Remember Michael Jackson, The King of Pop

I quite clearly remember buying my first Michael Jackson CD. I got HIStory Book 1 at Target on the way to the LAX. My mom I were leaving California after visiting extended family. It’s there I discovered my cousin was a huge fan. He studied Michael Jackson videos like he was going to be tested by Jackson himself. He was pretty good at mimicking the moves, too.

Before we left though, I wanted to buy a Michael Jackson CD of my own.

On that trip, I realized that not only was my cousin a huge fan but he pretty much knew all of the videos by heart. He told me the history of Michael and explained why he was one of the greatest artists alive. Honestly, I didn’t really need convincing. I was hooked when I saw the video. The white glove, the black suit, and the hat that all literally shimmered under the lights. And when he moonwalked across the stage at Motown 25, I not only understood what my cousin explained to me about Michael but I felt it.

Even amidst all of the scandals, lawsuits and the insanity that surrounded him, Michael was the King of Pop and I wanted to be a subject in that country.

I was in Las Vegas when he died. I was there because I had come out and the only family member who would take me in was my aunt who lived in the suburbs surrounding the strip. I was there to forget the boy I’d fell in love with. It was a novel yet impossible notion at the time.

Only a 3 hour drive away from where I sat, I watched Michael Jackson’s funeral on TV. It was sorta polarizing  as I watched people perform in honor of a legend. It felt like a new chapter was beginning for me while another’s book ended. Michael’s public life was so often chaotic, yet all the while he managed to dance and sing like nothing else mattered in that moment. So get into a moment with the King and I with my top 10 songs.

Billie Jean Thriller (1982) That beeeeaaaatttt. It is THE beat. That classic MJ snare that makes you grab your pelvis and rock it back and forth. But lyrically that song is… well it’s weird. A woman claims that he fathered her child…but “the kid is not my son”.

Thriller Thriller (1982) This song makes absolutely NO sense. I still have no idea what it means to this day but here’s the thing… does it matter? Like truly. With a 10 minute video the began an entire era, do we care? Of course not! An unforgettable dance. An unforgettable Vincent Price rap (yeah, that is officially what it’s called in the liner notes). And truly an unforgettable song.

The Girl is Mine (feat. Paul McCartney) Thriller (1982) It’s Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney singing an argument. I truly don’t know what else I should say.

Off the Wall Off the Wall (1979) No lie. First time I listened to this was in a bar and I didn’t realize it was him. But it is and it is such a good song. The chorus, to me feel, is sorta at odds with The uptempo sound of the verses. The chorus. brings the energy down just a tinge, but all the while keeps you dancing at 118 BPM.

Remember the Time Dangerous (1991) I’ll be honest I don’t really care for the video. But this is just a great exhibit of MJ in the 90s. The lyrics are so sweet and lovely. To be honest, anyone who ever says “do you remember the time?” this song just starts playing in my head.

You Rock My World Invincible (2001) The song is on the last full length, original LP he ever released while alive. It kinda underperformed critically and maybe commercially, but this song is fantastic and kinda making a comeback. It’s got everything a good MJ song has: on point vocal harmonies, groovy beat, and vocalizations.

They Don’t Care About Us HIStory: Past, Present, Future, Book 1 (1995) Intense beat. Angry vocal. Politically motivated lyrics. Released in ‘95, it still somehow keeps what MJ is good at: pop and danceable music. I wish I could write like that.

Smooth Criminal Bad (1987) I love this video. I’m really into classic movies and mob movies, so it really feeds into that. It’s just so damn good, again, makes like no sense. As the meme’s keep asking, does anyone know if Annie is ok now?

Bad Bad (1987) Martin Scorsese directed this music video out here in downtown Brooklyn subway station. My husband and I were waiting for a train, when he sorta dropped that little detail. I looked around Hoyt-Schemerhorn and imagined Michael dancing around. In my head, I made an appearance with him.

P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing) Thriller (1982) The album Thriller is plain fantastic and the second before  the last on the LP. And it’s a damn gem. I am one of the few who enjoys that Alvin chipmunk sound effect, granted when done right, and obviously Michael does. This song of course had those classic MJ guitar licks. This is how you end the greatest selling album ever.

Bonus Track! Loving You Xscape (2014) This album is one of the more recent of his posthumous albums. They dove into the vault and pulled up so true gems. Alongside the originals, several producers (curated by exec L.A. Reid) recreate new “modern” productions of these songs. One of the most classic sounding track is Loving You. Big and downright cute, it features most likely an MJ vocal in the 80s.

Anthony Valdes