I’ve been paying attention to the Michael Jackson media frenzy quite a bit. Not because I was the biggest MJ fan on the planet, but because ultimately we create our own epitaph. Especially when a person is a polarizing as the King of Pop, it’s crazy to try to understand his legacy outside of individual opinion. When someone is obviously as talented as Michael Jackson is, yet so openly flawed, the ink may never dry on his obituary.
For the purposes of this post, I’m going to focus on the music and his legacy as the King of Pop. This isn’t because we’re eager to turn a blind eye to the last 10 and the controversy which encompassed his life. On the contrary. It’s not even much of a discussion if he wasn’t who he became as an artist and a performer.
For all intents and purposes, pop music has seen three or four larger than life figures that have transcended not just pop culture, but life and culture itself. Elvis, The Beatles, Michael Jackson and Madonna (debatable) sit on a short list of icons so big, that they change the rules for everyone. Whereas mega pop stars exist in a world that is music centric (like the cover of Rolling Stone) , icons like the above list lived in the fabric of everyday life (like the cover of Time magazine). However, even when you compare him to the very short list of peers, Michael Jackson’s musical accomplishments stand apart. 750 million albums sold globally. Thriller sold over 100 million copies which is more than double the next closest album. Plus, MJ has two other albums which sold over 30 million copies each (Dangerous and Bad). Only the Beatles have more than one album on the 30 million plus list, and one of those was a greatest hits (1) album. Additional accomplishments as far as number one hits, weeks on the charts, and top ten hits are right up there near the top of every category.
A lot has been written already about Michael. There will be plenty more to come. Everyone will have an opinion. There’s no denying the fact, however, that pop music will always be richer for having the talents of Michael Jackson to remember. Tragically, that’s only part of the story.