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Paris Jackson Explores Trauma, Heartache And Healing In Debut Album


Paris Jackson grew up in a house filled with music.

PARIS JACKSON: Tchaikovsky, Debussy - sometimes we listened to the Top 40. We listened to a lot of blues and soul, R&B, hip-hop, obviously Motown.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: This eclectic soundtrack is, of course, fitting for a member of Motown's Jackson clan and the daughter of Michael Jackson. And now Paris is adding her own voice to the family playlist. Her debut solo album is called "Wilted."


JACKSON: (Singing) Head hanging down, shredded evening gown, eyes painted black, a tragic paper bag. You were my all, and now I fall to the ground. You hit the wall...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: For the longest time, Paris Jackson did not want to call herself a musician. She struggled after her father Michael's death with depression and self-harm. We asked her about embracing a family legacy.

JACKSON: Well, besides the obvious - fearing being compared to my dad - I don't know. I just - music has always been such a huge part of my life, and it's always been the air I breathe. Most of my musician friends still love making music, but a handful of musician friends kind of started to see it as a job. I always felt that if I ever saw it as a job, I would start to resent it. And if I don't have music, I don't really feel like I have much. So that was a big fear to accept music as my fate.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But here you are.

JACKSON: Here I am. Yeah.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter) I mean, your dad gave you this very broad musical education. Was it hard to find your own voice in that? - because it is very different from the music that your dad did.

JACKSON: Yeah. I don't know. I don't know if I could say that I have found my voice or found my sound because I don't really plan on sticking to this, like, formula, for example. I mean, like, this album is - because it's a concept record, all the songs are very uniform, and they all go together. But, you know, the next projects I work on, I don't plan on sticking with the same sound. I want to explore. I want to experiment. I want to, you know, check out different layers, different textures. I'm really still on that journey of discovery.


JACKSON: (Singing) So leave my body or take my soul. Yeah, yeah, just be somebody or let me go. What's it going to be? Yeah. I'm trying to find a surface to stand on. What's it going to be? Yeah.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So tell me about how you created this album. What is that story?

JACKSON: It's a story of love and betrayal and heartbreak, and it goes into a reverse. While it is autobiographical in a sense because I did write it, I do feel as though it was written in a way that is vague enough to where most people can relate to it 'cause everybody's experienced heartbreak. Everyone's experienced betrayal and pain in some form or another, you know?


JACKSON: (Singing) My heart ain't something I can amputate now, now. You broke me all the way down, down, down. My walls are tumbling down.

I don't know. I find it easier to write sadder songs because sadness and pain is more complex, but love is a very simple thing. So the - you know, the harder, more painful songs on the record, I go really in depth. I use a lot of metaphors. You know, it's more poetic.


JACKSON: (Singing) All I've got is time and drowning on my mind. You came right in like a freight train. I feel myself going off the tracks again.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Of course, you're Michael, you know, Jackson's daughter, but wasn't he sort of fiercely protective of your privacy? I remember, you know, so much that - he was very much trying to protect all of his children from the public eye. Did you have to grapple with how you were going to become a public persona?

JACKSON: Yeah. It was pretty difficult for a while because I was just very confused for a long time as to why everyone just can't be happy, why I couldn't please everyone - 'cause I came into the spotlight pretty young. And, like, when I - I was, like, maybe 13 when I first got on social media, so I was just very confused why I couldn't say anything without someone getting upset. So it took a really long time for me to finally get to a point where I'm like, OK, well, can't please everyone. If I go left, I'm wrong. If I go right, I'm wrong. So I might as well just be myself.


JACKSON: (Singing) I know you're falling to pieces 'cause you wear your heart on your sleeve.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Just wondering - if you had to sort of reintroduce herself to people now, what do you want people to know about Paris Jackson today?

JACKSON: I don't know. I'd just say maybe give me a chance first. Try and understand me before you judge me.


JACKSON: (Singing) Can it be all right again? If the sun comes out tomorrow, I don't know where we begin.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That was Paris Jackson. Her album "Wilted" is out now.

Thank you very much.

JACKSON: Thank you.


JACKSON: (Singing) We are smiling like we used to way back then. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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