Over the past week, I've been catching up with old friends, really old friends and the one inevitable topic that we discussed was the departure of Michael Jackson.
Circa 1983-84 was a great time for pop music. What would a pre-school kid like me know about music back then, you might ask. Well, for one, I remember the choruses of some songs that were nominated for a Grammy that year (1984). There was a show on public television that played the videos of those songs and a relative actually recorded it on an audio cassette which later became a prized possession of mine. Back then, I would play the tape on what we called a mini-compo that worked on power of less than 15 watts. It was a lightweight, flat, mono-stereo Sanyo. So, you can imagine how fascinated I was when I first heard of a 1000 watts sound system from Sharp back in the early 90s. But the Sanyo was good enough for someone who couldn't differentiate the treble from the bass until he started keeping sideburns.
I can't remember the sequence of the recorded songs now but there was the mellow Every Breath You Take by The Police. And Billy Joel's Uptown Girl from his An Innocent Man album. It was also the year of Flashdance, which I believe I'd watched at the Rex cinema along Jalan Sultan, Chinatown. The smash introduced Irene Cara's What A Feeling and Michael Sembello's Maniac to the world. And for some strange reasons, the sight of those sweat socks that girls wear these days reminded me of the two songs a lot. It was also the year when I couldn't decide who was scarier-looking; Annie Lennox from the Eurythmics or Boy George. But of course, one can't deny the catchy, synthesizing beats of Sweet Dreams (remember the cows in the video?) and the slightly reggae-influenced Karma Chameleon. Lionel Richie had it big too, that year, with All Night Long. David Bowie said Let's Dance, remember?
And there was Beat It by Michael Jackson.
Who could forget the simple phrase that took the world by storm. I really thought it was about beating each other up (the video was suggestive of that). You can't blame me. I was only an innocent kid who knew of nothing but good hokkien mee from the Pekeliling flats back then. It was later in life that I understood the meaning of that song. Eddie Van Halen's guitar solo only made the song more powerful, with a rock edge. Who was Billie Jean? It was another song that I didn't understand as well. But the soundscape of it all, including the funky bass line, was just too amazing that one can't help but groove along. And that moonwalk! A perfect blend of pop and R&B, it remained as one of my favourite Michael Jackson songs (remixed or not).
We were in primary school when Bad was released. While Smooth Criminal, Bad and Dirty Diana were the most popular singles from that album, it was Man In The Mirror that had an impact on many of us. The poignant song had traveled with us to leadership camps and other school functions. In my list of cool, uplifting songs, I placed it only slightly below U2's awesome One. If the melodies of the song (got to love the electronic keyboard-led intro) doesn't hit you, the words will.
If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself
And Then Make A Change
While his subsequent albums were deemed to be less successful than Thriller and Bad, I thought there was progressive maturity in song choices. Gone were the mainstream pop tunes and came urbanized beats that were rather cool. My personal favourites were Stranger In Moscow (which I thought had a slight trip-hop element in it), You Rock My World and Blood On The Dancefloor.
The King Of Pop will be missed for there will only be one who can dance, sing and be Michael Jackson. But I guess on the positive side, we should believe that his legacy will continue to evolve with time through artists whom were inspired by him; like Ne-Yo, Justin Timberlake and Usher.
In our conversations, we confessed that we were not big fans of The Gloved One but it was through music icons like him that we had memories, good and bad memories that reminded us of the friendship we shared.
So, thank you Michael Jackson, for adding to the unforgettable moments of our lives.
We shall celebrate your legacy soon with a karaoke session of nothing but your songs. And we hope to do you proud!