Today, August 29th, would have been the King of Pop's 59th birthday. Unfortunately, Michael Jackson
passed at the untimely age of 50 in June of 2009. Despite his passing, Michael Jackson made a huge impact on music and the world around him, and he continues to do so to this day (his 1982 album, Thriller
, is still the best-selling album of all time). Across the span of his 45-year career, Michael captivated the world with his songs, style, dance moves, and his ever changing appearance.
1. "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough"
Looking at this video (Michael's first solo video) in 2017, all of it seems a little kitschy and lame... But when this was shot, it was everything Michael was at the time. The use of a green screen, as well as syncing the events in the actual video (the lights) with the rhythm of the song was completely new, done on entirely new technology, and it was the one of the first times Michael mixed technology with his personal brand of clothing and dancing.
2. "Man In The Mirror"
All the raw footage of hunger and war showed "man's laziness" and how far we let the world get. The single shot of Michael was meant to represent that just one person, the man in the mirror, can help to better the world. When Michael first saw the unfinished cut, he burst into tears.
3. "Can You Feel It"
Michael came up with the concept for this video, and he wrote the storyline himself. Scenes such as the waves or the Jacksons over a city were done by Robert Abel & Associates, the team who went on to do the special effects for Disney's Tron
the following year.
4. "Black or White"
This "music film" was a feat from all angles: the acting, the dancing, the special effects. Michael's moves in this video turned the whole world upside down; the level of violence and amount of crotch-grabbing was simply too much for some people. And the "morphing" sequence alone cost $100,000 and took a month to animate.
5. "Smooth Criminal"
Originally, "Smooth Criminal" was part of Moonwalker
, an anthology film consisting of several short films of or about Michael Jackson. "Smooth Criminal" was a homage to movie musicals and Fred Astaire (which is why Michael wears the white suit). The final product included 46 backup dancers, and is the origin of Michael's second most famous dance move, that gravity-defying lean.
Michael spared no expense when it came to his music videos, and that is abundantly clear in the video for "Scream." For this dance-heavy video with his sister, Janet
, Michael had a clear vision: a dance-off in space. With no spaceship readily available, they had one built. The video ended up totaling $7 million dollars and depending on who you ask, it is the most expensive music video of all time.
7. "Billie Jean"
This is the music video that really solidified Michael as an influence of dance. Everyone knew he could move, but before this video there was nothing to really show just what he could do. And this is another music video before it's time: there wasn't enough money to create a sidewalk that lit up when Michael stepped on it, so an electrician lit the tiles by hand as Michael walked onto them.
8. "Leave Me Alone"
Nowadays, people are praising Taylor Swift
for her ability to roast herself through a music video, but Michael did it first, in the video for "Leave Me Alone." Michael made light of all the rumors and speculation about him during this video, such as the image of his nose and the scalpel. The video ended up taking 9 months to create, since PhotoShop didn't exist then, every image is a real photo of Michael that had to be edited by hand using an X-Acto knife, glass to layer the images, and a whole lot of hope.
9. "I Want You Back"
This was the Jackson 5
's first single, and their first TV performance in 1969. Michael was only 11 years old at the time of this performance. But everything from the purple hat to the synced choreography between the brothers is iconic, and it's clear that even from an early age, Michael was meant to be a star.
"Thriller" is the music video that changed music videos. Before this, music videos were pretty much an afterthought. Michael saw video for what it was before anyone else: an extension of the song. The horror movie plot and the now iconic choreography changed video into the art form that it now is.