Michael Jackson (1958-2009): Revisiting Overlooked Aspects Since His Demise 3 Years Ago
This article was initially published on our website exactly three years ago. It was two days after the fateful day on which Michael Jackson met his tragic and sudden end. We decided to repost this article to remind readers and our radio station’s listeners of some of the overlooked aspects of the undisputed King Of Pop.
A lot has been said in the past two days about Michael Jackson’s untimely demise and the musical/artistic legacy that he has left behind. Michael Jackson’s departure is undoubtedly one of the worst (if not the absolute worst) tragedies to strike the artistic world. The responses to this tragedy have included statements like “thriller is my all-time favorite album”, “this guy was the king of pop”, “he reminded me of my childhood”, “he was my idol”, “he defined an entire generation”, “his death marks the end of an era”, “the 80s were all about Michael Jackson”, and “the Michael Jackson as we know him died at least over a decade ago”.
The last statement is quite unfortunate. The truth is, Michael Jackson continued to make great music right into the 90s. The role of music maestro Quincy Jones as a producer and in shaping the “timeless” sound of the “Off the wall”, “Thriller”, and “Bad” albums is grossly underestimated. It was one of the most magical musical partnerships in history. The absence of Quincy Jones’ musical imprint on subsequent albums detracted from the “timelessness” factor that characterized earlier Michael Jackson albums. Yet, there were some great songs in the 90s. “Remember the time”, “You are not alone” and “Gone too soon” are just a few.
In an age where music is no longer about strong melodic and harmonic structures, the relentless criticism of Michael Jackson’s later music seems somewhat misguided and unfair. What many people do not know is that in November 2003, Michael started to show some very promising signs of a return to classic form. That return was “One More Chance” – a new track featured on the “Number Ones” album. Musically, it ranked among heartwrenching ballads such as “I Just can’t stop loving you” and “You are not alone”. Unfortunately, American AM/FM radio chose NOT to play the track. Furthermore, the day the “Number Ones” album was released was also the day a fresh set of child molestation allegations were hurled at Michael Jackson. This is a classic example of the constant barrage of media assaults overshadowing Michael Jackson’s music over the last fifteen years. Unfortunately, “One More Chance” was the last single of Michael Jackson.The average American music listener did not get to hear the track or any of the brilliance that followed.
It is true that Michael Jackson is responsible for some of the most iconic music videos and dance moves of all time. Hopefully, he is remembered for more. Especially since he truly represented a lot more. The aspect of his art that is often overlooked is his voice. Characterized by traces of loneliness combined with a purity and childish innocence that lasted into adulthood, Michael Jackson’s voice could melt the coldest of hearts. It may be years before the average music listener starts to acknowledge this. His ballads showcased his vocal talents significantly better than the songs he is most popular for (i.e. dance tracks such as “Thriller”, “Billie Jean”, “You rock my world”, and “The way you make me feel”.) While the fact that he is considered the greatest “entertainer of all time” is true, people ought to realize that the “showman” in Michael Jackson was simply the finishing touch of a very polished and perfected musical product. Michael Jackson never substituted showmanship for music. This is what sets him apart from the entire generation of new pop artists. It is also the reason his legacy will last longer than that of all new artists put together.
It is heartbreaking to see Jackson’s life play out like a Shakespearean tragedy. Being Michael Jackson was his greatest asset. It was also his greatest enemy. While his untimely departure will undoubtedly leave a void in our lives, hopefully he is in a happier place today. He deserves a happier place for everything he has given in the past four decades. Michael Jackson was more than an entertainer. He was an artist, an innovator, a humanitarian, a cultural milestone, a stellar vocalist, and most importantly the musical bridge between White America and Black America – probably a more significant feat than any other accomplishment of his.
Here are a few “lesser known” but glorious musical moments of the undisputed “King” of pop.