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Monday, June 29, 2009

Michael Jackson

So I've been thinking long and hard in regards to my next post for my beloved, but often forgotten, Weekend Philosophers and I actually have a topic in mind (paintball), but in the meantime I think it would be appropriate, given my fascination with pop culture, to write up a quick something about the passing of Michael Jackson.

Most people in my generation know very little about the rise of Michael Jackson. We are familiar with the Jackson 5 and how he came out from the world of Motown, to become the King of Pop throughout the eighties, however our musical knowledge really starts coming together awhile after his decline was far too along for him to be considered a relevant part of our musical childhood. That being said, historically speaking, you cannot deny his influence on countless artists. Do you really think we would even care who Justin Timberlake was if it weren't for MJ paving that road twenty years ago?

The three albums that obviously stand-out in everyone's mind are Off the Wall, Thriller, and Bad...all released before I was 2. There's a certain familiarity with any album or song released prior to my memories of music have an instant connection with things like the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin and it's hard to make the distinction if it's just great pop music (especially in the case of the Beatles and MJ) or if it's just familiarity with the music through the subconcious memories. I don't know, but I know that when I hear songs like Billie Jean, or Beat It and especially Smooth Criminal (one of my personal favorites), that you have this feeling of comfort and happiness that can only come from that kind of relationship with songs that you know and love. It's hard to explain, but the best of Michael falls into that category.

That being said, his musical decline was steep and surprising. The rise of hip-hop and grunge separated popular music and it wasn't until the late nineties that true pop music returned to prominense. I think it would have been hard to imagine, in 1987, that Bad would be the last of the great Jackson music (including Janet). Then, after he lost his musical popularity...or maybe before, it's hard to tell, Jackson started losing grip with reality.

It's hard for my generation to separate Jackson's musical legacy with his less shining moments in life. From the child molestation accusations, all of which ended in settlements, which in many minds are just admitting guilt, to naming a child Blanket and then holding him over a balcony of a hotel room with a pillow case over its head. I for one will do my best to remember Jackson for those three magical pop albums, as well as his time spent with the Jackson 5, producing some of the best motown records from the time period. I don't know how successful I'll be in that, as this superstar is one with an extremely tainted legacy. Future generations will probably never see his greatness, and that's a shame.

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