I cried the day after Michael Jackson died. Not for long; just a couple minutes of extreme sadness over one of the most tragic figures in popular culture. He was just two months older than me, he had it all, and he squandered it in spectacular fashion. I can only imagine the pressure he faced, this seemingly shy man, thrust into a world where he needed to be tough. Try as he did, there are no excuses for some of his alleged behavior in later life. He remains a sympathetic portrait, as he appeared well-intentioned, despite his glaring flaws.
The Michael Jackson story is so infuriating, riddled with unnecessary plastic surgeries and reports of prescription medication abuse. Sure, Michael has the final word, but oh what poor advice his sycophantic and opportunistic advisors gave. His very public descent from the summit of success is a horrifying tale .
That’s also how I see his musical career. Early Jackson 5 songs are excellent, especially “ABC”. There are a couple of good songs as The Jacksons, then he hit his peak with the great Off The Wall. He was so young and beautiful, with a unique sound. As happens many times in pop music, the album after the greatest album is the most popular. However, Thriller is still excellent, followed by the good Bad. But once Thriller made him a superstar, he became overly self important, creating music he thought would heal the world, when all I (we?) want to do is dance. His lifestyle and reported perfectionism caused his output to diminish, and almost none of the music after Thriller is worth including in the collection.
So sad. The man sang like an angel. And it all went to hell. The antithesis of “aging gracefully”. Fuck prescription painkillers for anything but severe pain and terminal illness.
To complete my complement of Michael Jackson’s work, I added “Bad” and “Man In The Mirror”, plus a song called “Childhood” from the movie Free Willy 2. Jackson suggested it was close to his heart. “Off The Wall” is a personal favorite. I included “Give In To Me” from the album Dangerous, which features Slash on guitar. The best song on Thriller is “Beat It”, featuring Eddie Van Halen on guitar.
I Want You Back, The Jackson 5 ✭✭✭✭
ABC, The Jackson 5 ✭✭✭✭
I’ll Be There, The Jackson 5 ✭✭✭
I’ll Be There (alt mix), The Jackson 5 ✭✭✭
The Love You Save, The Jackson 5 ✭✭✭
Never Can Say Goodbye, The Jackson 5 ✭✭
Got To Be There, The Jackson 5 ✭✭
Enjoy Yourself, The Jackson 5 ✭
Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground), The Jacksons ✭✭✭
Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough, Michael Jackson ✭✭✭✭
Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough (early rough mix), Michael Jackson ✭✭✭
Rock With You, Michael Jackson ✭✭✭✭
Off The Wall, Michael Jackson ✭✭✭✭✭
Workin’ Day And Night, Michael Jackson ✭✭
Girlfriend, Michael Jackson ✭✭
She’s Out Of My Life, Michael Jackson ✭
I Can’t Help It, Michael Jackson ✭
Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’, Michael Jackson ✭✭✭
Beat It, Michael Jackson ✭✭✭✭
Billie Jean, Michael Jackson ✭✭✭
Human Nature, Michael Jackson ✭✭✭
P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing), Michael Jackson ✭✭✭
The Girl Is Mine, Michael Jackson ✭✭✭
Bad, Michael Jackson ✭✭✭✭
Man In The Mirror, Michael Jackson ✭✭
Give In To Me, Michael Jackson ✭✭✭
Heal The World, Michael Jackson ✭
Childhood, Michael Jackson ✭✭
I tried to find a suitable video for his later work, but there aren’t any. After he became a mega-sensation, it stopped being about the music and became a crazy fucking show, with dancers and loud explosions and wind machines, and all sorts of extraneous crap that has nothing to do with music.
Fat, Weird Al Yankovic ✭✭✭
Eat It, Weird Al Yankovic ✭✭✭
Michael Jackson also inspired one of the greatest musical parodies, Al Yankovic’s brilliant “Fat”:
Somebody’s Watching Me, Rockwell ✭✭
At his peak, he may have been as popular as anyone, but any attempt to compare his musical contribution with Elvis Presley or The Beatles is misguided. He was a great song and dance man with a handful of memorable hits, followed by a dramatic fall from grace. Here’s how I will choose to remember him, back when the world was his oyster: