MJ:The Greatest to Ever Do It

Michael Jackson

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:

Liberian Girl 

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.

Your Ways

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.

Funk Fridays: Thriller’s Underrated Gems

Funk Friday, Michael Jackson, music

Here’s introducing a new feature that I call Funk Fridays. This is where we celebrate some of the gems in that oft forgotten music genre we call Funk, and in the week that we celebrate the late, great King of Pop’s 54th birthday, I thought I’d pay tribute to some of his more forgotten musical gems.
Before the excessive skin bleaching, military jackets and Korean hair pieces, Michael Jackson was known first and foremost as a musician. After the commercial triumph of the disco-led Off the Wall album he set himself a goal to follow up with an a body of work even more breathtaking than the first. That album was Thriller.
“What’s Thriller doing in a blog-post about Funk?”, I hear you cry. But if you look closer past the (overplayed) Billie Jean, the guitar riffs of Beat It and the sickly sweet Girl is Mine (instant skip on my ipod), you get to some real underrated gems funky on the album. The first one is PYT (Pretty Young Thing)
Starting off with a few synthesisers and MJ’s mumbling intro, the drums and funky bass guitar, this tune’s smooth groove never fails to get me off my feet. Despite not ever having a video, for me, the visuals for this song will always stem from the musical interlude on the Making of Thriller video, featuring MJ larking about in a dance studio with Ola Ray, whilst wearing a pink Micky Mouse jumper. While the fashion choices were….questionable, the funk was not.
Like many of Michael’s songs, PYT has been sampled on many occasions by contemporary artists. Two of my favourites are Monica’s All Eyez On Me, which also features some unheard adlibs at the end and Kanye West’s Good Life which I think contains such an ingenious sample of the song that many people still find it hard to believe that PYT was even featured.
The second song from MJ’s Thriller album that I wanted to talk about was quite possibly even more underrated than PYT. MJ released (a quite frankly crazy and genius), 7 out of 9 songs but Baby Be Mine was cruelly overlooked (the other being Lady in My Life). There was a lot of criticism aimed at him following the release of Thriller as it was deemed to be an altogether more poppier affair than Off The Wall (which it was, but you can’t deny how good it sounded). Baby Be Mine, however, was definitely one of the more ‘funkier’ sounding songs on the album. Again featuring that synthesiser and bass guitar, this tune is an unapologetically early 80’s, slightly disco-ish banger and one of those few songs that he never performed live. A travesty, in my opinion. You would have thought with all the advisers he had, at least one of them could have said to switch up the setlist a bit and play some album tracks…. But I digress. To my humble knowledge, Baby Be Mine has not been sampled by many (read: any) of today’s artists but I think this only adds to its appeal as one of the more underrated tracks on such a global phenomenon such as Thriller.
So on this very first Funk Friday, Michael Joseph Jackson, thanks for funking up the place. RIP.


Michael Jackson – 1 year on

Michael Jackson, music

So today marks the one year anniversary of the passing of the King of Pop, Michael Joseph Jackson.

Like the passing of many great icons of our time, I think everyone will always remember where they were when they first heard the news. I was on the bus coming home from a dance class and just checking facebook on my phone. I saw one status update from one of my friends asking ‘Is the King of Pop dead?’. Once I saw that, I quickly went on Google to double check but saw just one lowly article from the Sydney Times saying he’d gone into hospital.

The next few hours were a blur of phone calls, TV watching and facebook updates with everyone trying to come to terms with his death.

When I was younger, Michael was the coolest guy on the planet, my inspiration for dancing and I thought he could do no wrong. As I got a little bit older, I began to realise his mortality and I guess as the little eccentricities of his lifestyle began to overshadow his musical output, he kind of lost a little bit of relevance for me.

That was until 2009.

Back in May last year, when he announced he would be performing for the last time, I was instantly transported to my childhood. I’d never seen MJ perform but once those tickets came on sale, boy! My laid back nature went straight out the window – I had to get those tickets.

Fast forward a few months and I’ve turned into an MJ fiend, thirsting for rare songs and unseen footage of Michael in his prime. Thank God for youtube – seriously if I’d come across this stuff when I was seven years old and moonwalking across the kitchen floor, I may well have imploded right there and then.

But back to the present day… I still can’t believe Michael has gone and the fact that a whole year has passed is even more surreal to me. In that year, I’ve seen the fickle voice of the media rename him from ‘Wacko Jacko’ to the ‘King of Pop’. The lurid accusations from yesteryear have been replaced with glowing tributes and documentaries celebrating his life and contribution to the entertainment industry.

For me personally, his death has seen me revisit his back catalogue and really appreciate Michael Jackson, the musician and icon to millions. It’s impossible to put down all my favourite songs but here are just a few:

Simply put, Michael Jackson was the greatest entertainer that has ever lived and though he has gone far too soon, his legacy will live on. RIP.

Michael Jackson’s: This Is It! REVIEW

dance, Michael Jackson, music

Michael Jackson was arguably the greatest entertainer that the world has ever seen. From his days as frontman of the Jackson Five, it was obvious that Michael’s talent was something that, whilst often replicated, could never be matched. His evolution from cutesy childstar to seasoned veteran was watched and observed by fans and critics alike and although he experienced many ups and downs throughout his career, no matter what you may read about him, there can be little doubt that his prowess as a musical force can be called into question.

On 25th June 2009, as Michael was in preparation for his mammoth 50 date London residency at the o2 Arena, he suffered a heart attack and sadly passed away. The world was never to see the King of Pop perform.

‘This Is It’ was pieced together from over 100 hours of concert rehearsal footage and shows Michael in a rarely seen state of mind.

Going into the cinema, I have to admit that I wasn’t too sure what to expect. Even as a big MJ fan myself, I have to admit that most projects he has put his name to have been saccharine sweet affairs (see Moonwalker – the film and the book) that give an image of Michael that he wants us to see, rather than a true reflection of the man behind the music.

However, within minutes of seeing the first few snippets of the man himself, you could tell that this is probably the most relaxed version of Michael Jackson that we have seen. Gone is the softly spoken, eccentric, recluse. Instead, we get a(relatively) normal voiced, self assured perfectionist taking pride in his art. This is Michael Jackson in full-on professional mode. No chimpanzees, no face masks, no dangling babies; just one man in his element – with his music.

Michael shares production credits with Mr High School Musical, Kenny Ortega but from the outset, there can be no doubt who is running the show. ‘This is It’ shows Michael in control. Every aspect of every song is picked apart by MJ, showing an extraordinary eye for detail which can only have been earned through his forty years in the industry.

‘These are my songs. I want them played how the fans hear them.’

I was always worried that given MJ’s much publicised health problems, he would not be able to perform like he could. In truth, Michael never fully hits the moves like he did even 10 years ago but we must remember that this is REHEARSAL footage and not even dress rehearsal. Even taking this into account, Michael on a half arsed day is better than most modern day performers on their best days. AND lets not forget that the man was 50 years old! I find it very hard to imagine my father busting out some robotic moves without putting his back out.

Oddly enough, the parts that most surprised me were not the usual up-tempo songs but the slower ballads, which really enabled us to hear Michael’s voice in full force. His performance of Human Nature was a standout, as were I’ll Be There and I Just Can’t Stop Loving You (not usually my favourite songs!) Michael may have lost a few of his trademark spins and fancy footwork but his voice remains as strong as ever as he battles through these songs.

Much has been made of this film not living up to expectations and if you came expecting something groundbreaking then you may be disappointed. However, if you have a genuine love for music and Michael Jackson, in particular, then I would suggest you make an effort to see this film. What you will get is an insight into the last piece of work that the King of Pop laid his hand to and an understanding that without the extravagance and controversy of his final years was an individual who was at his most comfortable when on stage with his music.