There’s one fact in Joe Vogel’s Featuring Michael Jackson that gives me pause more than any other. When discussing Jackson’s artistry not being taken seriously by the mainstream media, he lists a string of pop and rock icons that have been on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. To my mild astonishment, Eminem, Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake have all been on the cover of the rock bible more than Jackson. The influence of those three artists combined doesn’t add up to the influence that Jackson had over the pop music scene during his forty years as a performer, and it’s arguable that without Jackson’s success, Spears and Timberlake wouldn’t even be performing.

Having already penned two volumes that discuss Jackson from an artistic standpoint (as opposed to the many tabloid-esque tomes currently in circulation,) Vogel can certainly be considered an authority on The King of Pop. With that in mind, if you’re a Michael Jackson fan, Featuring Michael Jackson is a must-own. This slim book contains a series of essays about Michael’s signature musical moments-no nose jobs, no vitiligo, no criminal trial-just the man and his music. It’s an entertaining, quick read.

Expertly timed to coincide with the 25th anniversary of MJ’s Bad (and the deluxe reissue coming out in a month’s time,) one of the most interesting chapters in Featuring Michael Jackson discusses the composition of “Don’t Be Messin’ Around.” The previously unreleased song recently surfaced on a WalMart exclusive CD single of “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You,” and through discussions with studio personnel and collaborators, it reveals how invested Michael was as a songwriter, singer and performer. Similarly enlightening is a chapter about the song “Blood On The Dance Floor,” which went through several revisions before finally being released in 1997. Producer Teddy Riley recalls the eerie set of coincidences that came up around the recording of the song.

My favorite chapter in the book has to do with-of course-a list. Vogel counts down his 10 (actually 11) favorite MJ songs, and while I disagree with the placement of (just about) every song on the list, the fact that someone is as obsessive about Jackson as I am is heartwarming and also means that his legacy will get it’s just due, long after the rumors and innuendo are a distant memory.

…and that’s the basic point. The music lives long after the notoriety fades. Not to totally disregard the quirks of Michael Jackson’s celebrity and the resultant stench from them (because, let’s face it, Michael brought a good chunk of that stuff upon himself,) but I find his artistry more important. Based on musical merit and cultural impact, he is one of the most important artists of his time, and books like Featuring Michael Jackson underscore that fact.

Grade: A-

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