“Does this mean I can’t play Michael Jackson at my wedding?”

Losing R. Kelly’s “Ignition” was a bummer. Everyone loved that song. But the threat of now losing Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”, “Bad”, “Rock with You”, “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” and so many more amazing hits…this is just a tragedy. One that we haven’t even come close to making sense of yet.

I know we are supposed to keep it light, I know we are violating some code here by talking about issues this dark and complicated. An issue that we are hardly equipped to discuss publicly. 

If you haven’t seen “Leaving Neverland” yet, you probably already know. If you don’t know, at least watch Oprah’s interview on the documentary. The four hour long documentary, slowly, painfully details the many years Michael sexually abused two boys, Wade Robson and James Safechuck. It is an uncomfortable four hours. Every minute of it was brutal.

So here we are. With the big, glaring question: can we still enjoy Michael Jackson’s music? Can we still use “Don’t Stop Til’ You Get Enough” to open up the dance floor? 

For reference, Michael Jackson’s songs are just about 100% guaranteed to get people (of all generations) to get up and dance. That’s like candy for a DJ. Songs that unite, bring people together, emphasize togetherness and joy. Songs that don’t peg one generation against the other. Songs that remind us of our happiest times and freest moments. Songs that remind us of our shared bond with one another. It’s hard to imagine not having the very long discography of Jackson’s work accessible as a DJ. 

So what to do? When a bride asks for “PYT” do we say no? Can we celebrate the artistry of Michael Jackson’s music while simultaneously acknowledging that we are not celebrating him as a person?

The essential question is: can you separate the art from the artist? 

I don’t have the answer to this question. I am not taking a hard stance here. To be completely honest, I don’t think it’s possible to live in a world without MJ’s music. In the short time I have been sitting at the cafe writing this, I have heard three cars go by blaring Michael Jackson’s music. 

But I do think there needs to be a new level of sensitivity, awareness, and interest in understanding the complexity of our consumption of art.