...up on the stage, deep in the dark womb of the studio, Michael's voice is a vehicle of fantasy, an instrument ceaselessly running circles round itself, tripping itself up, playing make-believe.
He can take the human voice as far out as Diamanda Galas. On the Jacksons Live album, there's an extraordinary half-minute between 'I'll Be There' and 'Rock With You' which perhaps conveys more of Michael Jackson than anything he's ever done. Breaking free of accompaniment with the playful virtuosity of a saxophonist, he winds up 'I'll Be There' with a series of piercingly sustained shrieks, cutting up each cry with a tiny ripple of chuckles. The audience goes predictably ape: reflex gratification. But for Michael, every breath, every laugh, every "hick!" is a link, a phrase, a segment of the flow. So engrossed is he by himself that his own responses to his voice are incorporated into the performance. "BE THEY AAARE!HICK! CAN YER FEEEL EEEEAAART! YIP!" Going up two octaves: "HEEEAH HEE HEE HEE! HEEEAH HEE HEE!" Down again. "AH DEE DADA DADA DADA DUNKA DUNKA DEE DADA DUNKA ... I THINK I WANNA ROCK!"
It's a voice which starts into every split spare second, stretching like rubber, filling cracks like water. It's not warm or sensual or "black" but sharp, a squeezing of the throat's aperture, a voice of pure technique. Detaching itself, it gets lost in free flight. Its narcissism is almost not human.