Music: Michael Jackson

The King Of Pop.

"I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could’ve been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, then make a change"

Originally a member of the Motown act The Jackson Five, Michael Joseph Jackson (29 August 1958 - 25 June 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 '80s; 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.

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 anaesthetic) 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.) 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 Discography:

Posthumous Discography:

  • 2010 - Michael
  • 2014 - Xscape

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.
  • Ambiguously Brown: How he looked as his vitiligo began to lighten his skin.
  • Animal Motifs: Tigers.
  • 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.
  • Brother-Sister Incest: Latoya Jackson plays Michael’s love interest in the video for “Say Say Say.” In the video, however, they are not (apparently) related, and thankfully they only flirt.
  • 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.
    • When Michael was sued in 1993 for alleged plagiarism by a songwriter, he revealed that his songwriting and music I.Q were off the charts and that he was actually quite the musical genius.
      • 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 appeared as himself in Men in Black 2, and as a hidden boxer in Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2.
    • 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. And let's not forget his "Smooth Criminal" attire.
    • 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".
  • Cool Shades: Ray Bans aviators.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: Jackson often did this at the end of performances for his more inspirational, “world-saving” songs, such as “Man in the Mirror,” “Heal the World,” and “Earth Song.”
  • 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.
  • Dada Ad: See Our Founder below.
  • Dance Battler: In Moonwalker.
    • 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.
    • Captain EO
  • 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.
  • The Dead Can Dance: His Thriller video is the Trope Codifier, with many subsequent "zombie dances" mimicking moves from the video. Done again in Ghosts.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The videos for "Scream", "Stranger In Moscow" and the Talky Bookends of "Bad".
  • Distinct Double Album: HIStory, one disc being old "greatest hits" material, the other being new music.
  • 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.
  • The '80s: Jackson was the '80s pop star. Back to the Future Part II goes so far as to imply that he and President Ronald Reagan were the '80s.
  • 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.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: Bubbles, his pet chimp.
  • Everything's Better with Sparkles: He wore silver sequins on his glove and socks for this reason; with sparkly white socks, viewers could pay attention to his dance moves more easily.
  • Everything's Better with Spinning: He employed this often in his music videos and dance routines.
  • Everything's Deader with Zombies: Thriller features not only dancing zombies, but Jackson himself becoming a zombie.
  • Elvis Lives: Thriller could oddly enough be made into a conspiracy theory, making him still around as a zombie in some fan-fiction.
  • The Faceless: Having a self-image problem, he often hid his face behind a hygienic mask and large sunglasses when going out in public. Though some have said that he did this because his lighter skin made him more sensitive to sunlight.
    • His children also apply, as he hid their faces with carnival masks when in public, and a blanket on his youngest son (who'd be nicknamed "Blanket").
  • Faceless Mooks: His background dancers in "They Don't Care About Us" from This Is It.
  • Face-Revealing Turn: The music video for "Thriller" has possibly the most famous (and often parodied) use of the trope of all time.
  • Former Child Star: It looked like he was on his way to avoiding this until the whole "Wacko Jacko" thing. He was also close friends with a number of ex-child stars such as Macaulay Culkin and Elizabeth Taylor.
  • Funny Afro: His and his brothers' hairstyle in the last years of the The Jackson Five. See them in the "Blame it on the Boogie" video.
  • 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.
  • The Generalissimo: Jackson’s motif for the HIStory album, but even for years prior to this album, he was known to wear fancy military attire.
  • 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.
  • Grand Finale: This Is It was going to be a Grand Finale for his career; he died before it could start.
  • Green Aesop: "Earth Song" and Jackson's final message in the This Is It film.
  • Guest Fighter: In Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Part 2. Let's be honest, we all wanted to use him beat the crap out of scary Russian Boxers, Shaq and Bill Clinton.
  • Hyde Plays Jekyll: In Thriller.
  • Intercourse with You: A few songs seem romantic, but are clearly this trope. (Invincible's "Break of Dawn" at least doesn't hide it, despite the sombre mood)
    • Subverted with "The Lady in my Life,". It was one of two tracks not released as a single from Thriller, and has uncharacteristically sexual lyrics.
  • Licensed Game: Michael Jackson's Moonwalker, his appearance in Space Channel 5 and most recently a dancing/karaoke game developed by Ubisoft in light of the Rhythm Game craze.
  • 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.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: Seventh of nine; Marlon had a twin who died at birth.
  • Medium Blending: The claymation, blended with real backgrounds and people, in the video for "Speed Demon".
  • Metal Scream: "Dirty Diana" has some surprisingly epic ones toward the end.
  • Michael Jackson's "Thriller" Parody: Trope Namer.
  • Mondegreen: Michael's yell "shamone"! is actually the word come on!.
  • Moonwalk Dance: Didn't invent it, but popularized it, performed it at every live concert, and it became one of his immortal trademarks.
  • The Movie: Moonwalker and/or This Is It can apply.
  • 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.
  • Never Speak Ill of the Dead: Michael spent the last two decades of his life being the butt of molestation jokes, among other things, with his musical career being largely ignored. Even though he was seen a bit more positively when the child molestation charges were dismissed in 2005, it wasn't until after he passed away that these negative comments about his personal life almost completely disappeared.
  • 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".
  • Oblivious to His Own Description: Cartoon screenwriter Mark Evanier recalls a time he was invited to Neverland Ranch to discuss a proposed Celebrity Toon. Michael Jackson mentioned that he was familiar with Evanier's work on a previous show, remarking, "I love Richie Rich." Evanier, looking around the mansion, returned, "Michael... you are Richie Rich."
  • 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.
  • One Man Song: Ben.
  • One Woman Song: Billie Jean, The Lady In My Life, Liberian Girl, Dirty Diana.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: His youngest son, Prince Michael Jackson II, is known as "Blanket".
  • 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.
  • Parody Assistance: He was a strong supporter of "Weird Al" Yankovic, letting him use the “Badder” set from Moonwalker to film the “Bad” parody, “Fat.”
  • 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 Mega Drive 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 Sega project, Space Channel 5, but it's not known if he provided any music.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • During the 2nd chorus of "Scream":
    "Stop pressuring me, stop pressuring me, stop fucking with me."
    • The very last line of "Earth Song": “Do they give a damn?!”
  • Properly Paranoid: Some of his most popular signature hit songs had this atmosphere.
  • Pun-Based Title: HIStory, which can be interpreted as "history" or "his story".
  • 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.
  • The Rock Star: Even now he's still known worldwide.
  • Rummage Sale Reject: Some of his costumes looked like this. And still managed to look cool.
  • 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).
  • Shout-Out: Jango from One Piece, a Captain Ersatz of Jackson. In the German dub he was even named Jacko!
    • And when he walks, it looks like he's moon-walking 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 colours 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 after-taste 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.
    • Chris Tucker does an impersonation of Michael Jackson in Rush Hour. The two later became friends, and Tucker appeared in his “You Rock My World” video.
  • Signature Move: The moonwalk.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Once critics started to praise him post-Thriller, Michael got really full of himself. He took the King of Pop nickname so seriously that at times required the press to use the term and during HI Story was promoted as some sort of Messianic Archetype, complete with unveiling huge statues of himself.
  • Snake Oil Salesman: He plays the accomplice of one of these (played by Paul McCartney) in the "Say Say Say" music video.
  • 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.
  • The Something Song: "Earth Song".
    • Inversion: “Wanna Be Startin’ Something”
  • Special Guest: Many of his music videos have celebrity cameos.
  • Stalker with a Crush: "The Way You Make Me Feel", "Billie Jean", "Dirty Diana".
  • 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.
  • Talky Bookends: Popularized this trope with the "Thriller" clip.
  • 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.
  • Title: The Adaptation: Michael Jackson: The Experience (a video game).
  • 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.
  • The Tyson Zone: A shining example, where basically everything about his life, no matter how weird, was easily believed. To the point Jackson himself fabricated some rumours the tabloids disseminated in the 80s.
  • 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.
  • Verbal Tic: "HEE HEE!"
    • "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 many other celebrity deaths (with the exception of Billy Mays, whose death caused a second crash of several news sites within a week).
  • You Are Not Alone: That's one of his songs.
  • Zipperiffic: The red jacket he wore in the "Beat It" video.