonzo, who worked on illusions for Britney Spears' Circus tour, joined the Jackson show six weeks ago. He said he designed a number of stunning effects for the King of Pop, including a glowing glass sphere that would float around Jackson and then into the crowd during the opening song, 1982's "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'." A version of "Dirty Diana" was to feature a flaming bed with a pole-dancing aerialist "playing the part of the fire," Alonzo said. After the fire woman pursued Jackson around the bed, she would tie him to the bed posts with gold rope, and a sheet of red fabric would spring up in front of him as he struggled in silhouette. When the sheet fell, it would be revealed that it was the woman struggling, not Jackson, and he would then materialize on a stage in the middle of the arena.
"It was an amazing show," Alonzo said. "The thing was just days away from being perfected. It was incredible. Even though it was just a walk-through with the dancers, his moves were dead-on — the same Michael Jackson we (saw) through the years in music videos." Alonzo said that while Jackson seemed underweight, he appeared to be in good health and was energetic during the rehearsal. Jackson's manager, Frank DiLeo, told the Hollywood Reporter that after finishing the final run-through around midnight on Wednesday, Jackson was feeling good about the show. "He found me and said, 'Frank, I am so happy. ... This is really our time.' He put his arm around me," DiLeo said.
Katherine Jackson appointed legal guardian of Prince, Paris and Prince Michael II.
Among the many unresolved issues that have emerged since Michael Jackson's death on Thursday is what will become of his three children, Prince, 12; Paris, 11; and Prince Michael II, 7. The children were under the full custody of their father, and since his death, they have been staying with their grandparents, Katherine and Joseph Jackson, at the couple's Encino, California, estate.
A short time later, The Associated Press reported that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff approved her request for temporary guardianship of the children but did not grant her authority to serve as guardian of the children's estate.
In making the case for guardianship, the petition filed on Monday reportedly states that the children have "no relationship with their biological mother" and that they are currently in the care of Katherine, with whom they have a "long-established relationship." Debbie Rowe, the mother of the two elder children, was briefly married to Jackson but gave up her custody rights after she and Jackson divorced in 1999, and the petition lists her whereabouts as "unknown." The identity of the mother of Jackson's youngest child, commonly referred to as "Blanket," has never been publicly revealed, and on the petition, the box next to mother is checked as "none."
The petition says that the value of Jackson's assets is not known yet and does not mention if he left a will, but it states that Katherine would be the best guardian for the children because they are "currently residing with paternal grandmother. They have a long-established relationship with paternal grandmother and are comfortable in her care." According to the petition, it is "not known at this time" if Rowe agrees with the action. A hearing to determine whether Katherine will be the children's permanent guardian is set for August 3.
UsMagazine.com reported that Katherine Jackson was spotted at a Los Angeles Target store over the weekend, stocking up on toys, sleeping bags and other supplies, and an attorney for the family said they had not yet heard from Rowe in the wake of Jackson's death. Her former attorney told the magazine last week that she was "inconsolable" about the death of her ex-husband.
For complete coverage of the life, career and passing of the legendary entertainer, visit "Michael Jackson Remembered."
Jackson family patriarch Joe Jackson was in attendance, stating that despite his immense grieving it was important to witness and celebrate his son’s achievements.
The original New Edition lineup kicked off the show with a medley of Jackson 5 hits, including “I Want You Back” and “The Love You Save.”
Host Jamie Foxx presented through the night in various MJ outfits from signature videos, such as “Beat It.”
Foxx even completed the famous “Smooth Criminal” lean before kicking off the show.
The multi-talented entertainer also took time to address the importance of Michael Jackson being honored first in the African-American community.
“No need to be sad. We want to celebrate this black man,” Foxx stated to the crowd. “He belongs to us, [and] we shared him with everyone. Down in New Orleans, when someone dies it becomes a celebration.”
Lil Wayne reiterated that point after receiving the award for Best Male Hip-Hop Artist.
“None of us would be here without Mike,” he stated. Best Male R&B Artist winner NeYo delivered an exceptional musical tribute in his rendering of “Lady In My Life.”
The talented crooner and songwriter was able to effortlessly replicate Jackson’s notable falsetto for one of the night’s highlight performances.
Later, the singer took the crowd down memory lane by brining out three of the most popular New Jack Swing acts of the late 80s and early 90s.
Keith Sweat kicked things off with his Top 5 Billboard single “I Want Her.”
Second was New Jack Swing pioneers Guy, who with keyboard guitar in tow delivered an inspired rendition of “I Like.”
Closing the set with their marked Hip-Hop edge was Bell Biv DeVoe, who performed their biggest hit “Poison.”
NeYo joined in their dance routine, and handled the song’s memorable bridge to close out the set.
The night also had several humorous moments, with Oscar-nominee Taraji P. Henson, Ving Rhames, and Tyrese reprising their characters from Baby Boy.
Jamie Foxx and Martin Lawrence also delivered a faux trailer (“Stank Robbers”) for a Thelma and Louise-inspired movie with their 90s characters Wanda and Sheneneh.
Beyonce took home Best Female Artist and Video of the Year (“Single Ladies”), and showcased a dramatic offering of “Ave Maria.”
With stained glass props and a resplendent, see-through wedding dress, the superstar songstress interpolated lyrics from Sarah McLahlan’s “In the Arms of An Angel.”
In her acceptance speech, an emotional Beyonce dedicated her award to MJ, referring to the King of Pop as her “teacher” and “hero.”
The seminal O’Jays were also honored with Lifetime Achievement Awards for their 50 plus years in the music industry.
Younger acts Tevin Campbell (“Forever Mine”) and a surprisingly powerful singing trio of Tyrese, Trey Songz, and Johnny Gill had no issues handling the group’s classic material (“Backstabbers,” “Darling, Darling Baby,” and “Stairway to Heaven”).
The O’Jays later took the stage, but not before imparting some very important wisdom for all the younger acts in attendance.
“It’s great to have a hit record, but it’s more important to have a hit act,” they stated.
During their set, the veteran group blessed the audience with flawless dance steps and renditions of “Let Me Make Love to You,” “For the Love of Money,” and “Use ta Be My Girl.”
For their philanthropy work regarding disadvantaged children and outreach in Haiti, Alicia Keys and Wyclef Jean received Humanitarian Awards.
“He (Michael Jackson) has truly inspired me to use music in a way that serves the world,” stated Keys.
A visibly shaken Janet Jackson made a surprise last-minute appearance to address the crowd and make an official statement for her family.
“My entire family wanted to be here tonight, but it was too painful,” explained Janet while fighting back tears. “To you, Michael is an icon. To us, he is family and will forever live in our hearts. We miss him so much. Thank you for all of your love and support.”
The night was closed with NeYo and Jamie Foxx performing a soulful offering of Michael Jackson’s “I’ll Be There.”
Additional performances throughout the night featured Soulja Boy (“Turn my Swag on”), Maxwell (“Pretty Wings”), Jay-Z (“Death of Autotune”), Keri Hilson (Turnin’ Me On”), Keyshia Cole/Monica (“Trust”), Drake (“Best I Ever Had,” “Every Girl”), and Mary Mary (“God In Me”).
A full list of the award winners is available at www.bet.com.