What Went Right With… Michael Jackson?

Caricatures of young and old Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson was one of the most talented artists of all time. From his Motown days with The Jackson 5 to his solo stuff with Epic records (and even his time at Sony) no other musician’s discography is filled with such varied and original music. Often called the “King Of Pop”, his music to me was a genre of its own – somewhere between Soul, R’N’B, Funk, and Rock – nobody else sounded like Mike. Jackson had a voice so beautifully melodic that it made cover versions sound better than the originals (ask Smokey Robinson), his vocals were so unique that you instantly knew whose track it was, and when he appeared in other people’s music, he made their mediocre shite sound credible (Eddie ahem Murphy).

Able to play the piano, credited as a guitar player and responsible for the percussion on some of his songs, even beatboxing in tracks like “Who Is It” and “Stranger In Moscow”, he might not have been a genuine multi-instrumentalist like Prince but his personality, song-writing, and numerous flawless albums made up for this in spades. Michael was also one of the best dancers of all time, incorporating everything from James Brown, Fred Astaire, military marches, to Native American dance steps into his routines, and who could forget that trademark lean he did in “Smooth Criminal”? Michael was a true superstar, the biggest and best this world has seen so far. If you speak about the likes of Beyonce, Kanye, or Justin Bieber, you don’t really know what a superstar is. Jackson was a megastar of Epic proportions. 😉

I’m not someone who holds awards and sales as some kind of indicator of talent but many people do, and since so many folk give profit-making credibility, I’ll mention that Michael Jackson has won a record-breaking amount of Grammys and his albums are some of the best-selling records around. If you wanna know; Dangerous went 8 times Platinum, Off The Wall went 9 times Platinum, Bad went 11 times Platinum, and Thriller went 34 times Platinum which is more than 3 times Diamond! Thriller also spent a record 37 weeks at number one. Regardless of sales, Off The Wall, Thriller, Bad, and Dangerous are all classic albums. And while I’m mentioning money, the music video for “Scream” cost $7 million, apparently making it the most expensive music video ever made (even though I recall rapper Domino recreating it for way less 😆).

Aside from his fantastic, trend-setting music, Michael Jackson also transformed throwaway promotional music videos into an art-form and eagerly-awaited worldwide events. It was John Landis’ post-American Werewolf In London video for “Thriller” that started this trend for big-budget mini-movies. I also remember waiting for the premiere of “Black Or White” on TV and then watching making-of shows about it, including one about the morphing technique used toward the end of the song. What other music video can you think of that had segments and reports about them? And since I’m on the topic of music videos, his full-length film Moonwalker wasn’t some typical, mediocre, Pop star shite like Jailhouse Rock or 8 Mile, it was part music video, part sci-fi movie, part-animation, part concert, part old-school nostalgia, part futuristic adventure, in fact nothing else like it exists.

By selling so many records and concert tickets, not to mention receiving endorsement deals ranging from Pepsi to L.A. Gear, Jackson had a reported billion dollars in assets when he sadly died. But let’s not get bogged-down by the fact that he’s no longer making music. Like I said, M.J. was an eccentric, idiosyncratic performer who has never been matched or outdone. I mean, who else could get Martin Scorsese to direct his music video, get Vincent Price to feature in his song, get Claymation to animate part of his movie, get Stan Winston to do some effects, and have their own ride at Epcot Center (the now closed “Captain E.O.”)? Plus, who else could buy The Beatles back catalogue as an investment?

My older sister who had a crush on him since she was young, always played MJ’s vinyl records in my childhood home. Other than Prince and a heap of Motown records, it was Michael’s music that I grew up listening to. I’d spin around and try to stand on the tips of my feet as I imitated his dance moves. This was a superstar that everybody wanted to be like, as Notorious B.I.G. said in Diddy’s “Victory”. After the “Thriller” video came out for example, everyone was wearing those red and black pleather jackets, and after his Grammy performance, everyone was learning the moonwalk and throwing their hats across the room. I’ll acknowledge that the moonwalk wasn’t Mike’s, you can see various B-boys doing something similar earlier (watch Michael Chambers in Breakin’) but Jackson did it so well that it became synonymous with him.

So is there anything I don’t like about the man? Of course. I’m no sycophant. I don’t really like Invincible or either of his posthumous albums. And sure, I’d have preferred he didn’t do so much plastic surgery, get addicted to painkillers, leave Bubbles to live out his days in a cage, marry Elvis’ daughter, change the colour of his skin, and end up the dad of some white Jacksons, but what does a musician’s private life have to do with me? Fuck all.

Of course, every time you mention Michael Jackson these days, all you get is negative comments (especially on mainstream television) with many celebrity morons incessantly bringing up his private life and alleged crimes. Arseholes these days, who by the way, had to have been fans and owned his albums because otherwise Michael wouldn’t have sold so many copies, now make lame jokes based on the anecdotes of two blokes when two separate courts declared him not guilty of any of the accusations. With everyone from one-time friends and collaborators like Oprah Winfrey and the creators of The Simpsons to outright twats like Dan Reed trying to cancel him, all I have to say about that is; if you’re okay with watching Rosemary’s Baby, Usual Suspects, Jeepers Creepers, any movie produced by Miramax, if you’re fine with listening to Elvis, Aerosmith, David Bowie, and The Who, or okay with looking at Picasso or Gauguin’s art, you must be some kind of racist to just want to boycott Jackson’s shit. So fuck you and your hypocritical stance. Like Peter Kay said in Car Share, Michael Jackson wasn’t just one of the best, he was the best. None of your negativity will change that fact.

Everybody wanted to be like Mike.

Get a Spotify subscription (free or paid) and tell me I’m wrong…

11 replies »

  1. No bullshit, this an enjoyable read and WHATWENTWRONG/RIGHTWITH sites are both my favorite websites to read up on since I was in HS in 2015. Idk if you’ve ever done an article based on requests, but I’m curious to know what’s your opinion on an artist like Tyler, the Creator and would you ever consider doing a Wrong/Right article about him in the future?

  2. BTW it’s the music video for “Physical Funk” by Domino that I’m referring to in the article. It featured a pastiche of Michael Jackson & Janet Jackson’s “Scream” video (as well as recreations of Robert Palmer and Sir Mix-A-Lot’s music videos)…

    (skip to 1:58 if you’re interested to see it)

  3. I noticed that “2000 Watts” was in your Spotify playlist. That was one of the only songs of his that featured his real voice. He almost always spoke and sang with a higher pitched voice. I forgot why.

    Also, it’s nice to see that you liked something from Invincible. It’s my third least favorite Michael Jackson but I can’t pretend that I don’t enjoy it! 😆

  4. Wow I’m shocked. Usually this site shits on pop culture. But I guess there was a time when pop music was descent sounding.

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