Rolling Stone UK recently declared Harry Styles the new King of Pop--but not if Michael Jackson’s family has anything to say about it. The British singer appeared on the magazine’s UK October/November cover. Underneath reads a caption: “How the new King of Pop set the music world aflame.” Jackson’s nephew, Taji Jackson, responded to the apparent passing of his uncle’s crown on Twitter:
A title is just a title until you prove it. Michael was more than the King of Pop; he was and still is arguably the greatest entertainer that ever lived. There will NEVER be another Michael Jackson. While some may argue that artists like The Weekend, Bruno Mars, and Justin Timberlake are worthy of the crown, their accomplishments in pop don’t come close to what Michael achieved as a musician during his time. No one will ever reach that height of fame and that level of artistry without the internet or social media.
What does it take to be an idol? To be worshiped? Throughout time, America’s pop culture has been filled with icons such as Babe Ruth and Elvis Presley. These icons represent a dream hidden within each of us. The dream, though not easily achieved, is to become extraordinarily successful, no matter the circumstances of your origin. Michael has become the icon we know him as today by achieving two accomplishments. First, he brought to each of us a story of our heart’s desire, the American Dream--to become successful in spite of humble beginnings--by way of demonstrating nothing short of extraordinary talent. Secondly, he stayed fresh for so many years, increasing his pop-icon status by constantly reinventing himself.
Michael was one of nine children born in a working class African American family. He was introduced to music by his parents at a very young age and his potential in singing and dancing began to emerge. His contribution to music, dance, and fashion, along with his publicized life made him a worldwide figure in popular culture for over four decades. Although MJ was a controversial figure, he had a massive influence on the world, through inspiring music, breathtaking performances, and generous charities. MJ had a much bigger vision not only to rejuvenate music, but to change people’s life through his talent and dedication. He also helped break barriers being the first African American to ever appear in MTV. Michael’s first solo album Off the Wall was a breakthrough for Jackson. It had four top singles and, according to music critic Rob Sheffield, “invented modern pop as we know it.” Off the Wall became the biggest-selling album by a black artist and transitioned Jackson from a former child star to a mature artist. Despite its enormous success, the album was snubbed at the Grammy Awards. Jackson refused to accept defeat and planned to make an album better than any before.
After years of hard work, Jackson released his second album in 1983, Thriller. It wasn’t merely the best selling album by a black artist; it was the best selling album of all time. It sold more than 45 million copies worldwide, charted #1 in every western country, and dominated the U.S. charts for 37 weeks. Thriller was so great that it forced through the racial barriers dividing music and keeping African American artists from achieving further success. Jackson’s massive popularity forced radio, magazines and television stations like MTV to finally open the gates of opportunity to black artists. His albums changed the dynamic of the world in how we appreciate music.
While the music video Thriller was called (by Guinness Book of World Records) the most successful music video of all time, Jackson had many other acclaimed and innovative videos. His 1991 video Black or White had the biggest viewing audience of all time up until that point. The video also used face morphing special effects, which at the time was cutting edge technology. The video for Scream got 11 MTV Video Music Award nominations and won several categories including “Best Choreography,” “Best Dance Video,” and “Best Art Direction.” It also won a Grammy for “Best Music Video”. The Ghosts music short film held the record for the longest music video for 17 years. Jackson’s 1991 video for You Rock my World won an NAACP Image Award for outstanding music video.
One of the things that made Michael Jackson’s videos so amazing was his incorporation of dance. When it came to movement with the music, he was in a class all of his own. Even from his youth, it was obvious that his dancing talent and skills were extraordinary. Jackson’s style was so unique and well known that his moves became recognized throughout the entire world. In 1983, during a solo performance of Billie Jean, MJ made history when he premiered “The Moonwalk.” When the world saw this move, millions of hearts skipped a beat. The iconic backwards glide astonished people. Jackson’s influence did not end from this one dazzling move, however; there is the “Moonwalk” followed by a spin, and then his trademark toe stand with its freeze-frame pose that made the crowd go wild. In his Smooth Criminal music video, Jackson introduced the anti-gravity lean. This otherworldly move was done with feet planted flat on the floor, keeping his body straight, but leaning forward at an impossible 45 degree angle.
Jackson’s dancing was not just moving with the words and music; it was a major part of his performance. His slides, limb flicks, spins, and perfectly posed toe stand made audiences go insane and ushered in a new style of live show and music video. His influence can still be seen today in performance and music videos with the sharp choreography and dance formations of modern artists. Michael Jackson once described his meaning of dance: “I love the whole word of dance, because dancing is really the emotions through bodily movement. And however you feel, you just bring out the inner feeling through your mood...people don’t think about the importance of it.” Today, people see dance in a new light because of how he expressed himself.
“A star can never die. It just turns into a smile and melts back into the cosmic music, the dance of life.” -Michael Jackson.
Think back to the very first time you heard Michael’s voice on your television or radio. He evolved from an emerging singer to a magnificent entertainer. His beautiful voice and outstanding dance moves changed the face of pop culture for future generations and paved the way for all his admirers to follow. From the start of his career to the finish, he has had a profound impact on the culture, the world around him, and how we live our lives today. In conclusion, Michael Jackson has gone down in history as a genius and a legend, and truly earned the name “The King of Pop.”