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Why was Michael Jackson so popular?

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cliveandrews
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I like his stuff but don't see how it's so head and shoulders above anything else that's ever been done that he's got the highest selling album of all time. A lot of his content is really mindless and strange, although I realize that's not what it's about. Is it a sympton of cultural depravity that he would become as popular as he has?

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Is it a sympton of cultural depravity that he would become as popular as he has?

No. His work was not depraved, so its popularity is not a symptom of cultural depravity.

I'm not saying it's amazing art, I agree with you that it's nothing special. Just like most pop music, it was designed (by people behind the scenes) to appeal to kids, who don't have a sophisticated taste in art, so they eat it up. Couple that with just an optimal time in music history for these type of albums (MTV at its height, economic boom in the West, most of the world opening up to Western culture as a result of Communism's downfall), and his albums became massive hits.

It wasn't great art (at least it doesn't appeal to me), but it was amazing work nonetheless, from both Michael and the people around him, in creating it to appeal to the target audience, marketing it, performing it on stage, etc.

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People with bad taste outnumber the rest of us :P

For more information ponder these lines attributed to P.T. Barnum:

"There's a sucker born every minute."

"Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people."

Is it a sympton of cultural depravity that he would become as popular as he has?

No. Bad taste does not necessarily indicate depravity.

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I think you've nailed it. :P

Thanks.

Seriously, though, why was Jackson so popular?

I think there are two eras to his popularity:

1) the Thrilelr era

2) the Wacko Jacko era

The second one is easy to explain: people are fascinated by a train-wreck. I just can't explain the first one. Jackson's music was nothing special, not better than anything contemporary, not even with his considerable vocal talent. I think much the same about Shakira's music today, even though Shakira has an amazing voice (music and singing aside she's one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen). There as the famous Thrilelr video, a mini-movie directed by John Landis, using special effects, elaborate sets, tons fo extras, etc etc and it was over ten minutes long. But even with MTV at its peak, the music was still nothing much.

So I come back to bad taste and pandering.

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A little personal anecdote: I used to play in a cover band 15 years ago. Our singer was charismatic, funny, and engaged the crowd. He was also an alcoholic and often went out of tune when drunk on stage. We had a split towards the end, and I replaced him on the mike for one night. I was sober, stayed in tune, and played bass at the same time. The reaction was nowhere near the reaction he got from the audience. I was a dutiful workhorse, he was the life of the party. Try as I might, I simply don't have that "extroverted" personality required to be a frontman (of that kind.) Something was missing, that "it" factor, and, well, he had "it."

Same with Michael Jackson. I suspect many who "wonder" about MJ's appeal simply don't get the funky, sensual side of things, it's not "rational." It's psychological. Michael Jackson gave the audience something they wanted on a personal level. To say his music, or to say that MJ wasn't "anything amazing"....well, to his fans, he obviously was. Like it or hate it, you can't take that away from them (I'd like to see you try!)

The point? It's not about "musical ability" or technical virtuosity with Michael Jackson, it was, to use Rand's term, "the inexplicable personal alchemy." It was the style, the projection of...well, whatever it was he projected, and the projections of the audience onto Jackson. He was a package-deal of the charming, precocious kid from the Jackson Five, combined with a certain sensuality that could be tender on one hand ("The Girl Is Mine, "Ben"), funky and sexual ("Don't Stop 'tl You Get Enough"), and, em, er...dangerous ("Beat It," "Thriller.") A lot of his fans were women, and he could project the warmth and safety of a good provider, but also be "the bad boy." And he projected fun AND confidence.

(I bet fans of Salieri probably said the same sort of things at the news of Mozart's death. Surely Salieri was a better composer; Mozart wasn't anything special...:P

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Thriller came in on a combination of converging factors that propelled Jackson to the top, which Jake has covered already. The perfect musical storm, to paraphrase an overused expression. Right place, right time. Not my cup o' tea, though, I was more of a Zepplin guy back then.

I think Shakira is marvelous. Most people have no idea as to her true talent and musical range. Her music covers a wide variety, from ballads to pop. I agree she is one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen. I have a 2 hour DVD of her Oral Fixation tour - highly recommended.

Edited by Maximus
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I think Shakira is marvelous. Most people have no idea as to her true talent and musical range. Her music covers a wide variety, from ballads to pop. I agree she is one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen. I have a 2 hour DVD of her Oral Fixation tour - highly recommended.

You know, I like to hear her sing, but I don't like what she sings. I mean the combination of music and lyrics is just wrong, but she has an exceptional voice. So if she comes up on the radio, that's great. But I woulnd't pay a dime for her music. I'd love to hear what Shakria could do to music like Pat Benatar's or Joan jett's or Stevie Nicks'.

As to her looks, she is in great shape and has an exotic mix of arab, latin and spaniard features.

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Take my opinion with a grain of salt because I wasn't around during the whole Michael Jackson craze. From what I've heard, his fame seemed to be due to quite a few factors. He was a great dancer and combined that very well with his singing, I don't think there were many people at the time that could do both as well as he. Plus, he invented the moonwalk, which is still awesome to this day. His songs were simple and catchy and appealed to a wide array of people. He produced music videos people had never seen before, i.e. high production costs, special effects, storylines, etc. His stage act was also supposed to be amazing as well, I believe in one concert he actually rocketed up from the bottom of the stage and landed in one of his poses. I think he's one of those figures that, looking back, we'll never be able to really understand if we weren't in the middle of that craze.

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Plus, he invented the moonwalk, which is still awesome to this day.

I'll concede he may have come up with it independently, but it existed long before his time (I don't recall where I got this info from, though).

His songs were simple and catchy and appealed to a wide array of people.

Personal taste. I never found them catchy, more like annoying.

He produced music videos people had never seen before, i.e. high production costs, special effects, storylines, etc.

Again, not entirely. The Thriller video was something special, yes, probably cost more than ten independent movies. But storylines and visual effects were common back then as well.

I think he's one of those figures that, looking back, we'll never be able to really understand if we weren't in the middle of that craze.

I was in the middle of that craze, I suspect others in the forum were (I'm looking at Maximus specifically). I even watched MTV at the time. I still don't understand what people liked about Jackson, or why their liking went so far as to produce large numbers of really fanatical followers.

Madona rose about the same time. That I understand. She's hot, though not really pretty or beautiful, highly sugestive and thoroughly irrepressible (then, at least). She used shock tactics, too. Not so much at first, but later on with videos like "Open Your Heart," (incredible that it was never banned) and her book called "Sex." She kept changing her look and persona both in her music, her act and for every public appearance. She kept trying to make movies even though she stinks as an actress (she made a lot considering her ability). And her music was ok, not great but passable. Her shows were also quite spectacular, with lots of dancers and costume changes.

So she played the rebel to teens who love nothing more than to rebel (rebellious teen is a redundant term). Specifically she played the sexual rebel at a time when the religious right was ascendant (this was in the middle of the Reagan era). What's really astonishing is that Madona still can bring in money with her shows and music to this day. She's likely in the last stage of her career, but it's impressive all the same.

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For me, he was so great because he was ground-breaking. No one had made music that sounded like that before and certainly no one had danced like that before. I said it in another thread, and I'll post it here too...I remember watching the following awards show with my family when I was a pre-teen girl and we were all just astonished. Never before had we seen anyone move quite like that. At the point in the video where he does the moonwalk, households across America exclaimed, "How'd he do that?!" Now it's nothing, but back then, it was incredibly creative and thoroughly entertaining.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GzNiZ4CjSsc

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Never before had we seen anyone move quite like that. At the point in the video where he does the moonwalk, households across America exclaimed, "How'd he do that?!"

You'd never seen Marcel Marceau? Granted his walking against the wind routine isn't dance, but that's the moonwalk right there. He had better lines, too ;)

Look, what I can't understand is why ayone likes Jackson's music at all, let alone liking it so much as to voluntarily listen to it (I'm quite sure I did destroy that Thriller tape I got as a gift; I must have).

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You'd never seen Marcel Marceau? Granted his walking against the wind routine isn't dance, but that's the moonwalk right there. He had better lines, too ;)

Look, what I can't understand is why ayone likes Jackson's music at all, let alone liking it so much as to voluntarily listen to it (I'm quite sure I did destroy that Thriller tape I got as a gift; I must have).

You funny! I have to say it: Michael was better than Marceau, however, it was nice to see the two of them on stage together, and Michael looking rather amateur in doing mime with him. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xj8oIrdGNiw

As far as Mike's music: He was a genius. It's sad that some will refuse to see what's undeniable. Is it a form of evasion?

C!

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You funny! I have to say it: Michael was better than Marceau, however, it was nice to see the two of them on stage together, and Michael looking rather amateur in doing mime with him. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xj8oIrdGNiw

He's not really trying there...

One thing that made him such a talented dancer was that he had perfect coordination and motor skills already from a very early age, when most kids are still clumsy.

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You'd never seen Marcel Marceau? Granted his walking against the wind routine isn't dance, but that's the moonwalk right there. He had better lines, too ;)

Look, what I can't understand is why ayone likes Jackson's music at all, let alone liking it so much as to voluntarily listen to it (I'm quite sure I did destroy that Thriller tape I got as a gift; I must have).

D'kian, can't or won't?

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You funny!

By that I take it you mean the oblique reference to Mel Brooks' Silent Movie (by now a rather obscure work)

As far as Mike's music: He was a genius.

Absolutely. Few others I can think of can induce a homocidal/suicidal response with any part of a song, no matter how small. It takes genius to achieve that.

It's sad that some will refuse to see what's undeniable. Is it a form of evasion?

Indeed.

Unless you mean Jackson's shallow, repetitive beats were in any way, shape or form either good or enjoyable. Mass delussions are common (read up on the Martian Canals). They're a form of wishful thinking, not evasion. But surely you can't possibly mean that.

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Unless you mean Jackson's shallow, repetitive beats were in any way, shape or form either good or enjoyable. Mass delussions are common (read up on the Martian Canals). They're a form of wishful thinking, not evasion. But surely you can't possibly mean that.

So that I am clear on what in your view is "the good" in musical performances, I will simply as you: who would you say has talent, and in what regard they are superior to Michael Jackson?

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I remember Michael Jackson with the Jackson Five. I believe he was the youngest in the group and clearly the most talented. He really stood out and his music was very bright and positive. I think that was a lot of his attraction. He projected a great sense of life, with both music and dance.

Here he is very early on on the Ed Sullivan show:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntNJGZQk4kM

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So that I am clear on what in your view is "the good" in musical performances, I will simply as you: who would you say has talent, and in what regard they are superior to Michael Jackson?

Beethoven or Coltrane were more talented, in the way that they wrote better music. So was John Williams, John Lennon, Jim Morrison, Mick Jagger, Johnny Cash, and countless other contemporary composers and musicians, in the way that they wrote and performed better music. The pattern here: better music=more talented.

Edited by Jake_Ellison
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So that I am clear on what in your view is "the good" in musical performances, I will simply as you: who would you say has talent, and in what regard they are superior to Michael Jackson?

Oh, about 99.999% of any performers who do not perform disco, rap, break dance, heavy metal, progressive rock, teen pop, folk, or country music (I reserve the right to add to this list). In every respect.

I hope that's clear. It's certainly extensive :P

NOTE: by "good" in this context I mean "quality." Specifically I mean music that does not induce vomiting, nausea, rage, or any other kind of feeling that makes one either 1) try to move faster than humanly possible to change the station/eject the CD/eject the tape/knock the turntable arm/turn the damn thinkg off, 2) wish passionately one were deaf or dead, 3) make one run faster than light to wherever something else can be heard.

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Beethoven or Coltrane were more talented, in the way that they wrote better music. So was John Williams, John Lennon, Jim Morrison, Mick Jagger, Johnny Cash, and countless other contemporary composers and musicians, in the way that they wrote and performed better music. The pattern here: better music=more talented.

At the risk of angering you my sensitive friend, what defines "better music?" and why should one's evaluation be limited to the music only as opposed to the entire performance?

Just askin'.

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NOTE: by "good" in this context I mean "quality." Specifically I mean music that does not induce vomiting, nausea, rage, or any other kind of feeling that makes one either 1) try to move faster than humanly possible to change the station/eject the CD/eject the tape/knock the turntable arm/turn the damn thinkg off, 2) wish passionately one were deaf or dead, 3) make one run faster than light to wherever something else can be heard.

So you're defining it in purely subjective terms? Every use of the word "one" here is incorrect, and should be replaced with "me".

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NOTE: by "good" in this context I mean "quality." Specifically I mean music that does not induce vomiting, nausea, rage, or any other kind of feeling that makes one either 1) try to move faster than humanly possible to change the station/eject the CD/eject the tape/knock the turntable arm/turn the damn thinkg off, 2) wish passionately one were deaf or dead, 3) make one run faster than light to wherever something else can be heard.

So, just to be sure; good music, is by your definition, any music that you like, or others that share your musical "taste"? If it is something other than this, please be specific. You stated earlier that people such as myself are essentially retarded/brainwashed/uncultured/etc., and that's why we like Michael Jackson. I am seeking enlightenment from you, and wanna know what specifically I should look for in "good music". So far, I am not getting much from your description. I know it could not be true that you would give quite subjective reasons for your objective conclusion of Michael Jackson's inferiority, so i am simply asking that you give some of your objective reasons.

C!

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