Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Episode 66: A Tribute to the King of Pop

I wanted to wait until more facts came out before writing this, but it seems news surrounding Michael Jackson will take weeks, even months to decode. This is the first celebrity death that has really hurt me. Michael Jackson is unquestionably my favorite pop musician by far. As a composer and producer, I have dissected his songs to uncover exactly how he makes such sonic magic on almost every single track. He was a major inspiration for many of my productions, especially when I first started. Looking at all the documentaries and Jackson movie that has been on a constant loop since his tragic death, I can’t help but feel a big hole in my heart.

Michael Jackson literally is the father of modern pop music. Every single act following him from Madonna to Justin Timberlake and everyone in between is an iteration of a Michael Jackson innovation. Multi-million dollar music videos? Grandiose live concerts? Provocative dance moves? It all started with Jackson. While Will Smith tried to capture lighting in a bottle with is multi-million dollar videos, Britney Spears tried to create the entire pop package with her videos, catchy beats, and out of this world live concerts, and Chris Brown tried to captivate his audience with some of the best dancing ever seen, no single artist other than Michael Jackson was able to successfully do it all.

I offer to you Michael Jackson, my four song salute – of all the many tracks I have put on repeat countless times, these are the songs that I have played the most! (It was originally three but I almost forgot one that I played 1000 times when I as a teenager!)

#1 “In the Closet” (Dangerous album) – The dangerous album was my first favorite album. I was in… 7th or 8th grade at its release and that is the age kids start listening to music. The breakdown on the pre-chorus still gives me goose bumps, and his “ahhhhhh (there’s) something about you baybeh” is so smooth. It is not his most popular song (though the music video got a lot of people’s attention) but it is by a good margin, my favorite song.

#2 "Give in to Me” (Dangerous Album) – Though many people will mention their favorite songs from the Thriller or Off the Wall albums, I grew up with Dangerous, so these are the songs I sing in the shower all the time! But Give in to Me was so eerie; I love how he switches from a desperate moan in the verse to full unabated anger in the chorus. This is the first Jackson song I memorized the lyrics to, and also the first pop song I learned to play on the guitar.

#3 “Liberian Girl” (Bad Album) – This song has one of the smoothest melodies know to man. In fact the notes he sings in the line “Liberian Girl,” that musical structure has actually come to define my style of composing! (When he says girl, he doesn’t resolve the note… in music this is called “suspension.” This technique has become the cornerstone of my writing style.) It is also the song I used to practice singing harmonies. In the chorus “Liberian girl/You know THAT YOU came AND YOU changed my world” The capitalized notes is the same type of suspension, but he resolves right away on the word “you.” It is my FAVORITE musical motif ever. Thanks Michael =)

#4 “Dirty Diana” (Bad Album) – Man does this song bring back memories! In junior high school, a friend who was as big a MJ fan as me used to sing this song with me everywhere… waiting for the bus, kickin’ our game to the ladies, and most memorable, at a school field trip to Great Adventure where, using 20 oz. soda bottles for microphones, we sang this song, dances moves, air guitar, and all, to anyone who’d listen… and drew a sizable crowd! Michael Jackson has sings this song with such a perfect delivery and also wrote yet another great melody! Also, this song marries the song and lyrical structure of the Blues with 80s Rock n Roll in a way no other artist could do it.

I will miss you Michael Jackson. I have stuck by you from the good years and the bad, and as long as there is a device capable of playing music, your legacy will continued to be passed along through my speakers! I could not help but well up a bit writing this, but they are tears of sorrow for losing my favorite artist, and tears of joy and gratitude for bringing me years of memories and musical guidance.

Michael Jackson, you are the best… may you rest in peace.
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6 comments: on "Episode 66: A Tribute to the King of Pop"

Devrim said...

Forgive me for being blatant sir, but, before there was MJ, there was Jethro Tull with Ian Anderson; Pink Floyd with "teacher teacher, you are just another brick in the wall"; Iron Maiden with the "freaky" Eddie.

Correct me if I am wrong, 90% of MJ's dance videos were choreographed by Paula Abdul. 90% of his lyrics were written by other people. So, we are looking at an entertainer, who delivered the words and moves that were already written for him. May I go one step further and compare your adoration with MJ with some one we both know who depends on a teleprompter 90% of the time ?

MJ was a good entertainer, there was a time in my life where I enjoyed how he delivered the music others wrote for him.

That being said, I didn't appreciate a bit when he dangled his (alleged) kid from a 5th story window. I didn't appreciate a bit when he acted like a "WHITE WOMAN" while he was born a "BLACK MAN". I can extend the list, but would it make any more sense than Billy Mays selling me a gallon of OxyClean ?

The Law said...

Nice to see you on the L Comment again Dev. You crack me up... I think if I said the sky was blue, you'd explain how it is actually green! lmao

The entertainers you mention are geniuses in their own right, but none of them are pop musicians. It also bugs me when people rag on artists for having choreographers and songwriters... almost every single artist who has ever made an album has had the benefit of a songwriter!! Song writing is an industry in and of itself (not to mention a lucrative one if you're good!) That would be equivilent to saying Steven Speilberg, Michele Gaundry, and J.J. Abrahms are second rate directors because they didn't write their own scripts! Sorry, but most people don't understand how the indurty works... most every artists has at least one songwriter, or co-written song ont he track. Furthermore, MJ co-wrote a most of his songs, so he was still involved in the process.

Also, of course MJ had choreographers! But there are very few dancers who can pull off moves like his, combining multiple styles such as jazz, ballet, and tap dance into a style that is uniquely Michael Jackson.

Regarding his antics, well it's hard to defend that... you gotta take the good with the bad. But anyone in the pop industry will agree that Michael Jackson defined modern pop music.

TRUTH 101 said...

When celebrities die, their fans grieve. They feel a loss. Instead of making fun of them, think about how you felt when one of your favorite celebrities died. I won't make fun of those that grieve Michael Jackson's death because I grieved John Lennon's with the same sorrow. Think of the millions who took Elvis Presley's death hard.

He was a great entertainer and I had THriller and Off The Wall in my album collection. I hope he is at peace.

Left Coast Rebel said...

MJ's passing is a great loss. I recall listening to the Thriller album on vinyl in secret at a neighbor's house. My parents forbade me from listening to him. They thought that he was evil. If they only knew the turn that hip-hop would make into the 90's and 2000's - MJ is a saint on a substance basis. I'll never forget huddling close to the speakers and listening to Thriller, especially the album title song Thriller. I thought it was so cool. I am sad for the loss to the world and also the unfortunate path that his life led in the last 5-10 years......

The Law said...

@ LCR, that's a great story! I went to a concert at my graduate school, celebrating the first amendment in music lyrics. It seems parents forbade their kids to listen to all sorts of stuff, and kids being kids found ways to listen to their favorite songs anyway! MJ will be missed

Andrew33 said...

The marriage musically of Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones created some of the best music of the time when I was growing up. It is unfortunate that Q does not get the credit he deserves as he made Jackson's music happen. The Michael Jackson story is a tragedy. He spent his entire childhood being "Michael Jackson" the performer and never got to enjoy just being a child. I believe that there is the cause of his downward spiral. It is a shame that he turned into such a freak show. Our local newspaper showed pics of him as a child in '72, as a young man in '84 and then a recent picture. For me, the Michael Jackson that did Thriller, and everything before that, has long since passed on. I like his early solo work (up to Thriller) much better than anything after that, but that goes to show how old I am. Still the music Jackson did with Q and the performances Jackson did himself, will continue to influence American pop music for many years. Part of me thinks it is a tragedy that he died, but pat of me thinks that his life was so tormented that maybe it was for the best. The Chemical he was using to sleep is so strong that it makes me wonder how tormented he must have been to need that to sleep.

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