Music Between The Lines (July 2014)

I was drinking a coffee when I found out. It was 8:30 in the morning and it was a sunny day in June. So I decided to made the most of the sun’s rare mid year appearance and took my coffee outside. I was nervous. I had an exam on later in the day and I wasn’t prepared for it. When you’re nervous you start acting differently. I had my back against the brick wall and I was crouching with my cup of Nescafé Blend 43. A coffee in one hand and my phone in the other. I’m usually a walking coffee drinker, but my nerves had the better of me on that day. It was a squat and drink kind of day. That’s when I found out. A message from my brother. “Kog, I think MJ died.”

I still remember driving to that exam with tears in my eyes. Every radio station in Melbourne was playing Michael Jackson. It was beautiful. We’ve seen and heard a lot of Michael Jackson in the five years since his death. A documentary about his doomed comeback tour This Is It which proved that as great as he once was, even Michael Jackson gets old. Jackson was booked to do 50 shows in London with a days break between each performance. That’s a ridiculous schedule for a fully fit 25 year old. Michael Jackson was 50 when he died. In the weeks leading up to the show, it is reported that Jackson told fans “I’m really angry with them booking me up to do 50 shows … I went to bed knowing I had sold 10 dates … I don’t know how I’m going to do 50.” Sometimes I genuinely wonder weather he had an intentional role in his own death. Even he must have known the task ahead of him was too great to accomplish.

We’ve also heard new music. Let’s forget the first posthumous album Michael, which is just horrid for the most part – I swear there are songs on that album which aren’t even sung by Jackson but were finished off by voice impersonators for the sake of making cash- and turn our attention to Xscape. Xscape takes old Jackson demos and sees them re-made with modern day producers. I’m a Michael Jackson purist and I’m a fan of the album and I think Michael would be too.

The lead single off Xscape is a song called Love Never Felt So Good. It reminded me of why I loved Michael Jackson in the first place and what separated him from the rest. Many artists are able evoke melancholy, anger, nostalgia and even beauty in their work, but how many evoke joy? Joy is a rare quality in music. Joy is something we all want in our lives, but is tough to find and even harder to let in. Sometimes we’re too scared to grab it, sometimes it’s fleeting and we spend our lives searching for it. Joy lives on a knifes edge of feeling corny or disingenuous, but Michael Jackson was able to be joyful. This lies at the core of his success. Despite the subject matter, Jackson was able to create joy and put it into the world. Man in the Mirror is joyful, Rock With You is joyful, even Billie Jean is joyful. Through song and dance and the energy he created, Michael Jackson was able to put more joy into this world that most of us will ever get to experience in our lifetime. That’s what makes him special.

It’s been five years since he passed and I miss him dearly. It might sound weird to hear that, but I felt like I knew him. Everyone who loved him felt like they knew him. Rest in peace MJ.

Kog Ravindran is a writer, occasionally sings for Melbourne band, The Scarecrows and currently has his debut solo EP Barricades out in the world. Find out all about him at or check him out on Triple J Unearthed.