Friday, June 26, 2009

Musi(c.)PSX: Scream (1995)

Sony's Playstation console was first released in Japan in December of 1994.
A year later, it spread across the globe, leading to it's eventual assimilation into modern living. The console was officially discontinued by Sony in 2006, but began a process of phasing out with the 2000 release of the Playstation2. Known in it's early years colloquially as the PSX, the console was characterised by a slick attitude that met modern gamers on varying levels, boasting releases like Wipeout, which fused electronic music culture with the gaming experience. This post is a celebration of that time. Music circa (c.) the PSX

Michael Jackson - Scream (1995)

Y'know, I think one of the reasons I look back so fondly on this period is because it was a time of transition for me. I'm hardly unique for having spent much of the late eighties and early nineties listening to Michael Jackson and playing Sega video games. If you were growing up outside of the United States during this time, and maybe even if you didn't, you almost certainly had the same experiences.

By the mid-nineties; scandal had begun to push Jackson out of the musical spotlight, while at the same time, Sega were (unwittingly) beginning their final days with the release of the Saturn. This was the changing of the guard every generation goes through, where styles changed, and interests were driven by a new wave of trends that defined the latter part of the decade.

Michael Jackson's untimely demise has given most of us who experienced his phenomenon cause to reflect upon the times, music, and culture he presided over. Few artists could come close to challenging his reign as undisputed King of Pop, and I sincerely doubt anyone from the current musical regime will ever come close. Those too young to have remembered or experienced his success will struggle to imagine the magnitude of Jackson's domination as a solo artist in the eighties and nineties. Fortunately for history's sake, there are plenty of artefacts to remind all of us.

In later years, Jackson had become something of a punchline, but in reflecting I feel this is aspect of his career worth forgetting. His home which became a circus, Neverland Ranch, strikes me as a none too subtle reference to a man who never truly ceased to be the boy he was introduced as.
His youthful energy and imagination was clearly key to his creative extravagance that expanded beyond music to include milestone collaborations in film, advertising, and video games.

1up tastefully looked back on Jackson's strong connection with video games. I'm glad they did.
Michael Jackson's Moonwalker, in its two forms, is a pop culture touchstone that many of us look back upon fondly. It is one of those significant collaborative that survive the popstar, embodies a moment in time, and contains many references to his finest musical work.
As gamers who revel in retro artefacts such as this, we are perhaps uniquely tuned to understand a man who never grew up. A man who might very well have been unfairly indicted by innuendo, and misunderstood for his childlike enthusiasm for things many people left in their youth.

Jackson is best remembered in the gaming landscape for his long running connection with Sega, but I want to wrap up with an interesting game-related reference to the Sony PlayStation.

In 1996, Jackson travelled the world as part of his massive HIStory tour to promote the 'best of' album from which Scream was taken. During this tour sensational events would be remembered, but through a concierge-friend-of-an-uncle I learnt that during his stay in my neck of the woods, he'd bought himself a PSX and games to play in the hotel room. Incidentally, I'm pretty sure he left it all behind as a gift, which was donated, if I remember correctly, to the children's hospital.

The King, whose "bizarre" lifestyle and works of pop genius may never be forgotten, wanted to play video games. I think that is something we, all of us, can understand very easily.

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