Armond White is one of the most creative thinkers alive. His pop culture analysis is razor sharp, unique, and defiant. He is also one of the rare critics who recognizes the meaningful connection between visuals and music. His music video deconstructions are frighteningly cutting edge. When I read his writing, I feel like I am reading my inner id: reject common wisdom, find the fearless truth of your own voice. Anyone with a creative soul will love Armond White.

—Joseph Kahn, film & music video director

BookS from Resistance Works, WDC

Keep Moving: The Michael Jackson Chronicles
by Armond White

The Community of Desire: Selected Critical Writings (2001-2007)
by John Demetry

Click here to ORDER

Monday, June 21, 2010

BOOK REVIEWS of Armond White's, "KEEP MOVING: The Michael Jackson Chronicles"

This was submitted to us by a buyer/reader of the KEEP MOVING Book, Lisa Marsnik.

SUNDAY, June 20, 2010


Armond White’s book, KEEP MOVING: The Michael Jackson Chronicles is the first crucially important book of Michael Jackson criticism I have been privileged to read. It eclipses Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Margo Jefferson’s On Michael Jackson by considering not the imagined internal life of a carnival freak, but the very real social and political impact of a powerful artist. It shames opportunistic Nelson George’s The Michael Jackson Story, and more recently, Thriller: The Musical Life of Michael Jackson by its honest response to artistic merit. It elevates itself above Dave Marsh’s Michael Jackson and the Crossover Dream by its examination of Black musicians’ impact and commentary on society rather than Marsh’s ugly, prejudiced, patronizing commentary interspersed with a timeline-type narration of Afro-American music history. And it answers Saying the Unsayable: The Non-verbal Vocalisations of Michael Jackson, Melissa Campbell’s vacuous media-mimicry about a very important topic in MJ’s work, by talking about non-verbal anger, urgency, connection, solidarity, and a stance against bigotry and racism, instead of the media-favorite topics of race, sexuality and gender. Along the way we get treated to a glimpse of the participation in the white media’s defamation of Blacks by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and a couple of shrewd condemnations of Obama, whose grudging condolence revealed the same kind of participation. It is truly an important book - necessary reading for all those embarking on scholarly work about MJ’s art and personage or for those who don’t want to go through life thoughtless or unchallenged.

This book could almost equally be titled KEEP MOVING: The Armond White Chronicles because we see Michael Jackson’s influence on Armond White’s development as a social commentator and critic as much, if not more than we see Jackson’s artistic development through White’s eyes. Starting with White’s first written mention of Michael in his article Janet, The Last Black Jackson, written in 1986, the book moves from White’s initial elite-music-circle-influenced opinion of Michael as seen through the lens of Janet Jackson’s Control to a series of kairos moments in which White experiences growing recognition of MJ’s true importance to the world.

Armond White moves from thinking of MJ’s Thriller videos as being enigmatic, banal, and inept to The Gloved One is Not a Chump where he acknowledges that no one else can touch “the most significant personal gesture any American artist has made in years.” The next moment in the string of epiphanies is in Michael Takes a Bow for Jam in which White recognizes MJ’s artistic achievement as “important as anything being done in this era.” In Screaming To Be Heard, Book I, White articulates that Michael Jackson “takes American ideology to its extremes and disrupts it.” He notes that Jackson’s “genius expresses unexpected, complicated feelings in any musical form.” And in Screaming To Be Heard, Book II, White concludes Michael is “today’s most interesting pop figure.” White has kept moving from banality to recognizing the genius of individual works to MJ’s supremacy as an art figurehead. He has moved from the specific to the general.

White keeps moving - to the overarching. In Earth Song Moves Music Video Mountains he places MJ’s Earth Song “among the most magnificent combinations of music and imagery in the centenary of motion pictures,” a video that “once seen can never, reasonably, be denied,” doing something that is “almost miraculous – dramatizing hubris for the purpose of enlightening and improving life for others.” White moves on again in In MJ’s Shadow where he states, “If Bob Dylan, Kurt Cobain, P.J. Harvey and Eminem are pop’s ‘geniuses,’ what word can adequately describe the world-changing creativity, astounding craft and miraculous precision of Jackson’s output?” White’s perception of Jackson has changed from the almost miraculous to beyond genius.

Finally, in Twenty-First Century Renaissance, White sees MJ’s expression as “world-shaping.” His death has “unmoored” us. Throughout this book, White’s astute observations have often had to do with Black issues, rightfully so. But here, in this last essay written last summer, he finally moves into the universal and theological, because ultimately, that is where Jackson is located. He says Berry Gordy’s accolade that Michael was the greatest entertainer who ever lived doesn’t go far enough – it doesn’t “settle one’s awe” because there was always God’s word “in MJ’s love-spreading and truth-telling messages.” White concludes that Michael Jackson “solicited call-and-response from the world – and got it.” That, my friends, is the definition of redemption. It is the pinnacle kairos moment of these essays, and, I think says more about Armond White than Michael Jackson, for that universal message of redemption was always there in Michael’s music-making from the beginning. That is why the resolution of the “other” in the words “I used to say ‘I’ and ‘Me’ / Now it’s ‘Us’ / Now it’s ‘We’" from the song Ben causes even children to cry.

Not included in this collection is his review for This Is It which can be found at The New York Press. Also not here are the never-written reviews for Invincible, Moonwalker or Ghosts, all of which are among MJ’s most important works, which were sorely missed by me, and of which I hope he will choose to grace us with his thoughts.

I was riveted from the moment I sat down and turned to the first page. I did not move from my chair until I closed the book, having read it straight through at one sitting. Then I immediately started again, this time taking three days and scribbling notes in almost every margin. My reactions did not diminish the second time through, and I took time to savor, meditate upon, and cry over the most important observations, of which there are many. This book should be in a nice hardback edition illustrated by some of the beautiful pencil drawings which exist of Michael. It is a shameful comment on our society that that is not the case. I hope, over time, it becomes a “classic,” thus proving White’s company name – Resistance Works. So please, buy this book. It is worth every penny. The essay “The Gloved One is Not a Chump” easily makes the cost worthwhile, but there is so much more wealth in store after that. Thank you to Armond White for his redemptive words about an artist that has no parallel in our history.

Lisa Marsnik


  1. Is there a way to buy this book with a PayPal or credit card? I'm from another country and we do not have checks here.

  2. Great review! I look forward to reading this book. Yes, Michael did do call-and-response with us all. We are only now learning the truth about him, uncovering the lies told, the damage done.