A year ago today, the world lost Michael Jackson, undoubtedly the greatest entertainer of the 20th Century (sorry Elvis!). The ascendance of the King of Pop during the early 1980’s represents quite possibly the most mindboggling, immense shift the American (or World) pop cultural landscape has ever seen. At one point in time Thriller was literally selling a million copies a week; music videos for “Billie Jean,” “Beat It,” and of course “Thriller” were first-of-their-kind media events, ushering in an MTV-led, visual era in the music industry that we are just now starting to see come to a close. Arguably most importantly though were the racial barriers Michael quite literally shattered. No black artist had ever achieved anything that even approached the kind of crossover success Michael enjoyed with Thriller. The world would never be the same.
Of course, the most successful artist of all time also faced the harshest, most-widespread backlash in the history of popular music as well. And so we could spend all day ruminating over the brutal treatment of Michael Jackson during his life, his strange behavior, or the morbid fascination with his death and sheer opportunism we’ve witnessed since his passing. But I’d rather talk about the music. That is the man’s truly lasting legacy; everything else is really just scenery.
So on the one year anniversary of the death of Michael Jackson, my aim is to move beyond the myths and the scandals by focusing on an album unfettered by the weight of MJ’s incredible celebrity or incredulous detractors; Michael Jackson’s seminal 1979 album, Off The Wall.