But whatever "Freedom '90"'s authorial intent was, what's sometimes lost in the legend of the fabulous "Freedom '90" video is that the song, in and of itself, is great. It begins with just the beat, then the bass and keyboards, and the first appearance of a chant that will recur over and over: Again, while it's declaring independence, it's also admitting vulnerability: Very often, you find a song of independence — of freedom — steeped in a kind of "I don't need anybody and I don't care what anybody thinks" autonomous flippancy, structured like a kiss-off.
This is the opposite. Meanwhile, that bass line is bonkers funky in places, and that syncopated keyboard part will get one of your shoulders popping almost imperceptibly up toward your ear, even if you think you don't dance. It's not only the lyrics that are speaking to something common in people. In fact, as the song moves through a few different sections, one of the few instrumental elements that stays constant is a tambourine shake, the most populist of pop noises.
The verses are simpler, major-key retellings of his early career, his successes, his confusion, and his remaking for the benefit of MTV. It's not the only legendary video to include a name-check of MTV that is, at best, ambivalent.
And, surprisingly, the supermodels who populate the video. The song's debt to church music grows with the rising chorus of "freedom" interspersed with a quiet repeating of the opening lyric: There's more; the song continues for six and a half propulsive minutes, and he's still introducing new thoughts as it fades out. The lyric salute to throwing off expectations and living your truth, as it were, is hardly new.
The lyric salute to fame being really, really difficult is perhaps an even more difficult pig on which to slather fresh lipstick. Some of the performances that were shared the most after Michael's death were his covers of other artists' most stirring stadium ballads that plead for connection, particularly a performance of Queen's "Somebody To Love" and one of Elton John's "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me" — the latter of which he performed at Live Aid all the way back in , when he was a far less self-assured artist.
It's a singalong, really. All we have to do And it's full of small good decisions, like the "yeah yeah" in the chorus that will reach inside your nervous system and make your head bob in a sassy manner.
Ironically, the song is perhaps my favorite pop expression of the idea of interdependence — that we all cooperate in large and small ways to forgive and understand and therefore enable each other's individuality. And it's such a jam. I dare you to listen to it in the car fewer than three times in a row.