On Tuesday, November 18, Michael Jackson dropped Number Ones, an 18-track post-Motown greatest hits package featuring jewels like "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough," "Rock With You," and "Billie Jean." If the fact that Number Ones also features "One More Chance," a new cut written and produced by R. Kelly, didn't raise red flags for anyone who has followed Jackson's embattled life over the last decade, Santa Barbara, California District Attorney Tom Sneddon made it plain the next day at a press conference when he asked anyone who had been molested by Michael Jackson to come forward. When you add Kobe Bryant's recent travails to the equation, we haven't seen this much public demonization of black males since the crack-fueled gangsta rap boom of the early '90s.


Number Ones

Michael Jackson

In his latest book, The New H.N.I.C., Professor Todd Boyd argues that "There is nothing more potentially controversial in American society today than the idea of a Black man with money. Nothing." Today Mike is reportedly worth about $350 million (although there have been rumors his legal bills have rendered him nearly bankrupt) - most of the wealth coming from songs with titles like "Beat It" and "Smooth Criminal," which are both included on Number Ones.

The album itself is a solid collection and debuted at No. 1 in the U.K., but true MJ fans, the few of us who are left, bought this record back in 1995 when H.I.S.tory was released. Although most of the tracks on the album are irrefutable classics, Number Ones is now essentially a cruel sidenote to the latest drama in Jackson's life. Between O.J. flashbacks, as I watched Jackson's black Lincoln Navigator cruising down the Las Vegas strip, I couldn't help but wonder if this was all part of The Man's elaborate scheme to reclaim the sacred Beatles catalog (which Jackson owns), or perhaps it's payback for sleeping with Elvis' little girl.

So far, my boy Michael Musto of the Village Voice has summed it up best: "His excesses bond us against a collective enemy - he's much more popular to attack than Iraq - while fueling our desperate desire for the charges to be true. No, we're not rooting for anyone to have been molested, but we want Jackson to be the repository of all our fears so we can agree on something, send him away, and bring on the sunshine." •

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