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Originally a member of the Motown act The Jackson Five, Michael Joseph Jackson (August 29, 1958 — June 25, 2009) debuted as a solo artist in 1971 — the year he turned thirteen. His full-fledged solo career took off in the late 1970s. Though songs from his first serious solo effort, Off The Wall (1979), were extremely popular, he reached unprecedented superstardom in 1982 with his album Thriller. Thriller is still the best-selling album of all time today, and won a total of 8 Grammy Awards.Jackson was, perhaps, the definitive celebrity of The Eighties; his unusually elaborate music videos were something of a Killer App for the emerging MTV (he was also one of the first African-American artists to receive heavy rotation on the channel). By the end of the decade, he had another successful album in Bad (the first album to yield five number one singles on the Billboard charts), a direct-to-video movie and even video games. He was almost as well-known for becoming an Eccentric Millionaire in the progress; by decade's end his exotic menagerie of pets and elaborate Neverland Valley Ranch estate were the stuff of celebrity legend.In the 1990s, while he still was a top-grossing musician with further albums and concert tours, his public image slowly disintegrated. His noticable changes in appearance over the years, chalked up to plastic surgery and the skin disorder vitiligo, became a point of notoriety. Moreover, starting in 1993, several young boys would accuse Jackson of molesting them. Jackson was adamant in his proclamations of innocence, but this permanently soiled his reputation of being a charitable Friend to All Children. The one case that went to trial over 2003-05 found him not guilty, while he reached out-of-court settlements with two other accusers. Debates regarding his guilt or innocence remain highly charged to this day, and in the interest of avoiding edit wars and Internet Backdraft, it's best to keep the Rule of Cautious Editing Judgment in mind here. Jackson's musical output decreased in this period. He only released one original album in the 2000s, and he did not go on any concert tours.A few weeks before Jackson was to launch a 50-show farewell concert engagement in London, England, he died due to an overdose of propofol (a hospital-grade anesthetic) on June 25, 2009, at the age of fifty. (Dr. Conrad Murray, the doctor who administered the medication to Jackson, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in November 2011. Jackson's family sued tour organizer AEG for negligence, but lost that case in 2013.) This occurred during an almost surreal two-week period between June 21 and July 4 densely populated with celebrity deaths including those of Ed McMahon; Sky Saxon; Farrah Fawcett (who died on the same day as Jackson); Billy Mays; Mollie Sugden; Harve Presnell; Karl Malden; and Steve McNair. It was dubbed the "Summer of Death" or the "2009 Celebrity Death Wave". David Carradine, who died two weeks before the beginning of the period, and Patrick Swayze, who died in September of that year, are often included with that group. Jackson's memorial service that July 7 was broadcast live around the world; he is interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California. Later that year, the first of many posthumous Jackson-related projects, This Is It, compiled from rehearsal footage of the aborted London shows, was released.Not for nothing... he's the King of Pop!Trope Namer for Michael Jackson's "Thriller" Parody, Trope Codifier for Moonwalk Dance.
Studio album discography:
Got to be There (1972)
Music & Me (1973)
Forever, Michael (1975)
These first four albums were made under the direction of the Motown record label before Jackson obtained complete creative control of his work. The following albums are after his move to Sony's Epic Records.
Slave To The Rhythm: Notable for being his first posthumous performance. It debuted at the 2014 American Music Awards with a pre-recorded vocal track with a live backing band, and featured an elaborate CGI animation of Michael circa 1995 lip-syncing along with it (popularly thought to be a hologram, the effect was produced using the Pepper's Ghost - a method developed in the 16th century).
Provides examples of:
Album Filler: Or more specifically, a noted lack thereof early on. In later interviews towards the end of his life, he specifically noted this trope as the impetus to his work on his three biggest albums Off the Wall, Thriller, and Bad. He stated he asked himself, "Why can't there be an album where every song could be released as a single?" He seems to have done well with his goal there: Off The Wall was the first album ever with four Top Ten singles, Thriller had seven Top Ten singles (of nine total songs on the album), and Bad was the first album to have five Number Ones in America. In fact, 10 out of the 11 songs on Bad were released as singles (Speed Demon being promo only), which is still the record for the most singles from an album.
Ancient Egypt: The setting of the "Remember the Time" music video.
Angry Black Man: Rarely ever acted like this in real life, but he does in his videos for They Don't Care About Us, Scream and Bad.
The Baby Trap: "Billie Jean", Inspired by all the times he saw girls try this on his older brothers during the "Jackson 5" years.
Badass Baritone: Particularly at James Brown's funeral, on the track Who Is It?, and some close friends have implied this to be true in private. An unfortunate example is the tapes from his death trial involving Murray where he is obviously inebriated due to drug usage.
Being Watched: Rockwell's "Somebody's Watching Me" as well as his own "Who Is It?" video has a face in the wall of the main character's apartment. The face seems to imply he knows what his lover has been doing to him. The lover in the short film is a high profile prostitute.
Broken Aesop: The video for "The Way You Make Me Feel": keep following and harassing a girl, and she'll fall in love with you.
Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Eccentric he may have been, but damn could the man sing and dance!
Wesley Snipes said that he once spent three hours speaking with Michael “about metaphysics, psychology, ‘how the black man is treated,’” saying, “people don’t know about Mike on the real, Mike had a consciousness that could blow your mind and he could recite things that could blow your mind as well.”
Michael was talented in many facets — he was also heralded as 'King of Style' by various fashion magazines and was a constant trendsetter, had an extensive art studio consisting of his own artwork and sculptures (which he planned to unveil right before the 1993 allegations), and was a very shrewd businessman who bought the entire The Beatles catalogue right under Paul McCartney's nose in 1985.
His I.Q was stated to be 108 as a child, 119 as a teen, and 164 as an adult — 4 points higher than Albert Einstein and Bill Gates.
He has a legitimate black belt in karate during his schooldays.
The 'Beat It' demo is the best example showcasing his talent in songwriting. He was only 23 at the time he wrote it, too.
After MJ's legendary moonwalk in Motown 25, Fred Astaire said of him: "Oh, God! That boy moves in a very exceptional way. That’s the greatest dancer of the century”. He also claimed that Michael was worthy of being his 'descendent'.
Fact is, the entire Peter Pan image was initially fabricated by MJ's management and bolstered and twisted out of proportion by the media. Michael was not an eccentric Man Child, he was just putting on a facade.
The Cameo: There is nothing to say here besides, well... Space Channel 5. Especially Part 2. Yes, that really is his voice.
He also had a role in Miss Cast Away, made in 2004. He was prominently featured on the cover as a selling point (but then, according to reviews, it had nothing else to offer).
Celebrity Star: The Simpsons episode "Stark Raving Dad" has Homer meeting a man named "Leon Kompowsky" who thinks he's Michael Jackson. The voice actor credited with the role was "John Jay Smith," but aside (ironically) from his singing it is Jackson's actual voice — he was a huge fan of the show who also co-wrote "Do the Bartman" under a pseudonym.
And even though he didn't sing it, the episode also gave us one of the show's Crowning Moments of Everything in "Lisa, It's Your Birthday". He apparently didn't do the singing parts because Sony would not allow him to, though another story floating around is that Michael wanted to prank his family with the sound-alike singer (Kipp Lennon).
Claymation: In the video for Speed Demon, Michael encounters several claymation characters and ends up on the run from them. When he enters the wardrobe, he becomes one himself — a motorcycle-riding rabbit named Spike.
Clothes Make the Legend: White socks, short trousers, black trilby, and single sparkly white glove; also a red leather jacket, military jackets, etc.
His vests and floppy hats during the Jackson 5 period, too.
Concept Album: Off The Wall is about the ups and downs of partying while Blood on the Dance Floor as an EP (without the remixes) could very well be a concept album on inner demons such as lust, addiction, jealousy, and masochism.
Concept Video: Most of his music videos, which he preferred to call "short films".
Cult of Personality: After the huge success of Thriller, much of Jackson's subsequent career was spent building up one (initially with help from the media), portraying himself as an eccentric yet pure-hearted humanitarian and the greatest entertainer in the world. The Vocal Minority of his fans, along with his estate, family, and certain collaborators, continue to encourage and maintain it.
Cute Kitten: On the 25th anniversary edition of Thriller's cover, Jackson is holding a tiger cub.
Also in Beat It, where he defuses gang fights by stepping in and starting to dance, and in Bad.
His appearances in Space Channel 5 and its sequel, which is a game of dance battles.
Darker and Edgier: Bad was supposed to give him an "edgier" image, but it didn't take. Later albums did delve into this trope more effectively (i.e. "Who Is It" from Dangerous).
Dead Artists Are Better: Following his death, many people considered him to be a genius who was unfairly ridiculed and persecuted. Never mind that right up until his death was announced, they were likely happily mocking him along with everyone else. Many "new fans" only discovered his work after his death.
Dolled-Up Installment: The "This Is It" song that was released at the same time as the This Is It movie. It was originally recorded in 1983 under the title "I Never Heard" and it was chosen because it happened to have the phrase "This is it" opening each verse.
Epic Rocking: Dangerous has ten songs over five minutes long (though "Will You Be There" stole some Beethoven for its intro). Disc two of HIStory has three numbers over six minutes (including "Earth Song"), and Invincible opens with the 6:25 "Unbreakable".
Would also draw out live performances, fake-ending them several times, similar to James Brown.
Friendly Rivalry: With Prince. It's debatable as to how friendly it was, but it's telling that the title track of Bad was originally conceived as a duet between the two; the video would have had them squaring off with each other as rival gang leaders.
Giant Spider: This Is It features a giant black widow spider in the Thriller segment. Not only is one on screen (this would have been in 3D, no less), but one scurries on stage that opens up to reveal Jackson.
List Song: "Why You Wanna Trip On Me" is a list of things Michael thinks people should worry about more than his personal life. "Earth Song" has a similar list near the end of the song of things Michael thinks we should worry about involving the Earth's ecology.
Loud of War: The video for "Black or White" opens with a father insisting his son turns his music off, only for the son to set up a ridiculously large guitar amp and crank it all the way to "Are You Nuts!?!", with rather destructive effects.
Lyrical Dissonance: "The Girl Is Mine" is light light light '80s pop about two guys fighting over a girl who is probably playing them both for someone less obsessive than either of them. "Billie Jean" is an upbeat dance number about an obsessive fan.
MTV: Contrary to popular belief, "Billie Jean" was not the first video by an African American artist shown on MTV, but its success helped bring down the channel's color barrier, and from there, Jackson became one of the biggest video stars in the early '80s. The "Thriller" clip, in particular, was the most elaborate music video made up to that point (1983) and was regarded as a genuine event.
New Sound Album: Off the Wall, a pop-R&B album, was this to his previous solo work as a "bubblegum" child act. From that point on, his work followed the trends of pop music in general.
Nice Hat: His black Trilby. In several concerts, he threw it into the audience.
No Animals Were Harmed: A disclaimer at the end of the music video for "Earth Song" says that no animals were harmed during the making of the video, though an unnamed poacher had killed an elephant within a mile of the shot.
Obsession Song: "Baby Be Mine", "Billie Jean", "The Girl Is Mine", "I Just Can't Stop Loving You", "Dirty Diana", "Streetwalker", "Can't Let Her Get Away", "Remember the Time", "Who Is It", "Give In to Me", and "Dangerous".
One of the Kids: He identified strongly with Peter Pan and preferred being around children since, as he saw it, they liked having fun, didn't talk to him about adult things that made him feel uncomfortable, and were less likely to judge him for what the media said about him.
Our Founder: The trailer for his HIStory album shows him heading an army and erecting a giant statue of himself. That statue trick (it served as the cover of the album, and actual replicas of it were circulated on his tour) was criticized even by his fans as being too Small Name, Big Ego.
Pass the Popcorn: Sorta does this in the "Thriller" video. An animated gif featuring this scene has become a massive meme.
Pep Talk Song: "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'", "Keep the Faith", and "On the Line".
Personal Arcade: Michael had a giant arcade in his home, with dozens of video games and pinball machines. It was recreated for an exhibit in Beverly Hills; you can take a virtual panoramic tour of it here.
The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: One reason his Small Name, Big Ego reputation worsened in his final decade (1999-2009) was that he didn't tour, performed live very rarely, and only produced one full album in 2001; all his other releases were compilations of older material with a few new songs thrown in (one on Number Ones, more in the box set). This is another reason the term "self-proclaimed King of Pop" was thrown around a lot when he was mentioned in the media; he wasn't doing much to maintain his throne.
Pop-Star Composer: In the mid 2000s, it was discovered that Jackson had a hand in composing some of the soundtrack of Sonic the Hedgehog 3, with most evidence pointing to the fact that most of the songs are either uptempo or Suspiciously Similar Songs of tracks from his Dangerous album. He is not credited in the game itself, with the official reasons being that he disliked the low-grade sound equipment used to make Sega Genesis music, but given that he had somewhat bigger things to worry about in early 1993, it's easier to see the true reasons behind his abandoning the project. He later lent his voice and likeness to another Creator/Sega project, Space Channel 5, but it's not known if he provided any music.
Despite evidence of his involvement, there has been no actual confirmation of what songs, if any, that he composed made it into the game. That said, technically it was his personal songwriter at the time, Brad Buxor who composed the songs during his involvement.
Retirony: He died only 18 days before the first of the This is It series of concerts, which he had implied would be the last of his career.
The Rival: The aforementioned Prince was often presented as this in the press. MC Hammer thought himself this in the early and mid-'90s, and repeatedly tried to call Jackson out, though it seems to have mostly one-way. Jackson reportedly enjoyed the MJ call-out at the end of 2 Legit to Quit, in which a Jackson stand-in makes the titular hand gesture.
Self-Backing Vocalist: You can pick up his own distinctive voice in the backing vocals to a majority of his songs, starting as early as "Got to be There" and "Rockin Robin". He also commonly provided his own backing "vocal instrumentation" with beatboxing and the like (as in Tabloid Junkie).
And when he walks, it looks like he's moonwalking forwards.
Pokémon Colosseum and Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness both feature Miror B., an antagonist who has excellent dancing skills, a glove on his left hand, and an afro in the shape of a Poké Ball (also the same colors as a standard Poké Ball - red and white), who loves using Ludicolo. Ludicolo ITSELF is a reference to Michael, but Miror B. takes this to 649.
Also, most of his music videos are shout outs. Bad is a shout-out to Cool from West Side Story, "Smooth Criminal" is a shout out to Fred Astaire.
Even "Beat It" is reminiscent of West Side Story: What if Tony had stopped the fight?
La-Mulana: The "Dancer" you have to scan in the Temple of Moonlight uses one of Jackson's poses.
Battle Arena Toshinden 3: Kayin Amoh and his foil Ten Count. One is a weathered young man whose life as a bounty hunter has given him nothing but grief and knowing the bitter and sick aftertaste of violence, while the other is a fairly insane sharp dressed hitman who delights in his career like a superstar and uses an undercover name based off of one of his methods to delightfully kill people. Both of them are respectively based off of Beat It and Smooth Criminal, even right down to the wardrobe and their clashing character themes.
Something Completely Different: In his last years, he was experimenting with very different styles of music and art. He considered film acting and directing but he was too much in debt to open a film company.
Stalking Is Love: The music video for "The Way You Make Me Feel" gives off this vibe.
Take That: The song "D.S.", from the HIStory album. The lyrics say that someone named "Dom Sheldon" is a cold man, but if you listen to the song, he's clearly saying "Tom Sneddon", the Santa Barbara DA who went after him for child molestation back in the '90s and again in 2005 — in fact, some people believed that Sneddon had a vendetta against Jackson because of this song, and it was at least part of the reason he took him to trial.
Theme Naming: Jackson's children are named Prince Michael Joseph Jackson, Paris-Michael Katherine (after his beloved mother) Jackson, and Prince Michael Jackson II (a.k.a. Blanket). Paris might have been named "Princess" had Debbie Rowe not objected to it.
Trope Codifier: For the modern, plot-driven type of music video (ones previous to him were mostly just shots of the band playing), for the modern style of pop performances (one of the first to have synchronized choreographed dance while singing), and for the modern pop artist image and persona.
Uncanny Family Resemblance: Many of the Jackson brothers looked strikingly alike when they were children. Also, back in the '90s, the running gag was that Michael's public appearances were actually his sister LaToya.
Blanket is basically a light-skinned version of Michael as a child.
"I don't know!", "CHAMONE!", "WOOH!" and his fairly unique vocal "hiccup" style also qualify.
What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Subverted with his song "Ben", which, despite being about a rat from a horror movie of the same name, is quite heartwarming.
White Gloves: Wearing a single white glittering glove was a trademark of his, earning him another nickname: "The Gloved One".
Worst News Judgment Ever: An extreme Real Life example, in that his death overshadowed everything from voter protests in Iran to the beginning of U.S. troop withdrawals in Iraq, as well as the above mentioned other celebrity deaths (with the exception of Billy Mays, whose death caused a second crash of several news sites within a week).