MLK Day Special: SMAP Meets Michael Jackson

Filed in American Wota 2.0

It’s MLK Day here, so what better way to celebrate on an idol blog than to show not only a meeting of different races, but whole different cultures and celebrity markets?

Barbara and I did this during that nebulous time now known as B.H. – Before Haruna. This episode of SMAP X SMAP aired on June 5, 2006, and I mentioned it in the previous article about Johnny’s. We shared it on the Cult of Pop forum at the time, but that was about it, so many of you may not have seen this. The subtitling isn’t top-notch, so forgive any lapses – this is what you get when a husband and wife try to be a fansub team on their own.

You may want to watch the video first before reading the rest of this.

This clip always makes me feel good because there’s something refreshing about watching one of the most popular groups in Japan become humble, even nervous, fanboys around their own idol. Michael Jackson was one of their inspirations to become pop superstars, and they remain in awe of him even now. It’s sad that SMAP automatically assume Michael’s never heard of them until now – and they’re proven right – but it also reinforces their humility and sense of scope.

It’s also fascinating to see the range of reactions among the SMAP boys. Nakai is rendered speechless, which is a feat in itself. Shingo tells Michael that he loves him. Goro’s performance in front of MJ feels a little like when you have a child perform in front of visiting guests. Kimtaku is the best at holding it together. He’s the smoothest with introducing himself in English, playfully berates Nakai a couple times for his behavior, and even places it all in perspective: they weren’t the SMAP of today around Michael, but the boys who saw him at the Tokyo Dome many years ago.

After the initial meeting, the way they just want to sit on the floor and hash over the experience is quite telling in itself – it’s like the experience has left them emotionally exhausted and needing to recover. One can imagine a bunch of H!P fans conferring in a similar laid-back fashion after an encounter with Morning Musume or Berryz. They then bring their CD to Michael – but even this ends with a fanboy twist, as they come away with autographed copies of Michael’s own CD (which itself becomes an unexpected source of hilarity).

Michael Jackson handles himself quite well, too, all things considered. I’ll be the first to crack jokes at his expense, but for some reason I can’t make myself do so in this case. My standard for Ugly American Celebrity Behavior is Mariah Carey’s appearance on Utaban in 2005, and this was the exact opposite. Michael was polite, repeating his gratitude time and again, even saying “I love you” back to Shingo. Granted, things haven’t been too smooth for him back home, so that surely factors into it – but he still could have been a raging asshole, or even had been his usual incomprehensibly distant self throughout. He seemed to be making some effort to connect here, which should count for something. This encounter certainly doesn’t render the King of Pop any more human, but it doesn’t embarrass him either.

My respect for SMAP grew after watching this episode: it made clear that they remember their own roots as fans, that they can still be humble even after molding their own media empire, and can take it all with good humor. They didn’t try to pal around with Michael as if they were on the same level – though certainly, they could have gotten away with it on their home turf. Instead they showed deference and an eagerness to please. For some reason, it reminds me of when a musician (I can’t remember who now) once met Paul McCartney and gushed about what a fan he was; when this musician apologized for embarrassing himself, McCartney said, That’s okay, I was the same way when I met Phil Everly. So it’s kind of like a geinou circle of life, these kinds of meetings.

All that said, I’d love to see a meeting of Michael Jackson and Hey! Say! 7 as a follow-up.

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7 Responses to “MLK Day Special: SMAP Meets Michael Jackson”
  1. Raid says:

    To be completely honest, I think HS7 or HSJ would be far FARRR more excited to see Avril Lavigne or something.

    And this post is the reason why you didn’t cover THAT SMAP post of mine. (As I’ve realized a long time ago) xD

  2. Garamond says:

    That’s a very interesting and fun clip. I thought the subbing was very good, thanks for posting this. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Frox says:

    Wรณ, indeed hadn’t seen this yet.
    Thanks for posting, it made my day ๐Ÿ˜›

  4. Jake says:

    To the poster above who said this: To be completely honest, I think HS7 or HSJ would be far FARRR more excited to see Avril Lavigne or something.

    You’ve GOT to be kdding me? Avril Lavigne OVER Michael Jackson. Are you on crack? LOL. You don’t get much bigger than MJ, anyways, Avril Lavigne is rather boring. Which one would sound cooler to say to your mates “I’ve met Michael Jackson” OR “I’ve met Avril Lavigne”, obviously the former…

  5. Jake says:

    Btw, in case you are wondering I HAVE met MJ, I spoke to him a few years ago down in London. I won’t get on to how I was able to get through all his entourage, but he was actually a really nice down-to-earth bloke (it may be hard to believe, I know!). He didn’t act like an arse, I don’t know why I expected him to, but let’s just say, I don’t usually have the friendliest of encounters when meeting high-profile celebs. The main thing that stood out was his politeness and friendliness.

  6. Radicalipton says:

    It appears as if the SMAP members didn’t really recognized Michael with his severely altered face; they at first thought it was some kind of joke. But they soon realized who it was.

  7. Jake says:

    Radicalipton, are you thick? MJ’s “severely altered” face was everywhere, between 2000 and 2005, unless you’re blind you’d know that was Jackson, no-one else actually looks like that…They probably thought he was an extremely good impersonator or were in severe shock. Looked more like the latter.

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