Sunday, 22 June 2014

MJ: He's still a thriller

Hachim Bahous, France

Hachim Bahous, France

Five years have passed since his untimely demise on June 25, 2009, but Michael Jackson lives on in the hearts of every person who listens to music. 

Note: The images shown here were sent in by readers, who were invited to join in our celebration of the King of Pop’s visual legacy by submitting their original artwork for The Star's 'Michael Jackson – Visionary' visual tribute gallery. Look out for more images throughout this week on the Star2 Facebook page.

Neil Armstrong may have walked on the face of the moon in 1969, but in 1983, when Michael Jackson did the moonwalk at Motown’s 25th anniversary celebrations in California, NASA’s finest achievement momentarily took a backseat. Thus began a revolution for dance aspirants and every pop star wannabe from Wyoming to Timbuktu, by way of Ipoh, too.

There, my brothers and I stood decked out in matching track suits in 1984 ... clearly inspired by the Break Dance and Beat Street movies, too, posing in front of the mirror to bust those moves as accurately as possible. Since performances for us were generally indoors, the pre-requisite was socks ... hey, we had to be able to do the moonwalk friction-free.

That was the attention to detail we picked up on from MJ. Perfection came first, just like every whirl, every thrust of the hip, every en pointe, every kick – they were all planned, down to the nth degree. His was art for art’s sake. Fair enough, we never managed any of those moves successfully, but it was never for the want of trying.

Kher Suat Day, Selangor
Kher Suat Day, Selangor

Perfection would come to define MJ’s career, and 12 years later, when on his historic HIStory tour of 1996, concert-goers in Malaysia got to see how sharp his craft remained at his show at Stadium Merdeka. If the Smooth Criminal dance sequence was out of this world, the Billie Jean routine had grown men in tears. Yup, it wasn’t just the girls who cried at MJ concerts. That was a show never to be forgotten. Artistes only play a single date in Malaysia, but the world’s greatest played two. And waiting more than two hours to purchase a pair of tickets barely grated on my nerves.

But that’s how inextricably a part of our lives he was, for young and old alike. My parents weren’t exactly spring chickens to be bopping their heads to Billie Jean, Beat It or Thriller in the early 1980s, but it was obvious mum and dad both knew those songs, if not by title, then at least by sound. Rock music might have had its detractors in the household, but not MJ’s music.

MUST USE CAPTION: Jimmy Khalil, Kuala Lumpur
Jimmy Khalil, Kuala Lumpur

Speaking of his music, his “latest” album, Xscape, comes across as nothing more than an exercise in milking his name. That’s a product meant as personal ideas, obviously not fully-fleshed out, and certainly not for public consumption. But pick through his back catalogue and there’d be more than a few you could shake a stick at.

The holy trinity of Off The Wall, Thriller and Bad are pop masterpieces, each and everyone of them. Sure, we all have favourites. Most people like Thriller, and the cool would say Off The Wall, but I liked Bad best. Thriller had the strange P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing), and Wanna Be Startin Somethin’ and Baby Be Mine seem like they belong on Off The Wall, but Bad was more an album of its time.

They say music and sport are the only two universal languages. And that’s completely true. No artiste has brought the world together quite like MJ has, what with songs like We Are The World, Earth Song and Heal The World. Starting from a Philippines penitentiary, the Thriller dance routine has swept through prisons around the world since it made its debut as a YouTube meme in 2007.

Ellie Yong Sze Ching, Miri, Sarawak
Ellie Yong Sze Ching, Miri, Sarawak

Of course, detractors loomed large for the artiste often hailed as the greatest – there always seemed to be a nefarious association with little boys, but nothing was conclusively proven.

An artiste of MJ’s status was always going to draw attention, like bees to honey. Intrinsically, human beings have the need to look up to someone as a role model. We gauge ourselves by their handiwork. But people like MJ never asked to be role models, and they never acted like them either.

MJ was a gift to the music world like no other. When you think about it, it’s almost as if he was not of this earth – his talent transcends explanation or definition.

MUST USE CAPTION: Katrin Yeoh, Air Itam, Penang
Katrin Yeoh, Air Itam, Penang

Five years have flown by since the devastating news of his death ripped through media channels on June 25, 2009. He was on the verge of reminding the world why he was the King of Pop with the ambitiously planned This Is It world tour.

It was not to be, and what the world was privy to in the end was a movie on the making of the tour, a picture of what could’ve been. It’s hard to imagine what pop music would be like without MJ’s contribution. Heck, half the R&B and pop artistes of the day wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for him.

And neither would my brothers and I have been consumed by delusions of grandeur in pulling off some MJ moves. Unsurprisingly, our MJ tribute-breakdancing outfit never took off ... we relinquished those lofty plans as soon as we realised how daft they were. But we’ve kept the music close to our hearts ever since, and often reminisce about that brilliance, like how every fan the world over will do this week – and forever more.

Michelle Christine Arul, Rawang, Selangor
Michelle Christine Arul, Rawang, Selangor

Tags / Keywords: Entertainment , Entertainment , Michael Jackson , HIStory , Smooth Criminal , Billie Jean , Thriller , Beat It , MJ


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