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MJ still thrills Michael Jackson remains a phenomenon–one that captivated a global audience during his lifetime as in his death

ROUBLE RAGHUVANSHI WHAT DO you say about a man who inspired as he intrigued, entertained as he educated, mesmerised as he provoked; a celebrity who was loved as was misunderstood and attacked; a legend in his own might; a man who lived in a simulated fantasy world while exposing the real humanitarian issues through his songs; and a man whose art was sublime and remains unchallenged? What do you say about “King of Pop” Michael Joseph Jackson? That no one can possibly “beat” him. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey in 1993, Jackson said, “My purpose? Oh boy! I think, to give in the best way I can, through song and through dance and through music. I mean, I am committed to my art. I believe that all art has as its ultimate goal the union between the material and the spiritual, the human and the divine. I believe that to be the reason for the very existence of art. And, I feel I was chosen as an instrument to just give music and love and harmony to the world.” What Elvis Presley worked for rock, Michael Jackson weaved for pop–a magic. Be it his signature hiccups, the hee hee, the foot thumping, the quick swirls or the moonwalk, just everything about MJ was spectacular and arresting. His music became well-known for its inimitable soulfulness and riveting tempo, his lyrics became popular for their uncompromising meaning, but what streamlined and made his songs outstanding were the videos that gave form to his thoughts and purpose. His was concept music, a clarion call for change–his videos drew you in as if a part of the art piece. Through complex storylines, signature dance moves, special effects

“I want to be known as a great artist. I love what I do and I would love people to love what I do and to be loved. I just simply want to be loved wherever I go all over the world, because I love people of all races from my heart with true affection.”



and the much-loved overarching appearances, Jackson transformed the music video into an art form and a promotional tool to break down racial barriers, thus engendering a movement towards social justice. According to director Vincent Paterson, who collaborated with the singer on several music videos, Jackson conceptualised many of the darker, bleak themes in his filmography; his motive was to wipe off those elements from the world. Billie Jean was the first video ever from an African-American to be aired by MTV; an instant hit that not only gave the channel a popularity push, but ended a strain of Semitism that Black music was not “rock” enough. It made pop and R&B all the rage. The swift spin, the hiccups and the framed freeze on toes–the dance made Jackson more than a singer. Centred around the real incident of a woman writing to him about his being the biological father of one of her children, and the paparazzi adding fuel to the fire, it punctured the craziness that swamps women to cook up such stories, and the frenzy of the media to send it rounds. The choreography in Thriller went on to become a part of the global pop culture, replicated everywhere–from the prisons in the Phillippines to our very own Bollywood. So much so that the Thriller short film marked an increase in scale for music videos, and is named as the most successful music video ever by the Guinness World Record. What rocked audiences the world over was the innovative anti-gravity lean in his performances for Smooth Criminal, for which Jackson was granted a US patent. The music video for Leave Me Alone was nominated for four Billboard Music Video Awards, winning three; the same year, it won a Golden Lion Award for the quality of the special effects used in its production. In 1990, Leave Me Alone won a Grammy for Best Music Video in Short Form. The MTV Video Vanguard Artist of the Decade Award was given to Jackson to celebrate his accomplishments in the art form in the 1980s; the following year, the award was renamed in his honour. Black or White controversial music video was simultaneously premiered in 27 countries, with an estimated audience of 500 million people on November 14, 1991. It was the largest viewing ever for a music video and ushered in morphing as an important technology in music videos.

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FACTS THAT CELEBRATE THE PHENOMENON CALLED MICHAEL JACKSON Jackson's waxwork features in five Madame Tussauds museums across the world. Only Elvis Presley and Madonna have more Tussaud figures–they have six each. Jackson has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: one for radio play, located at 1541 Vine Street, and one for recording at 6927 Hollywood Boulevard. Jackson received a Presidential Humanitarian Award from Ronald Reagan in 1984 for his support of charities helping people overcome alcohol and drug abuse. Jackson fought fellow 50-year-old Madonna on MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch–he lost. Jackson wore his trademark black armband to remind fans of the suffering of children around the world. Jackson's favourite superhero was Morph from the X-Men. Jackson picked up his iconic moonwalk moves, which he debuted at the Motown 25th Anniversary show in 1983, from street dancers he spotted performing outside a hotel. Bubbles, the chimp, and Ben, the rat, were two of Jackson's most famous pets, but he also befriended a ram called Mr Tibbs, a python called Crusher, and Louie the llama. In 1984, a US library accused Jackson of owing it over $1 million in overdue book fines. Officials said they would scrap the fines if he returned the books autographed. Jackson was a vegetarian. Jackson really is a King in West Africa–he was given a royal title by villagers in Gabon, Ivory Coast in 1992. Jackson appeared on a postage stamp in the Virgin Islands in the mid-1980s after locals voted him the superstar they'd most like to honour.

When talking of Jackson’s videos, one can’t forget the ground-breaking visual effects in Remember the Time, the Egyptian setting and exotic charm extended by Eddie Murphy, Iman and Magic Johnson. What moves, what music, what impact! The $7 million, critically-acclaimed video for Scream with sister Janet Jackson is simply unforgettable. Largely shot in black and white, the music video gained 11 MTV Video Music Award nominations and won the Best Dance Video, Best Art Direction and Best Choreography awards. It was a response to the hostile criticism Jacko received from the media after being accused of child molestation in 1993. A year later, the video won a Grammy for Best Music Video, Short Form; shortly afterwards, Guinness World Records listed it as the most expensive music video ever made. On a track of records was yet another of Jackson’s videos, the one for Ghosts. It is over 38 minutes’ long and holds the Guinness World Record as the world's longest music video. MJ was larger than life in his music, in his lifestyle, and as a person. If his music created ripples of energy, it were his videos and his performances therein that glorified it further. Whether it was the Earth Song, They Don’t Care About Us or We are the World, there was a depth to his artworks. They touched the deepest emotions and released an almost infectious energy. Jackson created Neverland in his music–a Neverland no one else could have built better, and one we hope to find yet again through his songs.



CELEBRITY MICHAEL JACKSON Michael Jackson remains a phenomenon–one that captivated a global audience during his lifetime as in his death “I...