Pop Culture

The return of the King of Pop

In the year 1991, when MTV was still primarily known for playing music videos, a new album from an artist who helped define the channel in the ‘80s was being released. This album was going to be huge, and MTV kicked into high gear promoting its world premiere airing of the first single’s video. The album was called “Dangerous.” The single was called “Black or White.” And the artist? Well, he was suddenly called “The King of Pop.”

Of course, the artist was none other than Michael Jackson, but now he had this official-sounding title tacked onto his name. Where did this royal title come from? Did the media name him that? Did he bestow it upon himself? How would Elvis feel about it?

These were questions asked by many at that time.

Regardless of its mysterious origins (most accounts said it was self-imposed, although Jackson claims it was taken from friend Elizabeth Taylor’s speech about him at an awards ceremony), the nickname stuck. The premiere of “Black or White” was broadcast simultaneously in 27 countries on November 14, 1991 with an estimated audience of 500 million people — the largest audience ever to view a music video. Michael Jackson was back, and the world took notice.

Fast-forward to the present day: It’s been almost 15 years since Jackson broke records with “Black or White,” and much has happened to him and his reputation, most of it unpleasant. Jackson’s not-so-private private life has been under constant scrutiny, with lawsuits and various charges brought against him for the world to see.

But one fact remains: Michael Jackson has, despite these “distractions,” made his mark on the music industry in unmatched ways as an artist, an influence, a pioneer, and a sales-generating force over the past four decades.

When it’s all about popular music, Michael Jackson is, without a doubt, the King.

Let’s review:

  • His 1982 album “Thriller” remained at number one for thirty-seven weeks (the longest stay by a non-soundtrack album to date), and has gone on to become the best-selling album of all-time, nearing 100 million copies sold worldwide. It also has the distinction of being the first album to have seven Top 10 singles on the charts.
  • 1995’s “HIStory: Past, Present, & Future” is the best-selling multiple-disc album of all-time, with 18 million copies sold worldwide.
  • Jackson has the most Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles for a male recording artist: “Ben” (1 week), “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” (1 week), “Rock with You” (4 weeks), “Billie Jean” (7 weeks), “Beat It” (3 weeks), “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” (1 week), “Bad” (2 weeks), “The Way You Make Me Feel” (1 week), “Man in the Mirror” (2 weeks), “Dirty Diana” (1 week), “Black or White” (7 weeks), and “You Are Not Alone” (1 week). “You Are Not Alone” entered the singles chart at #1, a feat that had never previously occurred.
  • Jackson jointly holds the record for most Grammy Awards won in a single year, having won eight awards at the 1984 ceremony. This has been equaled only by Carlos Santana, at the 2001 ceremony.
  • In January 1993, he performed during the halftime show at Super Bowl XXVII. It drew one of the largest viewing audiences in the history of American television.
  • Jackson’s latest album, “Invincible,” was released in October 2001 and debuted at number-one in 13 countries.
  • On November 15, 2006, Michael Jackson will be presented with the Diamond Award (Over 100 million albums sold) at the World Music Awards.

Sales and world records aside, another facet of Jackson’s extraordinary career has been the collaborations he’s done with other artists. He’s worked with established music legends such as Paul McCartney, Diana Ross, Kenny Rogers and Stevie Wonder. He’s aided aspiring performers like Siedah Garrett, Rockwell, Brandy and Monica. Jackson has run the gamut of various musical genres and styles — inviting other influences into his own work, as well as lending his voice and skills to other people’s projects.

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He’s even collaborated with Martin Scorsese and Stephen King on video projects. Rumors abound about the possibility of a future collaboration with rapper 50 Cent, but nothing’s been confirmed at this time.

What definitely has been confirmed is the fact that Will.I.Am of the Black Eyed Peas is working with Michael on some new tracks, as Billy Bush learned on Access Hollywood’s recent exclusive visit to Jackson’s studio in Ireland.

With a new album in the works, Jackson is finally readying his musical comeback. Michael’s music has unfortunately taken a back seat to the scandals. It’s high time the music came front and center again.

So how does Michael plan to overcome adversity and get back into the music game? As he said in an interview on Jesse Jackson’s radio show last year, he’s going to persevere and continue to reach for his goals.

“I’m a person of the arts. I love the arts very, very, very much,” he told Jackson. “And I’m a musician, I’m a director, I’m a writer, I’m a composer, I’m a producer, and I love the medium... I know who I am inside and outside and I know what I want to do. And I will always go with my dreams and my ideals in life. And I’m a very courageous person and I believe in perseverance, determination, and all those wonderful things, and those ideals are very important for a person who is goal-orientated.”

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