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 (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 '80s. His singing voice and dance moves (especially his Signature Move, the Moonwalk Dance) gained iconic status. His unusually elaborate music videos were something of a Killer App for the emerging MTV. In particular, the one for "Thriller" is probably the most famous music video ever made. He had also been 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.

As The '90s rolled around, Jackson had another success with the album Dangerous. However, within a few years media attention had turned on his health and appearance, his increasingly bizarre personal life and some allegations of sexual abuse against children. The Rule of Cautious Editing Judgement should be applied when discussing these topics. Jackson did release two more albums but for the rest of his life was Overshadowed by Controversy (or perhaps just eccentricity). In 2009, he looked set for a comeback after booking a 50-show farewell concert engagement in London, England.

It was not to be. He died due to an overdose of propofol (a hospital-grade anaesthetic) a few weeks before the first concert, at the age of 50. The doctor who administered the medication was later found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. 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:

Remix albums:

  • 1986 - The Original Soul of Michael Jackson
  • 1997 - Blood On the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix
  • 2009 - The Stripped Mixes
  • 2009 - The Remix Suite

Posthumous Discography:

Notable Compilation albums:

  • There were a lot of these released during his lifetime and even more after he passed away:
    • 1972 - A Collection of Michael Jackson's Oldies note 
    • 1975 - The Best of Michael Jackson
    • 1981 - One Day In Your Life note 
    • 1986 - Anthology note 
    • 2000 - 20th Century Masters - The Millenium Collection: The Best of Michael Jackson note 
    • 2001 - Greatest Hits: HIStory, Vol. 1 note 
    • 2003 - Number Ones
    • 2004 - The Ultimate Collection note 
    • 2005 - The Essential Michael Jackson note 
    • 2008 - King of Pop note 
    • 2009 - Hello World - The Motown Solo Collection, The Definitive Collection, The Collection, Michael Jackson's This Is It
    • 2013 - The Indispensable Collection
    • 2017 - Scream


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Provides examples of:

  • '70s Hair: The afro he sported with The Jackson 5.
  • '80s Hair: His trademark Jheri Curl, as seen in the image above.
  • Abusive Parents: His father Joseph, notoriously so. When managing his sons in The Jackson Five, he deliberately distanced himself from them emotionally by forcing them to call him "Joseph" instead of "Dad" and worked them like dogs, rarely if ever allowing them any down time to just been kids. Michael himself was frequently beaten and recalled one instance where he hid in his bedroom after not signing a contract, only for his father to break the door down and scream at him.
  • Affectionate Nickname: "Mike" by his family and fans, sometimes even "Mikey". And apparently the children he were friends with called him "Applehead", probably because of the Funny Afro he used to have. He liked all those nicknames.
    • Michael himself sometimes called his brother Jermaine "Erms" or "Maine". And according to Jermaine, if Michael gave you a nickname, he was fond of you.
  • 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 #1 hits in America (only Katy Perry matched it, nearly 25 years later). 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 in the late '80s as the vitiligo began to lighten his skin and his cosmetic surgeries made him look more racially ambiguous.
  • Animal Motifs: Tigers, Panthers.
  • 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: A few of Mike's closest friends and relatives have stated that his well-known high-pitched, whimpering voice was a put-on to disguise his post-pubescent voice, which was considerably deeper. There are some instances when his real voice slipped through, such as the instances in this video, the music video for "You Rock My World", at James Brown's funeral and in "This Is It". He also sang deep on the tracks Who Is It?, Hollywood Tonight and 2000 Watts. A rather 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.
  • 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.
    • He had a 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 Manchild, 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).
    • The music video to "Liberian Girl" is all about this. Seriously, there a couple of dozen of celebs featured in just this one video, like Whoopi Goldberg, John Travolta, Steven Spielberg, you name it. The video can be simply refereed to as Michael Jackson's "Look how many 80's A-list celebrities I'm friends with!"
  • 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).
  • Child Prodigy: His knack for performing reportedly started as early as the age of four, where he was described as being able to "sing love songs as if he knew what they meant."
  • 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.
  • 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).
    • Also, Thriller is very edgy comparing to his earlier more light-hearted albums, with the darker subjects of zombies, babies trap and gangster violence.
  • Dead Artists Are Better: Following his death, the sales and recognition has gone through the roof.
  • 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.
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: His plastic surgeries, long hair and makeup made him look increasingly feminine by the 1990s, to the point that his appearance was compared to that of his older sister LaToya.
  • 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.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: In addition to changing his musical style with each decade, he also changed his hairstyle to go along with it: an afro in the '70s, a jheri curl in the '80s, long and wavy in the early '90s, short and straight in the late '90s, long and straight in the '00s.
  • 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 he did this because his lighter skin caused by Vitiligo and Lupus made him more sensitive to sunlight.
  • 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.
  • Fake Shemp: Famously, when he wasn't available, the video for the Jacksons' "Torture" used a wax dummy and elaborate costumes.
    • Michael had also used an impersonator for his "Who Is It?" video because he was busy with the Dangerous tour at the time. That same impersonator (E'Casanova Evans) also stood in for MJ in Back to the Future Part II.
  • Fedora of Asskicking: In the videos for "Smooth Criminal " and "You Rock My World".
  • 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, the other charismatic young black man who dominated the pop charts in The '80s. 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. Prince eventually dropped out of the project, claiming it was good enough without him, and thus created one of the great What Could Have Been... incidents in pop music.
  • Gem-Encrusted: Most of his costumes as time went on. The ones he would have worn in the This Is It tour would bring it Up to Eleven.
  • 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.
  • Greatest Hits Album: HIStory has this as a first disc and an album of new material as a second disc. The first disc became available separately some time later.
    • For straighter examples, popular examples are Number Ones, The Ultimate Collection (actually a career-spanning box set), The Essential Michael Jackson (which is part of Sony's acclaimed Essential series), and King of Pop (which had different versions in many differeny countries due to fans voting their own selection of songs). There's also all manner of compilations covering his material as a child star.
  • 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.
  • Guyliner: Wore it from the mid-80s onward, allegedly having tattoos on his eyelids to resemble this in his later years.
  • Hyde Plays Jekyll: In Thriller.
  • Insistent Terminology: From the Dangerous era onwards, he stopped calling his music videos "music videos," exclusively referring to them as "short films" (technically he wasn't wrong, but by and large they still wholly fit into the "music video" category), even the ones that were just bare-bones footage of him performing; even his official Vevo channel gets in on the act! Similarly, his songs with the Jackson 5 were always called "the Old Songs," with his solo works being "the New Songs."
  • Intercourse with You:
    • A few songs seem romantic, but are clearly this trope. At the very least, Invincible's "Break of Dawn" 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.
  • Madonna–Whore Complex: Jackson's songs involving women are typically either saccharine love songs—"Lady in My Life," "The Girl is Mine," "I Just Can't Stop Loving You," "You Are Not Alone"—or portrays them as overly sexualized, untrustworthy manipulators—"Billie Jean," "Dirty Diana," "Dangerous," "In the Closet." Given that he never really had a chance at a normal dating experience and his only relationships were with obsessive female fans or other pop superstarsnote , it's often theorized that he wasn't just a prude and was actually afraid of sex.
  • Mama's Boy: While his relationship with his father was famously volatile, MJ's mother was much kinder to him, and the two were extremely close as a result.
  • Manchild: The unfortunate side effect of being forced into show business at the age of six and therefore never getting a chance to experience childhood when he actually was a child; this dysfunction happened to be so prominent for Jackson that he even wrote a song about it, appropriately titled "Childhood". Neverland Ranch, named after a story about a certain young boy who never grew up, is often seen as his attempt to "buy back" his youth.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: Seventh of ten; 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.
  • Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: The hardest Michael's music ever got was a 4, thanks to "Beat It" which featured an Eddie Van Halen guitar solo. Of course, he wasn't the least bit shy about dipping down to a 1, such as "She's Out Of My Life."
    • "Morphine" from Blood On The Dance Floor might reach a 5 or a 6 due to the somewhat harsh industrial influence and Slash's guitar work, but drops down to a 1 in the bridge.
  • Mondegreen: Michael's yell "shamone"! is actually "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.
  • 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. If you don't believe us, count how many times it's mentioned on this very page.
  • New Jack Swing: The undisputed best selling artist of the genre during the 90s with a combined total of 58 million albums sold worldwide between 1991-97note  Jackson also wrote and produced tracks for several new jack swing artists such as Ralph Tresvant and Blackstreet.
  • 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, with each subsequent album taking on a new sound.
  • Nice Guy: Probably the musician equivalant to Mr. Rogers.
  • Nice Hat:
    • His black Trilby. In several concerts, he threw it into the audience.
    • The white fedora from "Smooth Criminal" can also qualify.
  • 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."
  • Odd Friendship: Cultivated quite a few over the years, including a close one with Marlon Brando.
  • Older Than They Look: Michael always looked much younger than his age. For example, in this picture: [1], he looked much younger than all of his brothers despite not being younger that much and there was younger brother Randy. Also this is him in the 1988 Bad Tour, when he was 30 years old: [2], but he looked like he was in his early twenties. Even towards the end of his life, minus the other changes in his appearance, he had no wrinkles despite being a few months shy of 51 when he died.
  • 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. Unfortunately, this led to the child molestation accusations that plagued him until his death.
  • 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.
  • 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?!”
    • In a interview around 2004, Michael was asked about his depiction in Eminem's "Just Lose It" music video. Though he kept it fairly civil throughout, he quoted Stevie Wonder's stance on Eminem:
      Michael: Stevie said "He's bullshit", that's what he said...
  • 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".
  • Rearrange the Song: From the ground up! The demo for "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)" was a smooth R&B jam, virtually an entirely different song to the fast-paced dance number on Thriller. In actuality, frequent collaborator Quincy Jones wasn't keen on the demo itself but loved the title so much that he created a much more upbeat song with the same title. Thanks to The Ultimate Collection, fans got to hear the original in 2004.
  • Red Baron: The King of Pop.
  • 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.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: "Leave Me Alone," of course, directed at the media and tabloids, who in 1987 had already begun playing up the whole Wacko Jacko schtick.
  • 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 721.
    • 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?
    • The "Thriller" section of This Is It starts out in The Haunted Mansion — ghosts having a party in a ballroom, and the "narrator" implied to have hanged himself — and ends like Night on Bald Mountain/Ave Maria — the ghosts return to their graves at sunrise; there's also "dead bride and dead groom" "kites" that resemble the ghosts in "Night on Bald Mountain".
    • 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.
  • Singing Voice Dissonance: Zig-zagged. As mentioned above, the powerful, masculine-sounding voice he sang with was also his real speaking voice. That notoriously feminine-sounding falsetto he was known to speak with? That was a put-on.
  • 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". Inverted with “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".
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Many of the Jackson brothers looked strikingly alike when they were children. Back in the '90s, the Running Gag was that Michael's public appearances were actually his sister LaToya. At one award show, he appeared next to his other sister Janet and joked "See? We are two different people!"
    • Michael and Marlon apparently looked similar enough to be mistaken for twins when they were younger.
  • 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.
  • The Great Politics Mess-Up: The song "Stranger In Moscow" has Jackson being stalked by a KGB agent with the song presumably ending with the KGB agent interrogating him about trying to subvert the pro worker regime. The song came out a few years after the USSR collapsed in 1991, making the KGB and the Soviet regime a thing of the past. Although somewhat subverted in that it apparently takes place is pre Glasnost Russia.
  • Theme Naming: Jackson's children are named Prince (named after his grandfather) 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.
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change: "Man in the Mirror" contains a gear change, even being quite highly regarded by the site which is critical of the technique in general. It occurs on the word "change", which combines a lampshading with a "Funny Aneurysm" Moment, considering what was happening to Michael at the time.
    • Also happens towards the end of "Rock With You".
  • 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.
  • Verbal Tic: "HEE HEE!", "I don't know!", "CHAMONE!", "WOOH!" and his fairly unique vocal "hiccup" style also qualify.
  • Vocal Evolution: He sounded a lot more nasal, weak and forced on the live tracks for "Michael Jackson's This Is It". Especially noticeable since he sounded more or less exactly the same sans stylistic changes from Off the Wall through Invincible. It's also the reason why some of the more recent tracks on his first posthumous album, Michael are often believed to have been recorded by an impostor.
  • 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 (this, plus the white socks, were so that people in the cheap seats at his concerts could still make out his moves) was a trademark of his, earning him another nickname: "The Gloved One".
  • You Are Not Alone: Had a hit song by this title, penned by none other than R. Kelly.
  • Zipperiffic: The red jacket he wore in the "Beat It" video.

Who's bad???