June 26, 2009

The Way You Make Me Feel

The rumours started when I was working at MTV around 5pm. All the TV's were tuned into CNN, CTV, and every other news station possible. It was starting to turn into a mad house as people anxiously hit the refresh buttons on their webpages. Ironically the only answers we were getting were from gossip blogs. TMZ, Perez, Twitter and Facebook were reporting that Michael Jackson had been taken to hospital.

I jumped onto Twitter myself and didn't even have to scroll through the trending topics because nearly everyone I was following was already posting links and for the most part posting "Michael Jackson dead?".

With less than an hour away until our live shows, producers immediately decided to throw their rundowns out the window and address the issue everyone was talking about. In fact, The Aftershow dedicated their entire show to MJ discussing their reactions, how they found out, and some of their favourite memories.

I brought the twenty somewhat audience members up to studio and immediately let them know that this was going to be a very different After Show. No applause. No joking around. MJ was gone and even I couldn't believe it.

What suprised me though was that the audience full of 16-20 yrs old really didn't care. They didn't get what the big deal was. In their eyes, MJ was a pedophile.

To me, MJ was my entire childhood. My dad who was a part-time DJ, had every MJ album on both CD and vinyl and blasted his songs at least once a week. Singing 'The Way You Make Me Feel' at the top of my lungs while daddy blasted the tunes, changed the tenor of my day and it still does to this very day.

During commercial breaks of the live show, I started snapping and humming some of MJ's classic hits hoping to get some sort of reaction from these kids...but they didn't know the words. They had no idea about how this one man changed the face of music. They just knew him as the guy that changed his face.

So for those who don't understand why so many people are paying tribute to the King of Pop (or why he has this title) please read below and take some time to do some research on your own.

"First, people forget that the Thriller album essentially saved the recording industry when it was released in 1982. Suffering from the double whammy of the post-disco sales depression and a brutal recession, Thriller almost single-handedly resurrected the music industry"- Alan Cross, (read his Metro article here)

When Michael Jackson released Thriller, he made a music video for "Billie Jean." It was a good one and his producer, CBS Records, knew it. But when they presented it to MTV it was turned down. MTV had never aired a black musician's video before. So, Walter Yetnikoff, the Chairman of CBS told MTV that if they didn't play Michael Jackson's videos, they wouldn't have access to any of CBS's videos. So, MTV gave in and aired "Billie Jean," which broke the colour barrier.

But he did so much more than just that. He gave music videos life again; creating short films and working with some of the best directors that experimented with new technologies including the face morphing feature in his video 'Black or White'.

And then there was dance. In my opinion, one of his most important contributions was his imperative to dance. Artists such as Justin Timberlake, Usher, Chris Brown and Ne-Yo may have ascended the pop charts because of their excellent songs...but they became superstars because your jaw dropped when you watched them dance. But no one has yet to recapture Jackson as a dancer- the Moonwalk completely rewrote the book on male sexuality in music.

Still to this day, dance groups everywhere are learning the choreography to MJ's songs. From subway dancers to television shows like SYTYCD, there is nothing that excites me more than when someone pays omage to the King of Pop.

So to all the tweeney boppers. I leave you with wise words from the great Alan Cross, "Forget the lurid allegations, the buying of the Elephant Man’s bones, the hyperbaric sleeping chambers, the plastic surgery and the dangling babies...Let’s not focus on the tabloid stuff. The man did enough that we should remember him for the great groundbreaking talent that he was."


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