What did he mean to me? I couldn’t pull off a red, multi-zippered leather “Beat It” jacket, but my little Onkyo boombox in high school was red, and my laces were red and the one breakdancing move I ever mastered was his moonwalk. He was the Jackie Robinson of MTV and, in many ways, the Google of pop dancing. No male pop star who wants to dance on stage has any chance of avoiding Jackson’s choreography, not that many of them try. (See Usher, Ne-Yo, Justin Timberlake, any boy band.) Two albums he made with Quincy Jones—“Off The Wall” (my favorite), and “Thriller”—redefined so many different kinds of music. Why couldn’t a pop song also contain an enormous, barn-burning guitar solo? Why couldn’t a dance hit verge on Afropop? Why did a creamy ballad about human nature have to sound like humans were singing it? Pop has in no way exhausted all the questions he and Quincy posed.
Great essay by Sasha Frere-Jones from last week on MJ