Michael Jackson: The King of Pop (1958-2009)
World-renowned for the influence he brought to the international music and dance scene, Michael Jackson was and still is an iconic figure in the entertainment industry. He was an all-rounded phenomenon in the history of pop culture, a singer, songwriter, dancer and choreographer, all incorporated in one body. His talent in being able to fuse his music and dance style together so seamlessly was probably one of the reasons for his booming success as an artist. The transformation and influence that he had brought about in the entertainment industry, dance included, might very well be the greatest legacy that any solo artist had ever left behind.
Michael Jackson’s Career as an artist
A born artist, Michael Jackson had been a singer and dancer throughout his lifetime, from an age as young as 5 years old. He initially learnt to dance by studying the shows of leading artists at that time, such as James Brown and Jackie Wilson. From the time of Michael’s entry into the Jackson 5, at the age of 5, till the time he was 13 years old, the Jackson 5 had already been featured in numerous television programmes, live shows and produced several hit albums. (Carlsson, The Jackson 5 Era)
At the age of 13, Michael produced his first solo single, “Got To Be There”, which topped the charts both in the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK). He was a phenomenon to be reckoned and displayed maturity in his singing far beyond his actual age. With his solo career well on its way, Michael continued to perform with his brothers as the Jackson 5. Along with the release of the song “Dancing Machine”, Michael’s talent as a dancer was also realized as he pioneered what was called the robot dance, a disco dance style that quickly became popular. By 1974, Michael Jackson had produced 4 albums of his own, including a number 1 hit on the US charts, making him the youngest vocalist to ever top the US charts at the age of 16. His solo career was further developed in versatility when he was featured in a motion picture, “Wiz”. (Carlsson, Off the Wall Era)
By the age of 26, Michael had won multiple awards as a musician, acted in various movies and had already reached the point of international stardom. About this time as well, Michael began his first solo tour. With his whopping success, popularity, fame and talent, Michael proved himself to be the greatest entertainer of the 1980s and the best-selling artist of all time. It was also in 1989 that the term King of Pop was so aptly coined for him.
Michael Jackson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, one as a part of the Jackson 5 and another as a solo artist. Over the years, he established for himself a reputation for his dance moves and choreographic work as well, above being a singer, songwriter and actor. He developed certain signature moves, which the world has come to know and see so much of in his work, such as the moonwalk, the toe stand and the anti-gravity lean. (Harrington)
Though his personal life was filled with controversies and tarnished with accusations of various misdeeds, he was no doubt a great entertainer and artist who left behind a legacy that many artists, singers, dancers and musicians alike, continue to keep alive.
Michael Jackson’s Approach to Dance
Michael Jackson’s dance style was influenced by a wide range of people, varying from R&B artists to even ballerinas. His influences included jazz, street dances and African-American indigenous styles. Throughout his career, he was under no formal training, nor did he have any dance teachers supervising him, further affirming his natural talent. He was completely self-taught and worked very much in isolation when it came to mastering his famous dance moves. (Beers) He was creative in the way he brought different techniques of various dance styles together, taking whatever he saw and liked in other dancers and making them his own. (Roy) By fusing various styles and techniques, together with his own artistic creations, he introduced an entirely new dance style to the world.
He was born with natural flair, grace, flexibility and even musicality. Most definitely, these developed further as he grew as a part of the Jackson 5 and eventually as a solo artist. He was a perfectionist as a dancer, refining his steps and moves till they were flawless before they were presented on a stage. His dance works took long periods of preparation and hard work, rarely a result of instantaneous improvisation.
Michael Jackson was also born with a talented and creative mind. While his works were inspired by various styles and specific artists at that time, he was known for his original and phenomenal invention of steps as well. His moves may have been similar to certain techniques in some styles, yet what defined them as a whole new dance style was the difference in their execution and presentation as part of pop culture, along with his songs. He executed his movements with sharpness and great precision, evidence of his many hours of practice in the dance studio on his own. With all these factors taken into consideration, it was obvious how he so easily left a legacy as a dancer just as much as he did as a singer.
Its Relation and Impact on Dance
From the moment Michael Jackson stepped into the Jackson 5 at the age of 5, whether he was part of the group or going solo, he was an entertainer and performer wherever he went and captured the hearts of many who watched him. He was as successful a dancer as he was a musician and his works continue to inspire many in the entertainment industry today. Traces of his dance moves are still being kept alive by many leading artists such as Usher and Justin Timberlake, though not executed as flawlessly as the man himself. (Brown)
His influence on the worldwide dance scene was something that I believe took place largely due to his success as a musician and singer. The style of his dance moves complemented his songs so well that these two elements together gave a whole new dimension to pop culture. Before Michael Jackson, few have had as much success in transforming and redefining dance the way he did. He played a pivotal role in the history of dance as he gave new breadth and depth to the vocabulary of different genres of dance such as jazz and hip-hop.
I believe that what sets him apart from other choreographers and artists who also create their own moves is the fact that his dance movements have lasted not only the test of time but have also moved across space to become a worldwide phenomenon. Through him, the dance scene has changed all across the globe. Many seek not only to learn the steps but to execute them with as much precision and style as he did. This proves that his success as such an influential dancer was not only due to the aesthetic value of his steps but can also be attributed to the amount of entertainment value he possessed when he performed them.
The impact of Michael Jackson’s work may not be as evident in some genres of dance as they are in others but he has no doubt played a highly significant role in molding the artists of this generation, dancers included. He still stands strong as the King of Pop and will continue to do so till the next time as great a phenomenon as him emerges in the arts scene.
Dance, as a part of the performing arts, has grown over time to become more important in terms of entertainment value, beyond the technically perfect and intrinsically precise. Michael Jackson could very likely be responsible for pushing this element of dance to the point where it is today, with the combination of music, use of the body and entertainment value all together as one. Though many other classical and traditional forms of dance continue to stand firm in their original forms, not infused with modern elements of great artists such as Michael Jackson, it is sufficient to say that his overwhelming success as an artist throughout his life has, at the very least, transformed a very large part of the broad genre of modern dance in the world today