the many faces of michael jackson
  • MONDAY, JUNE 29, 2009

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Music is perhaps the best way to understand the zeitgeist of a time and place, and nowhere is that more true than with pop music in America. At our best, we are a country that's really good at what we do, and even better at exporting it abroad. Our hit tunes are so pervasive that not only do they get stuck in our heads for weeks at a time, not only is 30% of this generation's grade school memories hopelessly made up of NSYNC lyrics even though we swear we were trying to learn math, but in the days of the Iron Curtain, dogged entrepreneurs were trying to smuggle in equal parts food and Michael Jackson CDs. You guessed it; this is a Michael Jackson post. Because while we love creating idols, we thrive on destroying them. Nothing serves our greedy schaedenfreude better than dragging once-beloved celebrities through the tabloid gauntlets. There is no disputing that Michael Jackson (the artist) created some of the greatest pop songs of our time, just as there is no excusing the horrifying nosedive Michael Jackson (the person) so ungracefully suffered in the public eye. But like it or not, just as pop music will always represent the face of America, Michael Jackson will always be the face of pop music. And what a face it was! All the usual jokes aside (this is, after all, a tribute article), Jackson was a man of many faces, each of which we are intensely familiar with. We attempt to separate his many personas with the Top Five Faces of Jackson. - Nina Mashurova
1. Young Michael Jackson
Although all five graced us with impressive afros and doubly impressive voices, Michael was the clear standout. While kids his age were busy playing kickball and agonizing over simple arithmetic, Michael cranked out hits like ABC and I Want You Back to forecast that he was destined for big things.
2. Michael Jackson circa 1982
Still the best-selling album of all time, Thriller boasted superhits like Billie Jean, Beat It, and of course, the title track. Jackson was on top of his game, moonwalking into the hearts of screaming females (and males) the world over.
3. Werewolf Michael Jackson
With perhaps the most epic line-dancing music video ever made, Jackson immortalized himself as a Halloween fixture. Since then, endless flash mobs, zombie parades, and even hordes Filipino prisoners have been doing Jackson's monster mash to the endless delight of passersby and YouTube addicts.
4. Post-surgery Michael Jackson
With one surreal medical misdoing after another, Jackson began to look less like a human being and more like a comic book villain. If there's one upside to this situation, Jackson at least managed to frighten children everywhere into learning that life lesson be yourself. Your age and your race aren't something you can, or should ever try to change.
5. Simpsons inmate Michael Jackson >
Remember that Simpsons episode where Homer goes to prison and meets a guy who thinks he's Michael Jackson? Well, they were on to something. The very idea of celebrity distorts a person into an idea, a caricature, and a legacy. Somewhere in Jersey there is a guy with a pick-up truck convinced that he's Elvis. And for all we care, he might as well be. As long as the music lives on, to the general public, it doesn't much matter.
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