Reactions to Leaving Neverland have been very mixed, from denial of accusations to radio stations and current artists removing Michael Jackson‘s music from their repertoire. But having had the chance to think about everything presented, the question must be asked: Is the King of Pop too big to cancel?
In a recent series of interviews which probed music industry professionals on the current situation of Jackson’s music, more than a few opinions made sense. Thus far, the overwhelming reaction from the business is “a mix of skepticism, disbelief and outright anger,” in the words of one partner in an urban culture-focused communications firm who watched both parts of the film and found Jackson’s now-adult accusers to be believable. “Most are refusing to watch the film,” the partner continued, “because, I suspect, they’re afraid to face the possibility that Jackson was a pedophile. But judging from the public outcry against the accusers, I can’t see a massive movement to cancel Jackson taking place anytime soon.”
On one side, artists such as Drake have removed the “Thriller” singer’s sampled songs from their set lists and Canadian radio stations have stopped playing the artist all together. Within the last week, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis removed three Jackson items from its exhibits, and Louis Vuitton – whose creative director, Virgil Abloh, is close with musicians like Kanye West and Kid Cudi – pulled inspired garments from its fall/winter 2019 men’s collection. Others who are super fans or have a more nuanced view of the situation bring an interesting perspective to the table.
“Jackson is a great artist, a complicated person and a damaged child himself,” says Doreen Ringer-Ross, VP film, TV and visual media relations at BMI. “I take his art on its own terms.” Her point is very important in the way that in reaction to situations like these, listeners often forget to separate the music from the man and end up discounting the lasting impact that classics such as “Man In the Mirror,” “Billie Jean,” “Beat It” and more have had on music and overall culture. Laurie Soriano, a partner at law firm King Holmes Paterno & Soriano, likewise says Jackson’s music should persist. “I have difficulty believing the right thing is to banish the person’s art when it comes to light that the artist did awful things while alive.”