Michael Jackson was always trying to be somebody else: he "was most himself when he was someone other than himself,” writes Hilton Als in the New York Review of Books. The need to redefine himself emerged in his thirst for fame that would let him “wrest from the world what most performers seek: a nonfractured mirroring.”
Jackson grew up feeling different, a sense that sprung from growing up in a conservative black religious setting and being raised by an iron-fisted father and a “silent” mother. His songwriting is rich with the metaphors of an outsider—but his artistic output ended after the album Dangerous. To carry on would have required “turning inward,” something Jackson was afraid to do. “Michael Jackson died a long time ago, and it's taken years for anyone to notice," Als writes.