The first man who really walked on the moon
His music is what I grew up listening to, his music videos are what I grew up watching, and his dance moves have forever made me believe from quite a young age, that yes, supernatural beings do exist. Michael Jackson’s success could not be counted or measured within the span of a decade, two decades, or even a century, but rather infinitely – as he revolutionized countless musical genres, created iconic singing techniques, mastered the art of creating one of a kind music videos, and completely overturned the world with his dance moves, seemingly defying gravity and all other rules that applied to this form of expression in the era of B.M.J (Before Michael Jackson).
Although Michael Jackson attained immense success during the period of the 80’s, which I will focus on talking about in this blog entry, he was no stranger to the spotlight – a cliché saying, but nevertheless it could not be more applicable or more appropriate to use in this case. From the young age of five, he quickly became the lead vocalist of the Jackson 5, a popular family Motown group throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s. The amount of talent that he possessed even at such a young age was absolutely startling, as Jackson was able to perform songs in such a natural way, that it was quite remarkable that such a young boy could portray emotions through songs about love or emotions that would be experienced well beyond his years. At thirteen he launched a solo career, and by 1979, he released his first solo album Off the Wall. This album was so unique with its employment of various musical genres, that it amazed all of its audiences. My personal favorite track from this album is “Don’t Stop Till’ You Get Enough” which won Jackson a Grammy. This track has an extremely funky beat and absolutely enchanting vocals, and after the first three seconds of it playing, I think it is virtually impossible for anyone to stay still and not dance to it. So by then, yes, the world was fascinated with Jackson, from child star, to outstanding solo artist with the debut of his first solo album, but little did the world know that this was just the beginning of something absolutely legendary, something extraordinary, something revolutionary, like… the release of the best selling album in history by the same exact artist just a couple of years later.
Throughout the decade of the 80’s Michael’s success shone right over every single artist, especially through the medium of MTV. He scored four spots on MTV’s countdown of the Top 100 Videos of the decade with his hits “Man In the Mirror” at spot 40, “Billie Jean” at 27, “Beat It” at 13, and of course, the track of the decade, “Thriller” at number one. Entertainment Tonight named him the “Most Important Entertainer of the Decade” and Jackson obviously finished off the decade strong as well, as “Leave Me Alone” was listed as the Best Video of 1989 by USA Today. His popularity reached such immense heights that it was named “Michaelmania” by the media or “The Michael Jackson decade.” In Britain he was labeled as the Best-Selling Male Singer of the decade. And of course, all of these accomplishments and awards that I mentioned above were just a drop in an ocean.
Thriller was the album that didn’t begin all this mania, but rather built upon it in colossal ways. Even when I pick up the album today and listen to the tracks, I can’t help but to still see and hear how unique and absolutely perfect (for lack of a better word) each one of them is. And when you’ve got an absolutely amazing album and sprinkle some absolutely amazing music videos on top of that – well, you might as well take over the decade just as Jackson did. And from all the tracks, to all the music videos, to the very name of the album, “Thriller” was the perfect title for the album, and for the artist who produced them, as one would go on some kind of amusement ride with the degree of unpredictability that Jackson had in his musical genius, the various twists and turns of his style, and just the utter uniqueness of it. This album in particular is pop, and funk, and electric, and everything thrown into a pot with some special spice added to it. Some spice of adding some zombies and a completely thrilling (no pun intended) facet with it all. It was the height of creativity in all of its forms.
“Billie Jean” is the song which established a new precedent for music – and not for one single genre of music – but music as a whole, with the famous beat that it has. You could hear it in just about every single song that is released now, well arguably of course, but I hear it everywhere, all the time, in all genres in some shape or form. “Beat it” was just stunning with its employment of the guitar that took over the track and made it something extraordinary. “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” was another revolutionary pop hit, that had some influences from Off the Wall that could be heard with funk included in the track. And of course, the main track, “Thriller” was just something out of this world, both with video and sound. Jackson added this spooky unique aspect to it that I believe came from applying some sort of story line to the song even long before it was recorded. I mean how else would you decide to add a creepy laughing voice and some howling into a track and have it be an immense success – am I right? Everything Jackson did, it just worked. Not just worked, it revolutionized music altogether.
Now I could continue to go on for quite some time about each and every track from this album, and the degree of stir and commotion and excitement and just utter awe that it cast upon the world’s eyes and ears, but what I must mention in this particular entry is the dance move that was unveiled that changed everything on March 25th, 1983 during Jackson’s appearance at Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever. It celebrated the labels’ 25th birthday, but the event would become known as the public birthplace of the moonwalk. After performing a couple of songs with his brothers in a Jackson 5 reunion at the event, Michael takes the microphone as his brothers exit the stage, and begins to perform some of his new tracks from his album. As he is performing “Billie Jean,” with his white glove, glistening shirt, and sparkling socks all in tact, he suddenly glides four times backwards, causing absolute sensation and chaos from the audience. What just happened? Did he walk? Did he slide? Did he just revolutionize dance and music as we know it? The answer is yes. Yes he did.