You don’t have to convince me about the power of Michael Jackson. His name is Michael Joseph Jackson. Mine is Michael Joseph Arceneaux. I was born in 1984, i.e. 25 years after the debut Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5 and two years after the release of the record-breaking, worldwide smash and hugely influential Thriller album. For many – notably 1980s babies and the pop stars they’ve seen produced – he is a template and a genre of music unto himself.
Still, there is one point that should be obvious but apparently continues to go over people’s heads: there will never be another Michael Jackson.
However, that doesn’t stop people from either comparing themselves to Michael Jackson or allowing other people to do it for them.
Nick Cannon recently took to Instagram and uploaded an image that drew the ire of anyone with some damn sense. In what he called “The Perfect Equation,” it argued that Michael Jackson and 2Pac equal Chris Brown. In the caption, Cannon argued, “A lot of times we don’t realize or acknowledge our treasures while we still have them with us. We wait until they are gone to appreciate their power.”
I have never supported Mariah Carey more than I do in this moment.
Let’s be very clear that while the sentiment “you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone (Joni Mitchell never lied)” is true, it doesn’t apply here. Michael Jackson was the biggest pop star on the planet. 2Pac was a hugely successful rapper with a burgeoning career in Hollywood. Both sold tens of millions of albums. Both were critical and commercial successes until the day they died. Both, however, faced some serious allegations leveled against them and the world reacted accordingly. Such is life.
Chris Brown is indeed talented, but even before “the incident” with Rihanna (as in, the physical assault of her), he was in no way shape or form comparable to them. He was on the verge of wider success, but even under heavy controversy and criticism, manages to be one of R&B’s greatest successes. That’s good for him, but as far as being a creative goes, Chris Brown is basically a light skinned Bobby Brown rather than the second coming of Michael Jackson.
And to be perfectly quite honest, if nothing else, Bobby Brown gave the world Don’t Be Cruel. Chris Brown doesn’t even have that, so don’t you dare keep comparing to Michael Jackson just because Chris Brown can dance. He doesn’t even dance like Michael Jackson, for the record.
People use Michael Jackson as a measuring stick of an artist’s worth. The problem with that is most folks have no real appreciation for who Michael was beyond an amazing dancer with some cool videos.
Take for instance, the other person who is now being compared to Michael Jackson: The Weeknd.
You know, I’ve come to embrace the gloomy Canadian’s music. It’s like American Horror Story meets sex and drugs. I even appreciate how candid he is about his pursuit of mainstream popularity. Nevertheless, paying homage to Michael Jackson on songs like “Can’t Feel My Face,” “In The Night,” or his remake of Jackson’s “Dirty Diana” a new Michael Jackson does not make. Don’t let the great stab at karaoke fool you.
Unlike Brown, The Weeknd himself has introduced the Jackson comparisons to a degree, openly professing his love and admiration for Jackson in the New York Times magazine, and more recently, Rolling Stone. In the latter interview, The Weeknd said, “People forget — ’We Are the World’ is for Ethiopia. At home, if it wasn’t Ethiopian music, it was Michael. He was our icon.”
I’m touched, but not so much by the tagline in the piece and the other about him wanting to be “our” or “your” Michael Jackson.
If there’s a heaven, I hope Jackson is quoting the chorus of Trillville’s “Neva Eva.” He has every right to.
Michael Jackson was a child prodigy. Michael Jackson is a very gifted vocalist whose ability to entertain often overshadows that tidbit. Michael Jackson literally changed the music video. Michael Jackson is a true visionary. His style of performances pulled from other influences, but ultimately made something all his own. He was not ’Diet James Brown,’ as many of those who followed him shoot to be, more or less, a Coke Zero version of him.
I could go on and on, but by now I hope you get the point. Michael Jackson was so much more than just a moonwalk, a hot music video, and a hee-hee-hee. When people make these comparisons as a compliment to another artist, it often reads as an insult to Michael Jackson’s multi-faceted legacy.
I know people mean well, but I mean even better when I tell them to get the hell on. Insert “shamon” here. And then add a thrust kick, crotch grab combo. Now get.
Want to know what celebs thought of the Weeknd’s MJ-esque performance at the 2016 Grammy Awards? Check out the vid above!