Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
The songs you're about to listen to are Michael Jackson songs, but they really aren't Michael Jackson songs in the least. They are Snowblink songs, or as close as they can be to the kinds of songs that Daniela Gesundheit, Dan Goldman and Caley Monahon-Ward would write as Snowblink. They bleed and they pulsate. They inflate and deflate the air that's given them. Singer Gesundheit has selected four songs from the late King of Pop's catalog and reimagined them in such an astonishing and insightful way that they are new songs altogether, as if they've been newly conceived and minted as sensitive testimonials to life's greatest emotional tolls - the tolls that constantly haunted the man who wrote them. At least three of them were massive, worldwide hits, but "Thriller" is framed by the music of Snowblink's song "Rut & Nuzzle," offering it a chance to speak completely differently, to take on an altered tonality, as if those werewolves, mad dogs and zombies really were lurching in the dark, out in the woods, poking around, with your scent implanted into their nostrils and they weren't gonna sleep until they found you. But at that point, these beasts might just want to lie down next to you in a warm bed, like any old house dog, a hound just seeking that companionship. It doesn't feel any longer as if there's a bloodthirsty-ness to be feared - a significant threat to any wellbeing or any frightful harm about to grab us and end us. The uncontrollable urges and the night closing in don't feel as dire, just more of what happens when a day turns into its nightly identity, the alter ego. Gesundheit has a magical way of connecting herself with the uncontrollable urges that a body gets stung with frequently and then transferring them into wide-eyed pieces of tenderness, in the form of art that we can feel whisking us away to a galaxy of sleepless dreams and swelling implications that leave you heaving and believing that there's a connection from all of us to the next. She brings us closer to each other on these songs with a voice that blends longing and exultant sunrisings. We're thrust into a mind-frame regarding Jackson that makes everything seem so much more tragic. He saw the world as having such a capacity for love and understanding and yet people who were a part of his world couldn't extend this fully. He tried to express this void over and over again, digging into the thoughts of fear and carnivorous using - the abuse and exploitation of people and fragile emotions. Snowblink's version of "Human Nature," which we were treated to a few times on the Barnstormer tour that wrapped this past October, will make you weep fat tears: for its beauty and for its message, but also for the juxtaposed mash-up of an interview that Barbara Walters conducted with Michael back during the glory days, when his celebrity must have been most damaging and hard to sort out. You hear Michael openly wondering why people call him Jackal instead of Jackson and you hear him bristling, saying, "I have a heart and I feel and I feel bad when you do that to me. It's not nice. Don't do it." He sounds desperate for breathing room, for an escape from all of the madness, all the while he was still making millions of people happy with his music. He himself was suffering immeasurably. Gesundheit nails this feeling and when she sings, "If this town is just an apple, then let me take a bite/If they say why, why/Tell em that it's human nature/Why, why does he do me that way/I like living this way/I like loving this way," it couldn't make it any sadder to know how this man's story ended.
Performed by Daniela Gesundheit: voice, electric guitar, samples; Dan Goldman: bass, pedals, electric/acoustic guitar, voice; Caley Monahon-Ward: violin, mandolin, acoustic guitar; Jesse Bates: Reading Vincent Price; All songs by Michael Jackson