© Copyright 2018 Nabil Najibzada, Ryerson University
Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song”
Michael Jackson will always be remembered as the “king of pop”. Not only was his music extraordinary, many of his songs were inspiring and powerful. Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song” was one song that he published which sent out many powerful messages to all who viewed it. Simply based on the name of the song, you get a sense of what it was about, the Earth. His song and music video features him singing outdoors with several shots of nature, both generate and degenerate, along with clips of industrial factories. He has also included a few aboriginal figures in his music video. His music video has a very unique transition of events, it begins with showing clips of animals in a healthy environment, then it immediately changes to a destroyed forest that seems like it’s still on fire as Michael is singing in it. He then shows deceased animals and animals suffering from human cruelty. Clips of war is then shown along with an industrial building producing smoke. During the end of his music video, most of these clips are shown again however in reverse this time, showing that all of these human activities can be reversed. Michael Jackson enlightens a common world-wide issue using his platform and his audience base to raise awareness and remind people about problems that we continue to turn a blind-eye to. His work in “Earth Song” is extended to other songs he has produced before and after “Earth Song” which follow similar characteristics of serving as a lesson or reminder for viewers.
Michael Jackson – “Earth Song” from YouTube
The Purpose of “Earth Song”
Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song” is directly tackling the common issues of pollution, global warming, and human destructiveness. This is demonstrated through the content shown in his music video as well as through analysis of his song lyrics. AZ Lyrics has a full outline of Michael Jackson’s lyrics from “Earth Song”, at the beginning he says “Did you ever stop to notice
All the blood we’ve shed before” (Michael Jackson 2009), although it may seem as if he is talking about human war, his main point is the blood we are shedding from the Earth. This is shown as when he sings these lines in his music video, we are shown aboriginal people looking up at a tree as it slowly falls down with melancholic expressions on their faces. Humans having war with one another is then brought up a little bit later as he sings the lines; “What about all the peace That you pledge your only son…” (Michael Jackson 2009). During this part of the music video, we have clips of war and a tank driving through signifying the wars that humans have gone through. The key word to wrap this scene together is the word “peace” as Michael Jackson is trying to remind the audience of the constant search that humanity has to find peace in the world, yet we go around killing each other and creating wars. When watching the music video, we can almost see a battle between humans and nature, humans being the destructive forces, and Michael Jackson representing the environment. This battle is most noticed during the intense moment of Michael Jackson holding on to two trees as a strong gust of wind is pushing him. During this time he is yelling against background singers. The background singers yell “What about us” as Michael Jackson replies yelling “What about…” and each time he mentions a different topic that has been negatively impacted by human forces such as animals, seas, forests, children, and more. This moment of the music video is very important as is it can be seen in two different perspectives. Firstly, the background singers can represent humans yelling “What about us”, demonstrating the selfishness of humans who only worry about themselves to pamper themselves in everything provided, while Michael Jackson rebuts and reminds the humans that they are not alone in the world, and “What about…”, mentioning a topic that has been negatively affected. This appeals to humans being selfish and ignorant about the world around them as humans are not the only ones who can say “What about us”, but there are other things in the world who also need that “What about us” line. Alternatively, the background singers may serve as a chant in an agreement to Michael Jackson. Whichever topic he brings about after his “What about…”, the background singers push it by repeating “What about us”, forcing guilt, shame, sympathy, remorse, and more to the human audience as it appeals to human emotion. His use of appealing to human emotion is a powerful card to play as emotion drives a human’s thought process. While viewing Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song”, emotions activated through the song and music video trigger thought processes which help viewers understand Michael’s intentions and motifs from his artwork.
The Audience and Raising Awareness
Michael Jackson’s audience is not very diverse in terms of age. It strictly follows a pattern of appealing to an older audience who has greater influence in environmental change than younger audiences. One audience that is explicitly represented are parents which can be proven using the lyrics of the song. At one point, Michael Jackson says; “What about children dying (What about us) Can’t you hear them cry” (Michael Jackson 2009). In addition, during the beginning of the song he says; “Did you ever stop to notice All the children dead from war”. Both of these lines are direct appeals to human emotion, as the words along with the images of a broken bicycle and children frolicking in the video set a heavy melancholic mood on an audience. It gives an older audience, perhaps those who have children to stop to realize how important children are and what they mean to them, then how they would feel if they were to ever lose them realizing that this situation has indeed happened many times with other unfortunate families. This appeal to human emotion in this type of audience base frightens and instigates peace as it shows the destructiveness of war and violence in the world. Upon looking at one of the grand topics of the song and music video, governments and workers, especially in the industrial industry, are a main target of this media. Michael Jackson does well to emphasize the damage that industries have caused and continue to cause with their excessive release of pollutants. Governments are put into the spotlight and challenged for their incapability to correctly regulate these pollution levels that come from industries. Michael Jackson uses his influence and audience base in order to benefit the world by creating his Heal the World foundation. Sylvia J. Martin notes that Michael Jackson has donated about 300 million dollars to charities including his visits to hospitals and orphanages during his tours (Martin 2012). Michael Jackson is successfully able to convert his influence on people into something larger and more important to serve a greater good. An audience included in Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song” that may not be noticed immediately are in fact aboriginals and natives. Michael Jackson’s song includes them as an affected group due to industrialization and human work, however his song directly speaks to them as well. Michael Jackson wants to show them and tell them that they are not alone and that there are in fact people who understand the struggles they may have to go through. Constance Pierce validates by mentioning how Michael Jackson himself could be an emissary to individuals or groups who are marginalized and alienated (Pierce 2011). These groups involve the native tribes and aboriginals who are excluded from the majority of modern society and are inhaling the exhaust from human deforestation, war, and pollution. Michael Jackson does well to include these people and by doing so he signifies unity and that humans are one.
Relating to Other Works of Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song” is not the only work of art he has produced that provides lessons and goes beyond entertainment to raise awareness for an issue. Julian Vigo has understood this and in her work “Metaphor of Hybridity: The Body of Michael Jackson” he provides examples using different songs that Michael Jackson has released. She states how “his songs actually touch upon very real issues that are either autobiographical or overwhelmingly common themes of human nature” (Vigo 2010) which is in agreement to the themes of this blog surrounding Michael Jackson’s use of platform to raise awareness for worldly issues. Vigo continues by giving examples of how different songs by Michael Jackson produce different opinions and messages. “From the sexual tone of a groupie “Dirty Diana” to the ecological call of “The Earth Song” to his song about the non-importance of color in “Black or White…” (Vigo 2010). She makes note of how each of these songs have its own implicit message to be conveyed to his audience. Michael Jackson understands social issues, worldly issues, as well some personal issues regarding his own race and skin colour which he expresses through his music for his audience.
Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song” is beautifully composed to take a long discussed topic about the environment and human nature, and shoves it in the faces of all who listen to and view his music video. The music video is masterfully directed to correspond to Michael’s lyrics as it works in unity to appeal to human emotion, bringing out its uttermost effectiveness. Michael Jackson understood his large audience base and he used it to its full advantage during his time. His music is mostly specific in audience and very clear in message as he teaches,reminds, and clarifies issues that exist within the world to his viewers. He took his influence past his music and took it upon himself to visit orphanages and hospitals during tours donating money and bringing joy to people as he raised about 300 million in donations for his Heal the World foundation (Martin 2012). Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song” may seem very simple as a song however its meaning can be derived from several standpoints and it’s analysis can be written to be a mile long. It may not be an image so-to-say, however we can definitely say that there is more to seeing, than just looking. One cannot look at an image and tell the world that they understand it and can explain its meaning. Likewise, one cannot listen to a song and view its music video once, then tell the world about what it means and analyze it to a sufficient extent worth paying attention to. Michael Jackson was successful in many ways, not only a successful artist and dancer, but a successful role model and influence in his platform, and an overall successful human being.
Jackson, Michael Joseph, director. Michael Jackson – Earth Song (Official Video). YouTube, MichaeljacksonVEVO, 2 Oct. 2009, www.youtube.com/watch?v=XAi3VTSdTxU.
Jackson, Michael Joseph. “‘Earth Song.’” AZ Lyrics, 2009, www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/michaeljackson/earthsong.html.
Jackson, Michael Joseph. “Earth Song.” Earth Song, USA.
Martin, S. J. (2012). The roots and routes of michael jackson’s global identity. Society, 49(3), 284-290.
Vigo, Julian. Metaphor of Hybridity: The Body of Michael Jackson. Université De Montréal, 2010.
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