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YMMV / Michael Jackson

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  • Accidental Innuendo:
    • The opening line for "Bad", "Your butt is mine". Of course it simply means "I'll kick your ass", but there is a certain other meaning... (The song was originally supposed to be a duet with him and Prince, who refused, saying, "There is no way I am singing 'Your butt is mine' to you and you are not singing it to me.")
    • "Beat it". The fact that he rhythmically repeats it during the mostly Title-Only Chorus doesn't help.
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  • Applicability: "Somewhere In The Dark," which was recorded exclusively for his audiobook recording of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, can easily be read as an analogy for Internet-based relationships.
  • Author's Saving Throw: HIStory didn't go over very well, as there was no way to buy it without also getting the Greatest Hits Album that comes with it, so Michael decided to create Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix, which has some new material, as well as remixes of songs from HIStory, so that songs would both get more exposure to people who didn't buy the album, and still be something new to listen to for the people that did.
  • Broken Base:
    • Some fans only like his pre-Thriller work, some only like Thriller and refuse to listen to his other stuff and some like it till the end, including Invincible and his posthumous albums.
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    • Whether or not Bob Fosse had a influence on the Billie Jean dance.
    • A good portion of fans believe that Dirty Diana was about Diana Ross. Other fans believe what Michael said about how the song was just about a random groupie.
  • Ear Worm: Most, if not all, of Michael's songs are very catchy and can be identified within the first few notes. Casual music listeners of all kinds may not be able to identify the most sampled drum beats of all time (such as the Amen Break or Funky Drummer) but they know when "Billie Jean" is playing.
  • Epic Riff: "Beat It." Just "Beat It."
    • The bass riff in "Smooth Criminal" too.
  • Even Better Sequel: Off the Wall? Highest-selling album by a black singer. Thriller? Highest-selling album. PERIOD.
  • Face of the Band: He pretty much was the only significant member of the Jackson 5.
  • Fanon Discontinuity:
    • The first four albums of his solo career, Got To Be There, Ben, Music & Me, and Forever, Michael, were made under the Motown banner and Michael himself didn't have creative control. Thus, some fans often do not consider them a part of his official solo catalog. He would get complete creative control with the move to Epic Records, starting with his next solo album Off The Wall.
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    • His first posthumous album, Michael, especially considering that the authenticity of some of the tracks was questioned.
    • Really, any of his post-Thriller albums are this to someone, the most common ones being HIStory and/or Invincible.
  • Friendly Fandoms: Thanks to his contributions to the soundtrack for Sonic 3 & Knuckles, a good number of Michael Jackson's fans also happen to be fans of the Sonic the Hedgehog series.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment:
    • Michael singing about the things that begin to beginning to "notice boys you like" during his 1991 appearance on The Simpsons. It's a song about the changes an eight-year-old girl goes through, but, still.
    • "Off The Wall" qualifies too. If there was ANYONE (other than Elvis Presley before him and Kurt Cobain later) who needed LESS craziness and MORE 9-5 everyday normality in his life, it was Michael Jackson.
    • Then there's the things not about his death, but the child molestation allegations. Say hello to this cover to Disney Adventures's June 1993 issue. Michael's smiling and hoisting Pinocchio on his shoulders, and there's the promise of things the reader (probably) didn't know about Michael Jackson. This was a mere two months before the disturbing sexual abuse allegations became public and shone a whole new light on the cover.
    • When Michael sang "Man In The Mirror" in 1987, about changing the world by starting with yourself, his facelifts had already significantly changed his own view in the mirror, and considering he just kept on changing his face...
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff:
    • As popular as he was in the United States, he was more popular in other countries (including Germany) due to the negative press being not as bad there. In the end, while he had tours for Dangerous and HIStory mounted, they did not include stops in the continental U.S.; he was planning for the Dangerous tour to reach the U.S., but then the first round of abuse allegations arrived. His This Is It tour was planned to be exclusively held at a single stadium in London.
    • This heartwarming essay on why Japan LOVES Michael Jackson to death.
  • Glurge:
    • He wrote a book called Dancing the Dream about, as a reviewer summarized: "a fanciful collection of poems, reflections and photographs that champions kids, endangered species, the homeless, AIDS victims and planet Earth."
    • "Heal the World", Ghosts and "Earth Song" also qualify, especially the notorious Brit Awards performance of the latter in 1996 (see Messianic Archetype on the main page) which Jarvis Cocker crashed at the midway point.
    • There's a lot of this in the rabid fandom too — the website Inner Michael is completely devoted to propping him up as a shining exemplar of humanity who was pure and perfect, a helpless victim of the black-hearted folk of the world who displaced their evil onto him by distorting his forever-innocent behavior.
    • He also collaborated with Eddie Murphy on the song "What's Up With You", the video for which features the two of them singing amidst a sea of fluffy white clouds as innocent schoolchildren frolic and sing around them. It's even more diabetes-inducing than it sounds.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • The "Thriller" video became scarier by the mid-2000's when the real appearance of Michael mimicked his zombie makeup.
    • There are t-shirts originally printed for his upcoming tour featuring "Thriller" zombie Jackson with the words "This is It" (the name of the tour) emblazoned across them. They didn't go on sale until after his death.
    • Michael Jackson claiming "I'm not like other guys" in the music video of "Thriller" is very funny in the light of everything that happened to him next, to the point that it could be called Captain Obvious.
    • For that matter, his unwillingness to stop spending so much of his time with young boys despite advisors' and friends' warnings that it looked bad would lead to his career's ultimate implosion at the Turn of the Millennium.
    • Just before his death, Q magazine published an article questioning whether or not his fragile health could take the strain of another tour (he had suffered some minor injuries from falling out of his shower a few months prior, something he himself admitted was the result of his frail build).
    • "Billie Jean" (in which Michael's character is dogged by rumors that he had children out of wedlock) became a lot more ironic once Michael had children and was dogged by rumors that they weren't his.
    • The song "Morphine". Made in 1997, it was about his addiction to prescription drugs. Even when he was alive it was pretty chilling. But now that it is suspected his death may have been linked to use of prescription drugs, and that's when it became downright scary.
    • There's also Harsher in Hindsight if you watch Ghosts, which is about Michael's character's house being raided by an angry mob of people who hate him because he's strange. At the end, he asks them if they still want him to go and the mob leader says yes. He says something "Fine, I'll go" and pounds himself into dust on the floor. It was just a ruse on Michael's character's part, but it's still creepy as hell now that the guy is actually dead, especially considering how much of his poor mental state and isolation was due (from his perspective) to people treating him like this.
    • Also, the burns he suffered while filming a Pepsi commercial back in 1984 was downplayed back then. In hindsight, the severity of said burns marked the beginning of his troubles with painkillers and other medication.
    • The song “Who Is It?” is about Michael trying to figure out who stole his girlfriend from him. At one point he asks, “Is it my brother?” Michael’s brother Jermaine actually married their brother Randy’s long-time girlfriend soon after the two had broken up.
    • He's also "falling" in this rarely known Whatzupwithu video with Eddie Murphy
  • Heartwarming in Hindsight: The music video for "Hollywood Tonight" stars Sofia Boutella. Both the song and the video are about a young woman looking for her big break in Tinseltown. Boutella has gotten major roles in big Hollywood blockbusters since, most of them well-received.
  • Internet Backdraft:
    • While it's calmed down a lot after his passing, mentioning MJ online is still a bit of a touchy subject outside of his fandom and expect to get a wide variety of reactions when you do.
    • A more specific example would be the infamous "Cascio Tracks" on his first posthumous album Michael note . Many fans, friends, former co-workers and even his relatives have denied that Michael actually sung those songs and insist they were sung by an impersonator, the most common candidate being an Italian-American R&B singer Jason Malachi, whose voice is very similar to Jackson's. It doesn't help that there has been no official proof that Jackson actually provided those vocals, aside from the word of Teddy Riley, and that Malachi "confessed" to singing them on his Facebook page in 2011, later retracting the statement, claiming he was hacked. Whether you believe it's really Michael or not, it's probably best not to mention it.
    • Whether B Howard is his illegitimate son or not.
  • Memetic Mutation:
  • Mondegreen:
    • Ask ten people what the lyrics to "Smooth Criminal" are, and you'll likely get ten different answers.
    • Also, the repeated cries of "cha-mone!" in his songs are actually, if one cares to but look at the printed lyrics in the album sleeve of the "Bad" CD, just Michael unclearly singing "come on!"
  • Never Live It Down:
    • "I liked him until he became white." It wasn't entirely his fault, since he had vitiligo and therefore had to apply makeup to even out the skintone.
    • Michael openly admitted to and defended sleeping in the same bed as children that weren't his. And we do mean "sleep", not anything more, but this attitude was brought up a lot by the public until his death. To elaborate, these statements came out amidst Michael's second round of child molestation accusations and weren't doing him any favors.
      • After the release of Leaving Neverland in early 2019 featuring the testimonies of James Safechuck and Wade Robson that Michael sexually abused them for years, this reputation has had a major resurgence. Time will tell what will come of it.
    • The notorious "Jew me, sue me" and "Kick me, kike me" lines in "They Don't Really Care About Us," which continue to earn him accusations of antisemitism over 20 years later. They were meant to be a tongue-in-cheek Take That! at actual bigots who would only see people as their ethnicity and nothing more, but some people would not believe in that. It didn't help that among the many other negative rumors about him in the 2000s was an alleged quote from him calling Jewish people "thieves."
    • Even those who disregard the plastic surgeries and child molestation charges aren't likely to forget him dangling his infant son over a balcony any time soon.
  • Older Than They Think:
    • Many people think Michael invented the moonwalk, but Jazz musicians like Cab Calloway were doing the move as "The Buzz" as far back as the 1920s.
    • He also did not invent the story-driven Concept Video; David Bowie (who was doing them at the end of The '70s) is just one artist who predates him in that area.
    • Nor did he invent the one-glove look. That one dates back to 1920 and Enrico Caruso, arguably the King of Opera, after an apparent stroke crippled his right hand. He even joked that people would just see it as a way of getting publicity. Michael himself likely wore the glove to cover up skin blotches from the vitiligo since he began wearing it shortly before the disease started spreading.
    • However, this is averted in that he did invent the equipment for the famous leaning move in the "Smooth Criminal" music video. You can read the official patent for it yourself.
  • Overshadowed by Controversy: Michael was accused more than once of molesting children, which irreparably tainted his public image for the rest of his life. To the point only his death permitted his work to again be appreciated without remembering all the bad stuff MJ went through in his life. This image would again resurface with the release of the 2019 documentary Leaving Neverland, which caused a widespread re-evaluation of his reputation.
  • Popularity Polynomial: Started to decay after Dangerous and by the Turn of the Millennium, only his most die-hard fans stood by him. Was beginning to go back into the spotlight prior to his farewell tour - only for the unfortunate Author Existence Failure to ensure he became popular again. The release of Leaving Neverland caused it to revert as people re-evaluated his legacy in light of the film’s contents.
  • Protection from Editors: Why Dangerous, HIStory and Invincible ended up how they did.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: Given every pop artist since the 80s is influenced by Jackson in a way, his then groundbreaking work can be seen as aged by younger audiences.
  • Sequel Displacement: As noted above, it's usually acknowledged that his solo career starts with Off the Wall, which marks his departure from Motown to Epic Records.
  • Signature Song: "Beat It", "Thriller", "Billie Jean", or "Bad".
  • Stuck in Their Shadow: With the exception of Janet, who launched her career in 1982 but didn't hit it big until '86, no one seemed to care about Michael's siblings once he became a megastar.
  • Surprisingly Improved Sequel: The first posthumous album, Michael, got mixed reviews and even raised controversy on whether it actually featured Jackson. The follow-up, Xscape, on the other hand, was much better received.
  • Tough Act to Follow: Thriller and its followup Bad. Allmusic even states Dangerous (which has the twofer of following both and being contemporaneous to Grunge) is "the rare multi-platinum, number one album that qualifies as a nearly forgotten, underappreciated record."
  • Vindicated by History:
    • Blood on the Dance Floor and some of his other later works were re-examined after his death and found to be actually quite good.
    • "Morphine" especially was given a sudden burst of publicity and acclaim after the media spread that it was essentially an open confession of the drug use (right down to the name of the drug) that would later kill him. In reality, he never actually mentioned it seeing as Propofol is actually an anesthetic not a painkiller.
  • Vocal Minority: His U.S. fanbase from 1994 onward, best summed up by the throngs that hung out around the courthouse during his 2005 trial and the small, stunned crowd which gathered outside the hospital where he died shortly after it was reported that he was there (and before it was announced he had a heart attack, was in a coma or dead).
  • Wasted Song: Jackson felt this about "Break Of Dawn" from Invincible, having intended it as a single prior to his label issues, and included it on the compilation Number Ones as a result.


Example of: