I think it’s safe to assume that you’ve all heard the news. Thankfully I’ve already posted a couple times this month because it would really bug me to break my silence over the death of such a bizarre pop icon. And let’s face it, the jokes are too easy, the tributes are too schmaltzy, and nostalgia is too glossy. But that doesn’t change the fact that a man who touched so many of our lives passed away and that makes us all take a step back for reflection.
Thriller was the first album for me. I was planning a list of the top 10 albums to impact my life, and it was #1 (chronologically at least). This was the album that made me, as a nervous little kid, figure out how to work that record player. I remember looking over the album cover and reading the lyrics while the music played in the background. And what makes that an even greater memory is that so many of us share in it.
A couple years ago there was an article in Paste Magazine about missing Michael Jackson. Not simply missing the talented singer/dancer/entertainer, but missing the concept of the huge pop star that everybody loves. In this day and age of constantly looking for the next great thing, we lose one of the best parts of music and pop culture in general – sharing the experience with other people. We all knew – and still know – Thriller inside and out. Just queue up that song in the middle of any group and someone will start acting out the video – and everybody else will recognize it.
Look at some of the big viral videos the last few years: Indian Thriller, Prison Thriller, A Capella Thriller… Even before those there was Alien Ant Farm’s cover of “Smooth Criminal”. We all recognize and cling to our common past.
Oh crap… am I veering towards schmaltzy?
At this point let me just say that I agree with Chris’s take on MJ. I wanted a comeback (with or without the capital C). I wanted to have a king of pop again. As much as I wanted to dislike everything he did after Thriller, that would ignore “Smooth Criminal”, “Black and White”, “Remember the Time”, “Leave Me Alone”, “The Way You Make Me Feel”, etc. The video for “Bad” turned me off so much, but that didn’t change the fact that I actually continued to enjoy his music – come on, I LIKED MOONWALKER!
I’d like to say that this is the end of an era, but that era ended long ago. We may still cling to it in the 80s revival genre of movies and music, but it’s far from the same thing. Still, there’s a modicum of sorrow no matter how late we say goodbye to the past. At least we can still enjoy the music… and in this case maybe we can enjoy it even more without the bizarre personal sideshow that has plagued it for years.