25111129MJ: The Genius of Michael Jackson by Steve Knopper

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I should have known better, but, having seen a copy of Steve Knopper’s “The Genius of Michael Jackson” on the shelf at the mall bookshop today, I felt I ought to show my support for the person it was about (i.e. Michael) and buy it.

However, when I got it home and dipped into it (at the recording of HIStory) I found the version of events there somewhat at odds with what I’d heard first hand from people who were involved with the recording process and more.

Where were the main voices in all these quotes? Where were members of Michael’s regular recording team? Even though I’ve never met Brian Vibberts who was one of the Assistant Engineers on HIStory, I’ve certainly read his tweets about Michael and Janet in the recording studio together for ‘Scream’. Yet Knopper’s book states they recorded separately. Both may be true to various degrees (i.e. some vocals recorded separately, some together) but the book version is stated as the sole fact of the matter, and it would seem not to be true.

Also Michael’s demeanour at the sessions is reported as quite different from what I have heard from some who were there. Reading on a little further, my opinion of the book was not improved by the author’s dismissive attitude to some of the ballads on the album – in particular ‘Smile’ which, I agree with the assessment I heard (in person) at one of Brad Sundberg’s In the Studio with Michael Jackson seminars, is Michael’s finest vocal performance.

Flipping further back into the volume I found plenty more to get upset about… so much for spending $40 on a book that has little new to tell me, never mind misinterpreting some situations and getting others completely wrong.

If I wanted to spend money to show loyalty to Michael, I would have done better to go to JB Hifi and buy copies of HIStory, Dangerous and Invincible etc. and give them away to people who had never heard the full albums – just the radio-played hits.

After the Cascio book I thought I’d learned my lesson about MJ biographies… but there you go; we expect someone to finally produce a consistently good MJ book, without falling into the trap of Taraborrelli-style tabloidism or exploitation or just a lack of comprehensive factual information (or just bad writing!)

Certainly I don’t expect errors and assumptions made by other authors to be repeated. My feeling now (again), given the access to information we have via the internet coming directly from people who worked closely with Michael over many years and a number of albums, special events and tours, is: who needs another biography written by someone who wasn’t there?

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