Undoubtedly, Michael Jackson was the most influential artist of the 20th century. He was a pop star, and he became even more influential than the Beatles, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, or even Elvis Presley. Michael Jackson had a raw, exceptional talent that he could pack in a whole new way. His achievements helped complete the desegregation of pop music in the United States and introduced a whole new era of multiculturalism that artists after him have followed. Here are some of the amazing ways Michael Jackson impacted pop culture:
1. Influence on future artists
Like the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Elvis Presley before him, Jackson reshaped pop culture in ways that are hard to understand. In one way or another, he influenced just about every musician who came after him. His dance moves, distinct voice, fashion, artistic expressions, individuality, over-the-top music videos – these things that Michael Jackson exuded influenced various artists of today and inspired them to make an impact of their own.
You can see his influence in every movie-esque music video, every song-and-dance performer who sweats to perfect a signature dance move, and every African-American artist who is going on top of the pop charts. His work has been a legacy that carried on with the many different music celebrities who claim his work as their formative influence, including Mariah Carey, Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, Usher, Chris Brown, Britney Spears, Ne-Yo, Snoop Dogg, Jennifer Lopez, Lady Gaga, Pharrell Williams, and countless others. These artists, in turn, have become some of the biggest celebrity performers of their day.
2. Sound and music
When America first met Michael Jackson, he was a small pre-teen with puffy Afro and an electric voice. Since the 1970s to early 1990s, Jackson held on to being the frontman of the Jackson Five. He was charming, and when he sings, you just have to believe what he’s singing about.
Jackson’s tunes had a little bit of everything – pop, jazz, rock, disco – and it’s all swirled and flavored with high-pitched shrieks, squeals, “hee-hees,” “aoows,” and “shamone.” He became a one-man rescue team for the music business, as he cut across all boundaries of musical taste and style. Other famous pop stars can sell millions of albums but were never taken seriously for their music, but Jackson was embraced by fans and critics alike. He didn’t just have 13 no. 1 hit singles – he also received 13 Grammys.
His musical talents might have made him a star – but his signature moonwalk, crotch grabs, mesmerizing group choreography with his dancers, and his laser-sharp snaps, spins, and pivots launched him to a superstar performer status. When the world watched him gliding to do the moonwalk for the first time in 1983, there’s just a liquid smoothness on the stage that no one has ever seen before. Teenagers have spent many hours dragging their feet across their carpeted bedroom floors, yet failing to do so. The moonwalk has attracted a cult of Jackson impersonators throughout the world.
His dance moves and stage presence were compared to those of Mick Jagger, Tina Turner, Sammy Davis Jr., and James Brown. However, he was the one who popularized street dances such as popping, locking, and the robot, besides the moonwalk. No other dancer has done much to popularize dancing as art since Fred Astaire.
Jackson became a trailblazer for his generation and was credited with spreading dance to a global audience. One producer and judge from So You Think You Can Dance said that countless applicants started dancing because of Jackson. It broke cultural barriers, as he was credited for reshaping Japan’s pop choreography and India’s Bollywood film scene.
Also, the ’80s became the decade of dance stars like Madonna and Prince. They would not be able to quickly establish their star status as they did if Jackson did not pave the way for them. It lasted throughout the following decades, influencing dance-pop stars like Britney Spears of the ’90s and Beyoncé of the 2000s.
4. Music videos
While Jackson can electrify a live audience with his voice and dancing, his true canvas was the visual screen. He was one of the greatest televisual entertainers in history. His videos for “Thriller,” “Billie Jean,” and “Beat It” was more than just great art – it was a new art form. Jackson turned the low-budget, promotional clips to promote a hit single into an art form that combined every form of mass media: the music video. It was cinematic, but it’s not a movie. There are elements of a live performance, but it was taped and nothing like a concert. It mixes song and dance but unlike Broadway.
Before Michael Jackson, videos did not matter. Since then, artists are now incorporating stylistic elements, heavy visual effects, choreographies and costumes, smart locations, and big budgets to create an awesome music video.
Jackson singlehandedly transformed the medium of music videos. His videos’ popularity helped bring the TV channel MTV to fame and rescued the music industry from its late ’70s recession.
Jackson often wore clothes that defied convention, giving him a notable style. The red leather jacket with many zippers, fedora, white sequined gloves, mirrored aviator sunglasses, black high-waisted pants, black shoes with glittering white socks – only Michael Jackson can pull all these things off. He was also interested in military history and British royalty, popularizing the adoption of regalia and military jackets – but bedazzled.
At the height of his fame, Jackson inspired different fashion trends in the world. British Vogue called him a fashion pioneer who initiated the trophy jacket trend. His bizarre fashion choices influenced artists like Lady Gaga and Beyoncé. Today, you can find many artists who are making a unique statement and trademark using fashion.
6. Benchmark for fame
In addition to his music, dance, video, and fashion influence, Michael Jackson set the benchmark for fame. The word “legend: doesn’t even compare to how he was and still is viewed worldwide.
Along with fame comes controversy, and Jackson has probably been immune to it. Being a star even before he reached puberty, Jackson spent most of his life in the public eye. No one on the planet had a more recognized fame, as this superstar drove one tabloid headline after another. Throughout the years, he was an ever-present media image that launched millions of rumors regarding his marriages, plastic surgeries, child abuse accusations, changing appearance, lavish lifestyle, bizarre relationships, and business peccadilloes.
Jackson became the source of fascination for the tabloid media throughout the years, making him spend much of his last decade trying to avoid media scrutiny.
7. Race politics
Early in Jackson’s career, he and his family were often portrayed as artists who rose out of black ghetto culture. This stereotype reinforced their standing as the role models for American youth, but the black labeling still displeased the family. When Off the Wall became a success, it was the time when disco was perceived as inferior to rock by critics. But the album integrated a diverse collection of talents from different races, cultures, and countries.
Before the “Billie Jean” music video, MTV hasn’t played a black artist. It was a channel directed to a white, rock-oriented audience. Even though the song was already a #1 hit on the Billboard charts, MTV initially refused to play it because they were committed to rock music. A CBS Records executive threatened to remove all their material off MTV and expose its discriminatory policies, so the network gave in. When they finally did it, it was not only Jackson who rose to superstar fame but also the MTV channel. The video for “Thriller” is often referred to as the musical phenomenon that finished pop music’s racial integration.
He didn’t only break down racial barriers in music, but also in other aspects of contemporary society. The video for “Black or White,” showing Jackson dancing with dancers of different ethnic groups and races, had lyrics pleading for racial tolerance. It became a statement-making song to unite people of all races. He made black people go pop-culture-global way before Tiger Woods, and Barack Obama came to the scene. Michael Jackson, among others, helped America mature to accept and respect Black people, leading to Obama’s presidential win.
8. Advocacies for humanitarian causes
Jackson used his celebrity platform to raise social awareness for things that mattered to him. While he wasn’t the only celebrity to use his fame for good, he was one of the most influential ones. He was a humanitarian who supported important organizations, such as the UNICEF, American Cancer Society, United Nations High Commission for Refugees, Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Social Change, among others. When it comes to humanitarian work, Jackson was an advocate for children, working mostly with organizations that support youth worldwide.
Today, celebrities use their platform and social media followings to raise awareness to causes that matter, and they have Jackson to thank for it.
9. Global culture
Michael Jackson wasn’t just famous in the United States. He was famous all over the globe, including areas that seem to be untouched by Western influence. Through him, there has been a sense of connection to all corners of the world unified by music, even before the Internet made way for global connection.