Two Geeks Named MJ: The Music Video for “Jam”

My daughter Kaylee has become a huge Michael Jackson fan. Like many kids her age, she was first introduced to the music of the self-proclaimed King of Pop in the weeks surrounding his death last summer. Children of the 80s like me couldn’t help but blast the music of their youth for our own kids, and in the process we created a whole new generation of fans.

Of course, even if you do love the music of Michael Jackson—and I’m not ashamed to say that I do—there are only so many times you can watch the videos for “Billie Jean” and “Beat It” before you tire of them. So, in the interest of furthering my daughter’s MJ education, I decided to try out some of the more obscure 90s videos that I remember geeking out about in my awkward teenage years. One of the vids I first sprung on her was the 1992 clip for “Jam,” the opening track on the Dangerous LP. And let me tell you something: my kid is as geeky for this video as I once was.

It’s an extraordinarily dated little piece of film: Kris Kross make an appearance for no apparent reason, as does rapper Heavy D. But the pièce de résistance is the co-starring turn by then Chicago Bull Michael Jordan.

The video itself illustrates what happens when you take a music geek like Jackson and a basketball geek like Jordan and put them in a room together, and I think Kaylee enjoys that part—like her mother, she digs anything she can dance to, and she especially loves anything with a bit of choreography that she can pick up and try herself—but the part that really gets us geeking out is the ending, which I’d actually forgotten ever seeing. After the song wraps up, we get Jackson trying to teach Jordan how to dance. And it’s both awesome and hilarious to see this man who is so capable on the court struggling so mightily to keep up with the lithe figure that’s cutting a rug beside him.

The reason I love stuff like this, other than being a sucker for nostalgia that many of my contemporaries would rather forget, is that I love seeing people at the top of their game trying new things and failing miserably. It shows that their human, but it also, more importantly, separates out the truly awesome from the merely mediocre. The fact that Jordan tries so hard is endearing to me, even if he is hopelessly awkward. The fact that Jackson tries every move in his repertoire to match up against Jordan on the court—I love that stuff.

The reason Kaylee loves it? Well, I think it might have something to do with just how plain silly that tall dude looks when he tries to dance. Sort of like her father, who tries to shake his booty even though he ain’t go no rhythm to speak of.

What do you think?