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The Sonic Oxymoron of Easy Legal


Launched in 1988 as Dangerous‘s seventh single, “Easy Legal” by Michael Jackson was the album’s sixth prime 10 observe. It reached quantity seven on the Billboard Scorching 100 and was acknowledged as 2x platinum by the Recording Trade Affiliation of America. Whereas the one by no means topped the Billboard Scorching 100 chart, it has retrospectively been extolled as probably the greatest songs from Dangerous and Jackson’s music profession. “Easy Legal” describes an assault on a girl named Annie by, properly, a “easy prison,” but it surely moonwalks a lot farther past a slick felon. The one is a sonic oxymoron of life and loss of life that leaves listeners teetering on the bridge between the prospect of residing and the specter of dying.

“Easy Legal” begins with a shrill punch of instrumentation and jagged breaths as a sinister melody sparkles within the background, creating an ominous temper and anticipating the onset of violence. Then, Jackson’s grating “Ow!” pierces the environment and signifies that the sleek prison has begun his crime in opposition to Annie. The lyrics paint a grisly scene of Annie being attacked in her condo; Jackson pronounces, “There is a sound on the window / Then he struck you, a crescendo Annie / He got here into your condo / Left bloodstains on the carpet,” describing a scene paying homage to a blunt drive homicide. The brutality is amplified by “And then you definately bumped into the bed room / You had been struck down / It was your doom, Annie.” It appears as if Annie has met her demise by way of a merciless beating, with the A minor mode and foreboding melodic development reinforcing this darkish prospect. Listeners are consequently pushed in the direction of the concept of loss of life.

However is Annie actually lifeless? In any case, Jackson by no means explicitly states that she is lifeless. The chorus “Annie, are you okay” is repeated all through the tune, suggesting that the narrator doesn’t know if Annie is lifeless or alive; he’s uncertain of her situation and thus must persistently ask for affirmation. Annie’s unknown destiny builds that tense bridge between residing and dying that listeners are pressured to teeter on. However regardless of the grim descriptions of her assault, the tempo is upbeat and the beat is quick and regular, resembling a heartbeat. In reality, proper in the course of the tune is a verse that echoes a hope for all times; Jackson declares, “Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation / Sounding heartbeats, intimidation.” This center verse, which calls forth “resuscitation” and “heartbeats,” runs parallel with the truth that the center is situated practically within the middle of the chest. This emphasis of the center and its connection to the center, an important organ, implies that “Easy Legal” facilities on and revolves round the method of resuscitation. Coupled with the heartbeat rhythm, these parallels recommend that the narrator is making an attempt to stimulate Annie’s coronary heart and revive her unconscious physique, giving listeners hope that Annie will probably be okay. Jackson thus pulls listeners in the direction of the prospect of life.

Not solely does “Easy Legal” evoke concepts of resuscitation, it mirrors the method of CPR. Within the first verses, Jackson makes use of previous tense and describes Annie within the third individual, enunciating, “So she bumped into the bed room / She was struck down, it was her doom.” His position as an omniscient however uninvolved narrator doesn’t final for lengthy, nevertheless, as within the following chorus, he instantly begins to deal with Annie immediately; he asks her, “Annie, are you okay? / So, Annie, are you okay? Are you okay, Annie?” All through the remainder of the tune, quite than describing Annie’s assault by means of a distant, third individual lens, Jackson turns into actively a part of the state of affairs, with traces like “Then you bumped into the bed room / You had been struck down / It was your doom.” The preliminary use of third individual signifies that the narrator has simply came upon concerning the assault however remains to be faraway from the state of affairs; he’s making his approach over to Annie’s unconscious physique. Then, the beginning of his direct interplay with Annie implies that he’s now actively working together with her; he’s performing CPR.

Because the tune progresses, Jackson’s efforts to resuscitate Annie proceed. His vocals sound out of breath and rushed, reflecting the large bodily effort and haste required in CPR. The speedy heartbeat rhythm, which persistently permeates the music, reinforces this exertion and hurriedness. And the quick tempo of 117 BPM mimics the speed of chest compressions required in CPR: 100 to 120 compressions a minute. The heaving and pushing throughout chest compressions are additionally mirrored within the rising and falling chord progressions. The intro and verses function a chord development that steadily goes i – ii – III – ii, and the pre-chorus/chorus of “Annie, are you okay” strikes firmly between scale diploma VI and scale diploma VII. These plodding progressions additionally point out the rise and fall of Annie’s chest from the chest compressions and maybe her respiration, indicating that she is nearer to regaining consciousness. These parts recommend that the narrator is embroiled in his resuscitation efforts, carefully juxtaposing the prospect of residing with the looming menace of loss of life. Listeners are holding onto the hope that Annie will probably be revived however can not escape the fact that the CPR could possibly be unsuccessful, apprehensively staggering on the bridge between life and loss of life.

However as “Easy Legal” rushes in the direction of the tip, plainly listeners’ worry for Annie will probably be realized. The chord development of the refrain alternates between i – VII – VI – VII and that i – VII – VI – V (main), dwelling on the dominant chords of VII and V and thus heightening the anguish. Within the refrain’ ultimate two repeats, Jackson repeatedly bemoans “I do not know” and “dag gone it” on the ends of his traces, and these trailing phrases invoke the narrator’s frustration with the resuscitation efforts and recommend that the CPR is not working. Moreover, Jackson cries “assist me,” reiterating how he’s struggling to revive Annie. At this level, Annie’s loss of life appears inevitable, and listeners are once more lured in the direction of the distress of loss of life.

Jackson concludes “Easy Legal” with “It was your doom Annie,” suggesting with finality that Annie has met her demise and dealing the deadly blow to listeners’ hope for her life. Annie’s life is outwardly over, ending with the shut of the lyrics, and listeners should now mournfully settle for that the narrator’s resuscitation efforts had been unsuccessful. Nevertheless, solely the lyrics finish there. Regardless of Jackson’s pronouncement of Annie’s doom, the instrumentation retains going for roughly 30 seconds after the final line. The heartbeat rhythm rushes previous the ultimate “It was your doom Annie” and continues to evoke the feverishness of lifesaving CPR. This instrumental persistence means that regardless of the lyrical hopelessness of the state of affairs, the narrator hasn’t given up and is vigorously persisting in his resuscitation efforts, once more calling into query Annie’s destiny. Consequently, Jackson presents listeners with a renewed hope for Annie’s life, however they nonetheless do not have a transparent reply. “Easy Legal” by no means explicitly reveals the result of the resuscitation efforts, leaving listeners teetering on a seesaw between the potential for life and the specter of loss of life.

Whereas “Easy Legal”‘s bloody lyrics lure listeners in the direction of the considered loss of life, the rhythmic heartbeat pulls them again to the prospect of life, making a sonic oxymoron of life and loss of life. The CPR-invoking melody, vocals, and instrumentation evoke hope for Annie’s revival however concurrently current the danger of failure, inflicting nice apprehension. Throughout CPR, the sufferer’s destiny is unsure; they might both turn out to be responsive or by no means regain consciousness, rendering them briefly caught between residing and dying. Thus, CPR represents a bridge between life and loss of life. In “Easy Legal,” as listeners are pulled backwards and forwards between the hope for all times and torment of loss of life, the CPR-reminiscent parts in the end depart them balancing precariously in the course of the bridge, entangling them in a tense state of unknown, irresolution, and ambivalence.

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