Now that he’s gone, there are probably going to be serious debates on how Michael Jackson changed the face of popular music, and pop culture, all over the world. Even if you don’t believe that MJ was “The King,” there is no way that you can deny his God-given talent, infectious energy, and the infinite influence he has had on every single pop artist that came after him. R.I.P. MJ.
5. The Moonwalk
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Sure, the moonwalk (or backslide as it was originally called) had been performed for years before Michael Jackson slid across the stage to "Billie Jean" at the Motown 25 TV special in 1983. But his impeccable execution of the move, and the national TV audience watching, would change the face of dance forever. If you were young at the time, you undoubtedly spent hours the next day trying to pull it off, and it opened the gates for break dancing to move off the street corners and into pop culture. With one move, Michael made street dancing acceptable to rural America, and it wasn’t long before teens all around the country were breaking down cardboard boxes and giving it a spin. It’s hard to imagine a world without break dancing now, but it took someone of Jackson’s caliber to endorse it before people would accept it as a legitimate form of art.
4. We Are the World
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Musicians contributing their talents for a noble cause was nothing new when "We Are the World" was released in March of 1985. The Monterey Pop Festival and the Concert for Bangladesh were certainly pioneers in this regard, but there had never been a supergroup formed to help out a bad situation until Micheal Jackson and Lionel Richie penned this track. Quincy Jones produced the single that included over 20 of the industry’s brightest stars at the time, with proceeds going to starving children in Africa. Michael was the catalyst for the effort, and despite what’s been said and written about him since, no one can deny that his motivations were pure. Even though the supergroup Band Aid was around a number of months earlier with their song “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” the global success of “We Are the Wolrd” is what sets it apart form any other pop/musical charity relief. The fact that the song hit #1 in over 17 countries brought more awareness to this cause than any other in the past and most of it’s success has to do with the work contributed Mr. Michael Jackson.
3. His Music Video Work
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It’s true that Michael got very lucky by hitting his musical stride during the rise of MTV. There is no way he would have had the same cultural impact if it weren't for his iconic videos for “Beat It,” “Billie Jean,” and “Thriller” hitting homes all around the world. But let’s not just give all the credit to MTV so quickly. If Michael had one thing that separated him from the pack it was a detailed vision of what he wanted his art to be. There have been numerous accounts of Michael being a complete control freak when it came to his art, but those details are what made him the total pop package. All of this hard work and brilliant foresight can be seen in almost all of his videos from the 1980s. He saw the vision of marrying music to video, and turned it into an art form. Who else had the guts to create a short film instead of just a video? Again, Michael created a blueprint for every artist after him and there is not a single band or singer who has graced the screens of MTV that doesn't owe him a serious debt of gratitude.
2. The Release of Thriller
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What can we really say about this album that has not already been said? Well, for one, it kinda never gets old. For being the biggest-selling record of all-time, you would think people would be throwing it out of their windows by now. The truth of the matter is that every single song on this entire Quincy Jones-produced classic is absolutely timeless. It also hits on almost every genre of pop music possible. Besides the obvious standout mega-hits, “Thriller,” “Beat It,” and “Billie Jean,” “P.Y.T.,” "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" and “Human Nature” are just as epic. Michael’s vocal talents are also something that people seem to take for granted. In “Beat It” he somehow blows most rock singers out of the water, while he was also able to perfectly smooth things with his soothing vibrato work on “Human Nature.”
We all need to understand that without this album the entire music world would have never been the same. I’m not saying it made it better or worse in the long run, but as far as being an entire package and its level of impact, it is undoubtedly one of the most important musical works ever created.
1. The Jackson 5 Motown Audition
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At the tender age of 9, Michael Jackson and his brothers Jermaine, Tito, Marlon and Jackie went to Detroit for their now-famous Motown audition. The group performed James Brown’s hit "I Got the Feelin'" and obviously knocked that s*** out of the park. Berry Gordy wasn’t actually there, but the audition was filmed and sent to him to be viewed. Gordy's initial reluctance to sign the group disappeared when he finally saw the boys perform. Gordy, of course, decided to sign the group to Motown, and the rest is history. At times it kinda feels like Michael was four or five different people in the span of his career. The birth of Michael as a young artist is truly something to watch. The audition was critical to Michael’s career as well as the history of popular music. Without his time spent at Motown all the gifts he had to give would have never been shared with the world. At Motown he was lucky enough to work with (and learn from) so many amazing artists. His relationship with Diana Ross was legendary and their musical relationship definitely had a profound effect on him. If Michael had bombed this 1968 audition, pop music would have never evolved in the same way.
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