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The many meanings of Michael Jackson's 'This Is It'


Michael_this_is_it_pc_3 In March, Michael Jackson called a press conference to announce what would have been his swan song as a touring artist: the 50-date concert series at London’s O2 Arena, “This Is It.”

“These will be my final show performances …in London,” said Jackson, haltingly, before a throng of screaming fans in what would be his final public appearance. “This is it! When I say this is it, it really means this is it!” He laughed.

Over the intervening seven months, and with the singer’s untimely death in June, that title has taken on a grave alternate meaning. And now with the release of the feature documentary “Michael Jackson’s This Is It” on Oct. 28, as well as a new song titled “This Is It” that was leaked earlier this month, that terse, three-word title is more front-of-mind than ever.

But according to Jackson’s closest collaborators in the last months of his life -- Kenny Ortega, director of both the “This Is It” concerts and movie, and Travis Payne, associate director/choreographer of “This Is It” -- the moniker came to mean a number of different things throughout the development of what would have been Jackson’s return to performing after a 12-year touring absence.

Ortega recalled Jackson reaching out to him in March to enlist his directing services for the comeback concerts.

As Ortega told The Times last week, “I’ll never forget, he said, ‘This is it!’ And I said, ‘OK.’ He said, ‘This is it’ two or three times. And I said, ‘You should call the show that.’ He didn’t say, ‘Well, I will.’ But suddenly I saw it on a banner. So he did after all.”

According to Ortega, a confluence of personal reasons compelled the superstar to make such an extended return engagement to the limelight. 

“He started saying, ‘Kenny, my kids are so fascinated with what I’ve been doing my whole life, they’re like super fans. So I want to share with my children now that they’re old enough to appreciate it and I’m still young enough to do it,’” Ortega said.

He continued, recalling Jackson as saying: “‘Importantly, I want to do it for my fans, who are the greatest fans in the world. They’ve stuck by me in everything I’ve been through. Then there are the messages in my songs. Some of the ones I wrote 10 years ago are more meaningful today.’ He was really concerned about the planet, the health of the planet and the lack of love on the planet. He said, ‘This is the time now.’”

The superstar began rehearsals in Los Angeles in April and worked with Payne at several different facilities to prepare for London. First, a private sound stage at CenterStaging Musical Productions in Burbank, then to the Forum in Inglewood and finally to downtown Los Angeles’ Staples Center in the production’s final weeks.

In an interview at the Sony studio lot last week, Payne described how the title’s meaning evolved over the course of the production.

“This was to be Michael’s last full-on tour,” Payne said. “But as we went through the process, ‘This Is It’ began to take on many different meanings. 'This Is It,' a call to action for our planet. 'This Is It,' the last time you’ll see me in this scenario. 'This Is It,' the show to come see this summer. Also, 'This Is It' for all of us [dancers] was what we had worked our entire lives to get to. It was a culmination of all those things.”

Ortega insists Jackson was serious about “This Is It” as his final curtain call.

“When he said ‘final curtain call,’ he meant touring,” Ortega said. “But he was ready to become a filmmaker next. He had many things on the horizon. He had said he didn’t want to be up there as an old man doing Michael Jackson. He’d say, ‘Can you imagine?’  And he’d laugh. ‘I can’t think of anything more ugly!’”

-- Chris Lee


JACKSON_AP_100 Recalling Michael Jackson's final steps

Michael Jackson discography: Major works from the King of Pop

Michael Jackson's single 'This Is It' dates to a 1983 collaboration with Paul Anka

Ann Powers on 'This Is It': What is the new Michael Jackson single, really?

Photo credits: Top, Michael Jackson press conference / Associated Press. Bottom, Michael Jackson's rehearsal at Staples Center / Associated Press

Comments () | Archives (26)

the song wasn't 'leaked' it was RELEASED by them. rest in peace michael.. your music will never die. you will live through your fans and your work.

Michael you will still look good old up there dancing.

He had said he didn’t want to be up there as an old man doing Michael Jackson. He’d say, ‘Can you imagine?’ And he’d laugh. ‘I can’t think of anything more ugly!’

You my friend, young, middle age or old could NEVER be ugly. Yes I could imagine, I would have still gone and seen you even if you needed a walker to help you do the moonwalk.

You are a universal legend............

‘I can’t think of anything more ugly!’”?? You could never be ugly, you are beautiful magical being, Michael, even thinking about you makes me feel love, I think the whole Earth itself feels love for you and the whole Universe is aware of you.

The meaning of 'This Is It?' A better question would be the meaning of Michael? Any answer joins the ever-growing universe of opinion out there that shows no signs of shrinking just yet. I will be seeing this film in London, and after seeing some of the released 'tasters', I expect to find it difficult to watch. Not just because I will be viewing Michael's last days, but because this film is - in reality, represents the coda to over a decade of 'last days' for Michael. I have accepted that expecting this film to be a glorious journey back to the 'Bad' or 'Dangerous' era's is to expect too much - even from Michael. And maybe, that is why all of us should see this film - to witness in full digital splendour the conclusion of our handiwork.

Michael you will still look good old up there dancing... Agree

Poor Michael. He had issues and couldn't see himself for who he was, for who he was to all his fans. It did not matter what he looked like or how old he was. Fans just wanted to see him. To be a part of him. The fans who did see him were lucky. I wish I could have seen Michael in person. Don't worry Michael, your music and your love will go on forever. Your fans will make sure of it. RIP Michael You deserve it more than anyone.

Seeing " This is It" the first day with my son...Danced with MJ 's dancers....No one can emulate him or his dancers.....Im very saddened by his passing....His legacy in the Art World is enormous.......

Love MJ. Miss him. He was the greatest.

I kept reading the very last sentence. MJ has such a great sense of humor. The image of an old MJ dancing on stage makes me laugh and cry at the same time. To me he is forever young. :)

my sweet Michael..the day we lost you will go down as the saddest day....for sure...rest my sweet Michael in the peace you wanted to give to this world..

and you angel, will never be ugly, YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL IN YOUR WHOLE LIFE ..no matter what you think...

you will always be the GOD of entertainment..forever..


You were beautiful in every single way: your spirit, your smile and the love that came out of you. You could never be ugly at all, even you tried-you would have been rather cute and sweet.Loving you always Michael

OH, Michael!!
I would want to see you on stage at age 80!
I loved your performance of Remember the time when you sat on a chair through the whole song.
You wouldn't have to move a finger and people will still be dying to see you.
I miss you.
Please let this be a nightmare and come back to us.

Your comment T. Doyle is beautiful, I thankyou for it. The film is incredible, Michael was ready. I wrote my last comment before seeing the film. But a truth occurred to me when I was considering what to say on this post - now that I have seen it.

' That which we do not appreciate eventually gets taken away.'

In the instant he left us, he was everywhere. I have never seen so many people, not just fans, talking, twittering, expressing, blogging, writing. There is such a thing as knowing, and we each of us know - despite the attempts of the media to make us seem 'mad' or 'deluded' for feeling Michael's death so intensely,- that when the human spirit is crushed for long enough, something has to give. Something 'will' give - and it gave. The truth is, it's not just the music we mourn; it's a boy called Michael, who became the man, Michael Jackson - the greatest artist of our lifetime.

My God, you are so missed.

thank you Chris Lee & KO. This reiterates thoughts I've had about Michael's approach to This Is It which is a comfort to me. A dancers' career span is usually a short one. Since Michael was so accustomed to dancing as he sang & he always gave performances his all, I can easily understand why he would want to stop touring. I imagine he would have performed in Vegas for a while & then embarked upon designing films; eased-out from performing completely. Michael's creation- always about creating anew.
This article also affirms that Michael was self-aware; in touch with his aging process with great will to carry-on.

MJ LOVED THE WORLD WITH ALL HIS HEART, it was an UNCONDITIONAL LOVE and he really wanted to HEAL IT, STOP WARS and DESTRUCTION and have people find a common ground IN LOVE and GOODNESS and SHARING !

He was a great man.

People he cared for abused his trust & deceived him, his father abused him verbally and physically; and, worst of all the media/press raped and stripped him of his dignity publicly and hounded him mercilessly.

And through it all he SMILED!

I wonder how many of us would withstand the same introspection into our lives and how we would handle the pain. Before we cast stones at MJ, we should imagine ourselves in his life and ask ourselves how would we manage it?


Michael, you were too good for this world, for the people here, for the decadence of the community around us. You are finally up with the angels, where you belong, may you RIP ! We will do our best to CARRY ON YOUR LOVE and SELFLESSNESS and teach it to our little ones.

I read the last pharagraph and I can´t believe how great he was, his intelligence and his sense of humor were huge. I´m crying while I´m writing this, having read all the comments,I feel so happy to know that many people feel the same love for him. He was such a gentle human being, we have lost so much.
I really love you Michael, thank you for all the messages you gave to this world. It´s so sad he is not with us anymore.
RIP Michael, from Argentina. My respects to his children.

As I sat transfixed, watching 50 year-old Michael dance, strut, sing and move like my idol of 1984, I could not help the tears running down my face. What a really incredible series of top notch concerts he would have presented to us, his fans. Unbelieveable light and special effects, superlative dancing--it would have been a deeply personal and moving night with the Gloved One. Sadly, it was not to be; but as I watched this film unfold before my eyes, I felt that I was right there in the studio, with Michael and his crew; grooving to his amazing musicality and genius--I felt I could reach out and touch him, that he was rehearsing right in front of me...and this film helped heal the pain of losing him. M. Gartsman-Covina

I still can't believe he is gone. What a GREAT man he was. I fear there will be no other to fill the planet with love, and I mean the PLANET not only people. He was so concerned about human race and environmental problems, sure he had great ideas to share with us. Earth song...

Yes Michael, the whole world loves you. You were a wonderful human being and now a wonderful angel.


I miss Michael Jackson! He made my teen years and that cant be erased from my memories even now when I'm in my thirties. How I wished you made your comeback, It'd have been awesome!

Michael, i'll miss you forever. It was a great shock your suddenly dissapearing. I was exciting to seeing you again in London. Now i'm furios and sad. I really believe in your lyrics and the message in it. You shown us all your LOVE with them. I've grown-up with your music and your message and i'll die with it. Better dancer, better music and better writer. I hope you'll be somewhere in peace and don't suffer anymore. I love you for all the support I've received with your lyrics and your music in the thick and thin in my life. FROM SPAIN WITH LOVE.

How we could imagine (at least),that This is It meant "goodbye" for Michael Jackson.It is too sad to realize that at the end of his life he considered himself too "old" for performing his music;for example,when I saw the movie I cried a lot because I remember when I was a teenager when I watched "Thriller" for the first time and when I saw him doing the "moon walk", but in the movie he wasn't able to do it. I thought that maybe he was tired or sick, in fact, he was thinner.However, the magic was there, he was Michael Jackson, THE KING OF POP. He knew the heaven and the hell at the same time, he was admired and he was judged,and ridiculized too. Many people took and take advantage of him, even today after his sudden death.

For a fan like me, Mike will be always the cute African American who makes me dance and remember my youth, he is my dear Peter Pan with a child's heart.

RIP Mike. I love you more!

I always wanted YOU to love YOURSELF, I wish somebody could have learned you that,I always had the idee that you did'nt now how good lovely and beautifull you were in the in AND outsite in youre hole personality,

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