The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Insight Into Michael Jackson
Despite the billions of people who have been born into this world, there are always subtle changes happening all over the world. From new technology to art to music, the human existence is a story filled with action, acting, creativity, drama, writing, music, and more. Over 60 years ago, a young African American boy named Michael Jackson was born into the world, on August 29, 1958, like several artists before and after him, the world over would never be the same, and his music would be recognized by billions of people. For better or for worse, and how you will view his legacy, it is up to you to decide. No matter your opinion of him or his alleged activities, or even of his unnatural ending, you cannot in good conscious refute the innumerable accomplishments he achieved throughout his life.
His childhood, starting with The Jackson 5, was only his first step on a Yellow-Bricked Road of Success, pun intended. (A reference to both his music video for “Billie Jean” and his role as “The Scarecrow” in “The Wiz.” respectfully.) From “ABC, 123” through “You Rock My World,” follow me as we “Remember The Time…” Michael Joseph Jackson was just 8 years old when he was thrust into the limelight with his brothers as a member of The Jackson 5. In 1964, when The Jackson 5 debuted, it was a time in music where superstars like “The Beatles” and “The Supremes” (featuring the powerhouse that is Diana Ross) ruled the charts. How were these siblings, with Michael the lead singer as a CHILD, going to compete against the very adult music their direct competitors were releasing? Well, simply put, they played to their strengths.
Michael was young, as were his siblings. As such, they knew what their peers were listening to and, more importantly, dancing to. They might not have written their own music, but they had a large part in accepting what they wanted to sing and what they didn’t (so long as their father agreed with their opinion.). As such, in 1970; just 6 years after their debut; The Jackson 5’s hit song “ABC” knocked “The Beatles” very popular “Let It Be” out of the number 1 spot on “Billboard’s Hot 100” list and was looked to be one of the world’s first ever disco songs. “I Want You Back,” a song released the year before “ABC,” would become a dance anthem and charted at number 1 on the soul chart for over 4 weeks. This song led fans of the siblings to buy the album in bulk and bringing fans together across the world.
Michael would release dozens of songs with his brothers through The Jackson 5 and they would all top charts or knock the “more seasoned” performers out of the number 1 spots on various music charts, uniting fans all around the world through music that was both fun and relatable. People of all ages were singing and dancing along to music that seemed ageless. These were just the first of many steps Michael would take toward super-stardom.
Michael’s biggest step was going solo in 1971 with “Got To Be There,” though he didn’t hit number 1 until the next year with “Ben.” Gone was the happy, squeakiness of childhood and, in its place, was the sultry adult sex appeal of a man with lyrics to match. Ben may have been a soundtrack to a movie, but the lyrics were what resounded with fans. A crooning, more mature Michael Jackson singing about how a friend with him is guaranteed.
Now, again, no matter your opinion of Michael as a person, his musical achievements continued to break barriers the more albums and songs he released. First African American male to top pop charts, to gain millions of followers in a multitude of age ranges, and showing a type of diversity not many artists could achieve, never mind at so young an age. Michael could croon love songs like “Liberian Girl” and “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You.” He could sing empowering songs like “Black And White” and “Heal The World.” He could even force out grunty lyrics in songs like, “They Don’t Care About Us” and “Beat It.”
His creative genius with music videos transcended others in the genre, too. From glowing floor tiles in “Billie Jean” to the elaborate costumes of “Thriller,” Michael’s music videos showed a flair for exceeding expectations, much like Michael often said was his goal: he always wanted to be different from what was popular, to amaze his fans with something new. It’s how he earned the title, “King of Pop.” He seemed untouchable, musically. (Personal life aside.)
He was also an artist who prefered to use his music to get important messages across at a time when the world needed to hear it, but might have avoided the news reports. He was very determined to get his message out there, to highlight important situations that the world seemed to be ignoring. As such, some of his songs were for just such a purpose. “Will You Be There” was a song Michael performed on the soundtrack of the movie, “Free Willy.” It was a movie about the very real drama of a killer whale captured in the wild, then taken captive only to be freed by a child who befriended it. The song spoke of unity, asking listeners to hold him and love him like family. At the end of the movie, when this song played, there was a message that asked fans to support killer whale foundations to save whales.
“They Don’t Care About Us” was a song created to draw attention to the situations happening to the poverty-stricken people of Rio De Janeiro during a time when the national Olympics were set to be filmed there. The main city was the focal point of publicity and financial windfalls related to that specticle, while “the slums” and its people went neglected; Michael brought that to light in a world that continued to pretend it wasn’t happening.
He faced a lot of backlash for that song as well as the video, shot by the always-controversial Spike Lee, but he stood by the message they were trying to send. As such, the people became visible rather than invisible and that was thanks to Michael’s spotlight. If he hadn’t cared, if he and Spike Lee hadn’t made the decision to push through the government’s interference with filming there, those people might still be suffering to this day.
Now, I could ramble on about his dozens of Billboard Awards, MTV Music Awards, People’s Choice Awards, American Music Awards, or even his Humanitarian Awards; but you can research them all, if you are so inclined. Long story short of this is that MJ accomplished more than just topping music charts. He transcended time, bending music and music videos to his idea of what they should be rather than falling in line with what society and charts dictating to him what music should be, sound like or look like. Michael Jackson made his own path in life and had his own style and way of doing things. By always doing things his own way, he will forever be known as the “King Of Pop.”