Follow TV Tropes

Following

Music / Michael Jackson

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/maxresdefault_666.jpg
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."
Advertisement:

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.

Advertisement:

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 personal life and some allegations of sexual abuse against children. 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.

Advertisement:

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 his death:
    • 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

Films:


Notable Advertisements


    open/close all folders 

    Tropes Associated with his works: 
  • '70s Hair: The afro he sported with The Jackson 5.
  • '80s Hair: His trademark Jheri Curl, as seen in the image above.
  • 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.
  • Ancient Egypt: The "Remember the Time" music video took place in an ancient Egyptian court, full of pharaohs and the like. No mummies, though.
  • 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. It's a song about a woman who claims her child is his, which he denies.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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".
  • 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.”
  • Cute Kitten: On the 25th anniversary edition of Thriller's cover, Jackson is holding a tiger cub.
  • Cooking Duel: Several of his appearances and works has Michael's character resolve a potentially violent conflict through dance battles:
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • Face-Revealing Turn: The music video for "Thriller" has possibly the most famous (and most frequently 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.
  • 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. It enhances their approachability and safe persona.
  • 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.
  • Guyliner: Wore it from the mid-80s onward, allegedly having tattoos on his eyelids to resemble this in his later years.
  • 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.
  • 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 originator, obviously. There are countless parodies of dancing zombies that can be directly traced to "Thriller."
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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".
  • 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: Jackson was a strong supporter of "Weird Al" Yankovic and even let Weird Al use the “Badder” set from Moonwalker to film the “Bad” parody, “Fat”. Weird Al was also one of the many celebrities to appear in the video for "Liberian Girl". The only parody request Jackson turned down from Weird Al was for "Black or White", because Jackson felt the song's subject matter was too serious to be parodied.
  • Pass the Popcorn: Sorta does this in the "Thriller" video, noshing away at popcorn while his girlfriend recoils in terror during the movie. An animated gif featuring this scene has become a massive meme.
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • Remix Album: Four of them. The Original Soul of Michael Jackson (1986), Blood On the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix (1997), and The Stripped Mixes and The Remix Suite (both 2009).
  • 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.
  • 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:
    • Many 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".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 film opens with a short skit, ends with a short skit, and in between is music video magic.
  • 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.
  • 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 gearchange.org 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.
  • 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.
  • Zipperiffic: The red jacket he wore in the "Beat It" video was covered in zippers, and was iconic enough that it's a likely trope codifier.

Who's bad???

Top