There have been very few musical artists who have left an everlasting impression on the world of music. Elvis Presley, Freddie Mercury, and Kurt Cobain are some such artists, who live on in our memories as some of the most excellent musicians to have been born. But none of the three have the album sales, award collection and pop culture status like the king of pop, Michael Jackson.
Initially, a member of Jackson 5, MJ received numerous accolades as a solo artist and is best known for songs such as Smooth Criminal, Dangerous and the record-breaking Thriller. His dance moves have inspired millions of people to take up the art, and he is the father of the iconic Moonwalk, a dance routine he invented and perfected over the years. He is regularly included in the list of top 10 artists of all time, both regarding music quality and sales.
MJ was no ordinary man, and he had many quirks that distinguished him from other artists. It is fair to say that it was the little things he did that made him such a huge sensation among the people. There are many ways Michael established his own identity and stood over the crowd:
- He liked inventing: Michael’s music may be different from his contemporaries, but it was his music videos where he came into his own. He was one of the pioneers who made music videos which told a story. The earlier music videos were not shot with a script in mind, most of it just had the artist singing and dancing to the song on a stage. Songs like Thriller established the art of telling an entire story through a music video. It was something that wasn’t the trend then, but MJ never followed the patterns – he made his ones.
- He re-invented dance: The signature spin and point, the hold-the-crotch-and-dance steps, the flip kicks – many moves sound frankly stupid on paper, but MJ had the grace to not only take them on video but absolutely nail them. Music videos of modern day pop artists such as Bruno Mars and Rihanna have a certain MJ vibe to them because the artists themselves have grown up watching their idol reinvent the way you dance. Michael took the very unusual steps, and made them the new convention, all by himself.
- Bubbles: In the 1980’s, more than his music, Michael made the news for his pet chimpanzee, Bubbles. Adopted from a research facility from Texas, Bubbles was raised as a spoiled brat. He ate at the same table with MJ, had an entire menu designed for him, and even was taught to use his toilet. It is said that he even learned how to Moonwalk. Michael also adopted other pets, which included more chimps, but the press was filled with news stories about Bubbles. The show Friends had an arc based on it, where one of the leads of the show, Ross, gets a pet monkey. People thought it was dangerous, funny and weird, but Michael never really cared about that, did he?
- A patent holder: How many artists have gone and invented a device to make their music videos the way they want? I don’t think many, other than Michael Jackson, of course. In the video for the song Smooth Criminal, during the dance routine, Michael, in step, leaned almost 45 degrees forward and stayed that way for a moment. It is near impossible to do so for humans, as at this angle, our weight would easily pull us forward, and we would fall. The reason MJ made it work is that he invented shoes, designed to “create an illusion of anti-gravity,” and holds a patent for it. Any other artist would have settled for some additional step or used some CGI, but Michael was not any other artist.
- Black and white: A standard joke on Michael Jackson is how he turned white from black. While it may be easy to make an occasional dig, something that not many people know is that this transformation was the result of skin disease. Michael had vitiligo, a condition in which white patches come up on various parts of the skin, throughout the body. His hand was the first place to get a patch, which is the reason why he started wearing the infamous white glove. Eventually, MJ began getting these patches on his face, and the treatment of the disease is the reason turned white. He is possibly the only star to undergo such a transformation and knew about the mockery he would face. But he always did what he wanted, not what the people thought.
Michael Jackson was not flawless and had his share of controversies. However, we today remember him as the King of Pop because he was not afraid to be Madcap because he embraced his quirks with pride. The people who are recognized for years after they have gone are the ones who dare to think and do what others won’t. And Michael was undoubtedly one of them.