Today marks the 55th birthday of one of the most influential black entertainers of all time. He came from a poor background before rising and reaching commercial heights untold of in the mid 80’s. He became as well-known for his charity work as he did for his craft. Inevitably as time went on, his star began to fade a little and at times became the butt of many a joke in the industry. Now however, he appears to have moved into the category of critical acclaim once again. Of course I am talking about the one and only…. Lenny Henry!
I’m kidding. Well kind of. Happy Birthday to King Lenny definitely for his transition from comedian to polished West End actor but I’m gonna have to divert your attention to the King of Pop himself, Michael Joseph Jackson.
I can’t believe it’s been 4 years since he moonwalked out of this life and into the next one. In that time I’ve definitely seen an increase in his popularity among pop stars and the general public. I remember about 10 years ago, Usher was asked who his main influence was and he said…Bobby Brown *no shade*. I know how much he respects MJ but towards the latter years of his life, people weren’t so readily willing to admit their stanning for the King of Pop.
Not me though – there may have been questionable music phases for me but one thing that has always remained constant has been my love for Michael Jackson! He may have been as crazy as a mofo (or at least that’s what he wanted people to believe) but he was an undeniable genius who’s influence on the music industry will always be felt.
As a tribute to his greatness, it would be easy to list the standard hits (Billie Jean, Thriller, Beat It, Bad, blah blah and blah) so I’m going to go against the grain and post some personal favourites of mine that may not be so well known:
Apparently this video was filmed while MJ was on tour and so he couldn’t really devote too much time to it. Still, he managed to get a who’s who of 80’s Hollywood stars. Your favourite star’s favourite star could never.
In the Closet
Yeah, critics scoffed at the title (probably not the best way to shut down any sexuality rumours, but I digress), this song was fire. The video features steamy scenes with Naomi Campbell and showcased a more mature side to MJ.
People sometimes dismiss the Jacksons as a kiddy pop group like the Osmonds. Don’t be drawn in to this misconception, especially in the early 80’s when I think Michael was at his creative peak. He penned some funky, soulful numbers that still stand the test of time today and this is one of them. Peep the falsetto though.
Tell Me I’m Not Dreaming
Pure 80’s funk, from Jermaine Jackson’s album. The song really takes on another level once Michael starts to sing. A testament to his sheer star power.
She Drives Me Wild
Purely based on the fact that we did a sick routine to this song. The car sound effects, the rap and the harmonies make this song hard not to dance to.
Heaven Can Wait
The Invincible album was panned as a flop because it “only” sold 7 million copies. Artists these days would kill for those numbers. It wasn’t a classic album by any means and contained too many New Jack Swing sounding songs, which by 2001 was very dated. Still, this mid-tempo ballad produced by Teddy Riley was one of the standout tracks.