Michael Jackson

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I didn’t want to leave this world without knowing who my descendant was. Thank you Michael!
Fred Astaire (shortly before his death)

Originally a member of the Motown act the Jackson 5, Michael Joseph Jackson (1958-2009) debuted as a solo artist in 1971 -- the year he turned thirteen. His full-fledged solo career took off in the late 1970s. Though songs from his first serious solo effort, Off The Wall (1979), were popular, he reached superstardom in 1982 with his album Thriller. Thriller is currently the only album in history to have sold more than one hundred million copies -- beating the number two album by more than double.

Known as the King of Pop, he is the most successful recording artist in history, with his music influencing much of the genre in the 1980s and early 1990s, his music videos breaking the color barrier on MTV. He also had a video game based on him. All of this resulted in a total of 13 Grammy Awards. Then he released his next album, Bad, which was also a big hit.

As the definitive celebrity of The Eighties, he cultivated a Reclusive Artist persona and a reputation for high eccentricity. In particular, he created the Neverland Ranch, a grand estate where he could finally live the childhood he never had, since he and his siblings had spent most of their childhood and teen years performing under the heavy, often abusive hand of father Joe. It featured a zoo and an amusement park, and frequently hosted visits from ill and/or underprivileged children.

In 1993, in the wake of his fourth solo album Dangerous, Jackson was accused of molesting a young boy. Because this both contradicted his image as a friend to children and was not implausible in light of the various rumors of his extreme eccentricity -- in particular, his alarming changes in appearance over the past fifteen years, chalked up to plastic surgery and the skin disorder vitiligo -- it made international headlines. When Jackson settled a civil suit with the boy's family out-of-court over the matter, it left the case too thin to prosecute since the boy was no longer willing to testify, and the circumstances of the allegations suggested it might have been an extortion attempt all along.

However, the damage was done, and in the U.S. he became less known for his artistic output [1] than his ever-strange personal behavior. He had a brief marriage to Elvis Presley's daughter, he dangled one of his infant children over a Berlin hotel railing to show him to fans, and worst of all a second round of molestation allegations which unfolded over 2003-05 resulting in a not guilty verdict.

Jackson died due to an overdose of propofol on June 25, 2009, at the age of fifty, a few weeks before the start of a long-awaited series of shows in London that were to serve as a comeback. In late August, his death was ruled a homicide. His death occurred during an almost surreal two-week period between June 21 and July 4, which was densely populated by celebrity deaths including those of Ed McMahon; Sky Saxon; Farrah Fawcett (who died on the same day, no less); Billy Mays; Mollie Sugden; Harve Presnell; Karl Malden; and Steve McNair, in what has been dubbed the "Summer of Death" or the "2009 Celebrity Death Wave". David Carradine died two weeks before the beginning of this period, but is often included with these folks anyway. The doctor who administered the overdose was found guilty of Involuntary Manslaughter in November of 2011.

His memorial service on July 7, 2009 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles was broadcast live around the world, watched by up to one billion people.

He is interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, in Glendale, California, among many other entertainment legends.

There is a movie featuring footage of his rehearsals for his London live shows.

Studio album discography:

  • Got To Be There (1972)
  • Ben (1972)
  • Music & Me (1973)
  • Forever, Michael (1975)
    • These first four albums were made under the direction of the Motown record label before Jackson obtained complete creative control of his work. The following albums are after his move to Sony's Epic Records.
  • Off the Wall (1979)
  • Thriller (1982)
  • Bad (1987)
  • Dangerous (1991)
  • HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I (1995, one disc was a greatest hits album, the other was an album of new studio material)
  • Blood on the Dancefloor (1997, a dance remix album interspersed with new material; used to name a trope)
  • Invincible (2001)
    • Invincible was his last studio album while still alive, so all subsequent studio albums are posthumous.
  • Michael (2010)

Videos:


Michael Jackson provides examples of the following tropes:
  • Abusive Parents: Joseph Jackson abused all of his children, physically and emotionally. Michael seems to have gotten the worst of it, as he was the fan favourite. He had a quite better relationship with his mother Katherine if you overlook the fact that she controlled several aspects of his life (including who he dated/married).
    • Joe Jackson did not help his image at all after Michael's death. When interviewed, all Joe wanted to talk about was himself and the new music projects he was working on.
  • Accidental Pervert: According to at least an interview, when his older brothers brought girls to their hotel rooms for "private times", Michael found himself in this situation as he was the youngest of the Five-Man Band and by that hour, he usually was trying to get some sleep. Made even more awkward/squicky/hilarious/etc. when he added more than one of the girls would say "Aw, really? He's so cute" upon learning about his "presence".
  • Acting for Two: In Ghosts, Michael played both the very familiar protagonist and the main antagonist The Mayor... in a Fat Suit.
  • Album Filler: Or more specifically, a noted lack thereof early on. In later interviews towards the end of his life, he specifically noted this trope as the impetus to his work on his three biggest albums Off the Wall, Thriller, and Bad. He stated he asked himself, "Why can't there be an album where every song could be released as a single?" He seems to have done well with his goal there: Off the Wall was the first album ever with four Top Ten singles, Thriller had seven Top Ten singles (of nine total songs on the album), and Bad was the first album to have five Number Ones in America.
  • Ambiguously Brown: How he looked like as his vitiligo began to lighten his skin.
  • Ancient Egypt: The setting of the "Remember The Time" music video.
  • The Baby Trap: "Billie Jean." Inspired by all the times he saw girls try this on his older brothers during the "Jackson 5" years.
  • Badass Long Hair
  • Bishonen: At his best in the mid-90's, before the surgeries became too much, his appearance could be described as this. His duet with sister Janet provides the most compelling evidence.
  • The Cameo: There is nothing to say here besides, well... Space Channel 5. Especially Part 2. Yes, that really is his voice.
    • He also appeared as himself in Men In Black 2, and as a hidden boxer in Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2.
    • He also had a role in Miss Cast Away, made in 2004. He was prominently featured on the cover as a selling point (but then, according to reviews, it had nothing else to offer).
  • Celebrity Star: The Simpsons episode "Stark Raving Dad" has Homer meeting a man named "Leon Kompowsky" who thinks he's Michael Jackson. The voice actor credited with the role was "John Jay Smith," but aside (ironically) from his singing it is Jackson's actual voice -- he was a huge fan of the show who also co-wrote "Do the Bartman" under a pseudonym.
    • And even though he didn't sing it, the episode also gave us one of the show's Crowning Moments of Everything in "Lisa, It's Your Birthday". He apparently didn't do the singing parts because Sony would not allow him to, though another story floating around is that Michael wanted to prank his family with the sound-alike singer (Kipp Lennon).
  • Clothes Make the Legend: White socks; short trousers; red jacket; black trilby; single white glove; and several others.
  • Concept Video
  • Cool Shades: He wore them from time to time, of the oversized kind.
  • Cute Kitten: On the extended Thriller CD cover, Jackson is holding a tiger cub.
  • Dada Ad: See Our Founder below.
  • Dance Battler: In Moonwalker.
    • Also in Beat it, where he defuses gang fights by stepping in and starting to dance.
  • Darker and Edgier: The Bad album was supposed to give him an 'edgier' image.
  • The Dead Can Dance: Made famous by his Thriller video.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The videos for "Scream", "Stranger In Moscow" and the Talky Bookends of "Bad".
  • Distinct Double Album: HIStory, one disc being old "greatest hits" material, the other being new music.
  • Dolled-Up Installment: The "This Is It" song that was released at the same time as the This Is It movie. It was originally recorded in 1983 under the title "I Never Heard" and it was chosen because it happened to have the phrase "This is it" opening each verse.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Well, not at first, but....
    • Really, he hit most of the appearance tropes on the dark-light spectrum at some point.
    • In the words of Jerry O'Donnell: "He went from a handsome black man to an odd-looking white woman. SHOCKING!"
  • The Eighties: Jackson was THE '80's pop star. Back to the Future, Part II goes so far as to imply that he and President Ronald Reagan were the 1980s.
  • Epic Rocking: Dangerous has 10 songs over 5 minutes long. The disk two of History has 3 over 6 minutes (including the single "Earth Song"), and Invincible opens with the 6:25 "Unbreakable".
  • Everythings Better With Bunnies: During the Speed Demon segment in Moonwalker, he puts on a rabbit suit to escape his fans and later, that suit becomes sentient and he dances with it. It later turns into a mountain.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: Bubbles, his pet chimp.
  • Everything's Better with Sparkles: He wore silver sequins on his glove and socks for this reason... and because with sparkly white socks, viewers could pay attention to his amazing dance moves more easily.
  • Everything's Better with Spinning: He employed this often in his music videos and dance routines.
  • Everything's Deader with Zombies: Thriller, of course, which features not only dancing zombies, but Jackson himself becoming a zombie.
  • Elvis Lives: Thriller could oddly enough be made into a conspiracy theory, making him still around as a zombie in some fanfiction.
  • The Faceless: Having a self-image problem, he often hid his face behind a hygienic mask and large sunglasses when going out in public.
    • His children also apply, as he hid their faces with carnival masks when in public, and a blanket on his youngest son (who'd be nicknamed "Blanket").
  • Faceless Mooks: His background dancers in They Don't Care About Us from This Is It.
  • Face Revealing Turn: The music video for "Thriller" has possibly the most famous (and often pariodied) use of the trope of all time.
  • Financial Abuse: His father forced him and his siblings into showbiz, and has been accused of trying to get his hands on their money.
    • Worse: he may be trying to do the same to Michael's kids.
  • Former Child Star: It looked like he was on his way to avoiding this until the whole "Wacko Jacko" thing. He was also close friends with a number of ex-child stars such as Macaulay "Mac" Culkin and Elizabeth Taylor.
  • Funny Afro: His and his brothers' hairstyle in the last years of the Jackson Five. See them in the "Blame it on the Boogie" video.
  • Giant Spider: This Is It features a giant black widow spider in the Thriller segment. Not only is one on screen (this would have been in 3D, no less), but one scurries on stage that opens up to reveal Jackson.
  • Grand Finale: This Is It was going to be a Grand Finale for his career, though obviously he died before it could start.
  • Green Aesop: "Earth Song" and Jackson's final message in the This Is It film.
  • Guest Fighter: In Ready 2 Rumble Boxing. Let's be honest, we all wanted to use him beat the crap out of scary Russian Boxers, Shaq and Bill Clinton.
  • Hyde Plays Jekyll: In Thriller.
  • Implausible Deniability: He claimed as late as 2003 that he had only had two plastic surgeries in his entire life, and that any other changes in his face were due to natural maturation.
  • The Insomniac: As noted by friends and family, MJ had terrible insomnia. The problem seemed worse leading up to a performance. It may be linked to his death via the sedatives he used to fall asleep.
  • Intercourse with You: A few songs seem romantic, but are clearly this trope. (Invincible's "Break of Dawn" at least doesn't hide it, despite the somber mood)
  • Intergenerational Friendship: With Elizabeth Taylor, Diana Ross, and Macaulay Culkin.
  • Licensed Game: Moonwalker, his appearance in Space Channel 5 and most recently a dancing/karaoke game developed by Ubisoft in light of the Rhythm Game craze.
  • Loud of War: The video for "Black Or White" opens with a father insisting his son turns his music off, only for the son to set up a ridiculously large guitar amp and crank it all the way to "Are You Nuts??!?!!?", with rather destructive effects.
  • Metal Scream: "Dirty Diana" has some surprisingly epic ones toward the end.
  • Momma's Boy: Michael adored his mother Katherine, and if the memorial is any indication everyone else did too ("Mrs. Jackson... and Joe"). One of the first things Michael did after becoming a successful solo artist was to throw a huge birthday party for her to show how much he loved her, but it almost backfired due to them being Jehovah's Witnesses (they managed a compromise by having the gifts "wrapped" in plain brown bags).
  • The Movie: Moonwalker and/or This Is It can apply.
  • MTV: Billie Jean, contrary to popular belief, was not the first video by an African-American artist shown on MTV, but its success helped bring down the channel's color barrier, and from there Jackson became one of the biggest video stars in the early '80's. The "Thriller" clip, in particular, was the most elaborate music video made up to that point (1983) and was regarded as a genuine event.
  • Museum of the Strange and Unusual: Neverland could be considered one of these.
  • My Friends and Zoidberg: When his parents were introduced at his funeral: "Mrs. Jackson... and Joe".
  • Never Speak Ill of the Dead: This trope has caused many edit wars on this very wiki.
  • New Sound Album: Off the Wall to his previous career; Dangerous for adding New Jack Swing; and Invincible for getting closer to late 90s pop.
  • Nice Hat: His black Trilby. In several concerts, he threw it at the audience.
  • One of the Kids: He identified very strongly with Peter Pan. Neverland Ranch was designed to give other kids the dream childhood Joe Jackson denied him. It was, many argue, this childlike behavior and thought patterns which led to the molestation charges due to it not being what it looked like.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: His two sons. The eldest, Michael Joseph Jackson II, is known as "Prince". The youngest, Prince Michael Jackson II (i.e. his first name actually is "Prince" -- yes, it's confusing), is known as "Blanket".
  • Our Founder: The trailer for his HIStory album shows him heading an army and erecting a giant statue of himself. That statue trick (it served as the cover of the album, and actual replicas of it were circulated on his tour) was criticized even by his fans as being too Small Name, Big Ego.
  • Pass the Popcorn: Sorta does this in the Thriller video. An animated gif featuring this scene has become a massive meme.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: One reason his Small Name, Big Ego reputation worsened in his final decade (1999-2009) was that he didn't tour, performed live very rarely, and only produced one full album in 2001; all his other releases were compilations of older material with a few new songs thrown in (one on Number Ones, more in the box set). This is another reason the term "self-proclaimed King of Pop" was thrown around a lot when he was mentioned in the media; he wasn't doing much to maintain his throne.
  • Police Brutality Gambit: He claimed to have been injured and mistreated when he was booked on the 2003 charges, but the police in question released audio and video tape of him to disprove this.
  • Pop Star Composer: In the mid 2000s, it was discovered that Michael Jackson had a hand in composing some of the soundtrack of Sonic The Hedgehog 3, with most evidence pointing to the fact that most of the songs are either uptempo or Jimmy Hart versions of tracks from his Dangerous album. He is not credited in the game itself, with the official reasons being that he disliked the low-grade sound equipment used to make Sega Genesis music, but given that he had somewhat bigger things to worry about in early 1993, it's easier to see the true reasons behind his abandoning the project. He later lent his voice and likeness to another Sega project, Space Channel 5, but it's not known if he provided any music.
  • Precision F-Strike: A paparazzo roughly shoved a fan aside to take a pic of Michael. He was pissed and said: "No, don't touch my fans! FUCK YOU!"
    • Also, pay close attention to chorus of Scream, which consists of him repeating "Stop pressuring me". In one instance, he says "Stop fucking with me".
  • Pretty Boy: In the late 70s/early 80s.
  • Primal Scene: One of the many things that scarred Jackson's childhood. Whenever the Jackson 5 went on tour, Michael's older brothers would make him pretend to be asleep while they brought groupies to the hotel room, and he would hear them having sex.
  • Reclusive Artist: Which is apparently why he has created several songs that ask the media to leave him alone, such as "Leave Me Alone" (only the video version, although it's the most famous one), "Why You Wanna Trip On Me", "Scream", "Tabloid Junkie", and "Privacy".
  • Retirony: He died only 18 days before the first of the This is It series of concerts, which he had implied would be the last of his career.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The molestation charges and the baby-dangling incident were prime fodder for Police Procedural shows.
  • The Rival: Prince was presented as this. They even were going to have Prince be the opponent in the "Bad" video, before they came to their senses.
    • Darn!
    • MC Hammer thought himself this during the early and mid 90s, and repeatedly tried to call Michael out. This seems to have mostly been a one-way rivalry though.
  • The Rock Star: Even now he's still known worldwide.
  • Rummage Sale Reject: Some of his costumes looked like this. And still managed to look cool.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money: A problem with his choice to settle the first child molestation allegations out of court instead of going through with a trial was that to many people he appeared to be invoking this trope.
    • Most people, fans included, are unaware what was settled was a civil lawsuit for claims of nonsexual negligence. The first child molestation allegations were dropped when two grand juries refused to indict Jackson several months after the civil settlement. During the civil trial the criminal trial had been postponed by the accusing father.
  • Shout-Out: Django from One Piece, a Captain Ersatz of Jackson with mind control powers, usually used against the largely teenage Straw Hat crew. In the German dub he was even named Jacko!
    • Pokemon Colosseum and Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness both feature Miror B. an antagonist who has excellent dancing skills, a glove on his left hand and an afro in the shape of a Pokeball (also the same colors as a Pokeball), who loves using Ludicolo. Ludicolo ITSELF is a reference to Michael, but Miror B. takes this to 649
    • Also, most of his music videos are shout outs. "Bad" is a shout out to Cool from West Side Story, "Smooth Criminal" is a shout out to Fred Astaire.
  • Signature Song: "Beat It", "Thriller", "Billie Jean", "Bad", "Smooth Criminal" or "Man in the Mirror".
  • Snake Oil Salesman: He plays the accomplice of a snake oil salesman (played by Paul McCartney) in the "Say Say Say" music video.
  • Some of My Best Friends Are X: After he included anti-Semetic slurs in his 1995 Protest Song "They Don't Care About Us", he was questioned about them by Diane Sawyer. He denied any prejudice and pointed out that "...my accountants and lawyers are Jewish. My three best friends are Jewish — David Geffen, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Steven Spielberg. Mike Milken — these are friends of mine. They're all Jewish. How does that make sense? I was raised in a Jewish community." Jackson rerecorded the song minus the slurs for the single release and the later pressings of HIStory.
  • Something Completely Different: In his last years, he was experimenting with very different styles of music and art. He considered film acting and directing but he was too much in debt to open a film company.
  • Stalking Is Love: The music video for "The Way You Make Me Feel" gives off this vibe.
  • The Something Song: "Earth Song".
  • Take That: The song "D.S.", from the HIStory album. The lyrics say that someone named "Dom Sheldon" is a cold man, but if you listen to the song, he's clearly saying "Tom Sneddon", the Santa Barbara DA who went after him for child molestation back in the '90s and again in 2005 -- in fact, some people believed that Sneddon had a vendetta against Jackson because of this song, and it was at least part of the reason he took him to trial.
  • Talky Bookends: Popularized this trope with the "Thriller" clip.
  • Theme Naming: Jackson's children are named Michael Joseph Jackson Jr. (AKA Prince), Paris-Michael Katherine (after his beloved mother) Jackson, and Prince Michael Jackson II (AKA Blanket). Paris might have been named "Princess" had Debbie Rowe not objected to it.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: According to the more enthusiastic of his fans.
  • Training from Hell: And how. Joe Jackson made his children rehearse a lot, until very late at night, and if they ever made a slight mistake, he would beat them with a belt. He even threw Michael against the wall several times, and Katherine told Joe he'd kill him.
  • Trope Codifier: For the modern, plot-driven type of music video (ones previous to him were mostly just shots of the band playing), for the modern style of pop performances (one of the first to have synchronized choreographed dance while singing), and for the modern pop artist image and persona.
  • Uncanny Family Resemblance: Many of the Jackson brothers looked strikingly alike when they were children. Also, back in The Nineties, a running joke was that Michael's public appearances were actually his sister LaToya.
  • Undermined by Reality: He is another infamous example.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid
  • Verbal Tic: "HEE HEE!"
    • "I don't know!", "CHAMONE!", "WOOH!" and his fairly unique vocal "hiccup" style also qualify.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Subverted with his song "Ben", which, despite being about a rat from a horror movie of the same name, is quite heartwarming.
  • White Dwarf Starlet: His final years.
  • White Gloves: Wearing a single white glittering glove was a trademark of his, earning him another nickname: "The Gloved One".
  • White Like Me: How many times have people accused him of trying to look like a white person?
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: After his hair caught on fire during the shooting of a Pepsi ad, he got a fire phobia.
  • Worst News Judgment Ever: An extreme Real Life example, in that his death overshadowed everything from voter protests in Iran to the beginning of U.S. troop withdrawals in Iraq, as well as the above mentioned other celebrity deaths (with the exception of Billy Mays, whose death caused a second crash of several news sites within a week). He was a big star, but given what became of him in his final years...
  • You Are Not Alone: That's one of his songs.
  • You Don't Look Like You: He may be the most famous real-life example, as well as perhaps the most extreme example not involving cross-dressing. (Though to shield himself from the public and press, he dabbled in cross-dressing. In the Middle East, he was spotted wearing a burqa and entering a ladies' room.)

Notes

  1. HIStory [1995], Blood on the Dance Floor [1997], and Invincible [2001] - which still all went platinum several times