Still a Thriller | 25 Years & Counting

state_mj_sm.jpgAny true pop culture aficionado knows the importance of Michael Jackson and the significance of his exceptional and everlasting contribution to music, videos, and even fashion.

 

 

 

 

There’s something wonderful to be said about the feel of an old-school cardboard album jacket. Wrapped in plastic and requiring two hands to hold, it’s like a special gift you can’t wait to open. And what exactly might you find tucked inside in addition to a shiny new vinyl LP? Perhaps bonus photos of your favorite musical artist. Maybe a pullout poster. Or, better still, a lyrics sheet, making it possible for you to sing the actual words of the song, instead of making up your own.

Back in the early 1980s, I remember staring for hours on end at Michael Jackson’s legendary Thriller album cover. I’d sit and listen to the entire LP from beginning to end, from "Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’" right through to "Lady in My Life." Even though I was only seven years old, I knew the words to each and every song by heart (thanks for including those lyrics, MJ). And while singing, I’d often find myself daydreaming about what my life would be like if only I knew Michael, if only he’d become my friend and fall madly in love with me and then ask me to be his wife… if only… Well, looking back now, I can clearly see how incredibly naïve my ideas were about any type of romance with Michael. Nevertheless, though, I stand by my youthful observations when it comes to the man’s talent. He was, and still is, a once in a lifetime, rare and unique musical genius whose gifts continue to influence and inspire generations.

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Fast-forward 25 years to December 1, 2007. That date marked a huge milestone in pop music history, as well as this modern day MTV generation, because on that very day back in 1982, Michael Jackson blessed us with his musical masterpiece appropriately titled Thriller. Indeed, what a thriller it was and still remains. The album is by far the biggest selling of all time, with worldwide sales reaching upward of 104 million copies.

Any true pop culture aficionado knows the importance of Michael Jackson and the significance of his exceptional and everlasting contribution to music, videos, and even fashion. As a proud child of the ’80s, I have so many fond memories of the Thriller era when Michael virtually ruled the world and earned the nickname "The King of Pop." Neither I nor virtually anyone else alive at the time could get enough of the phenomenon. Several of Michael’s posters adorned my bedroom walls. I proudly sported my "Beat It" T-shirt as often as I could. I even covered my one-time favorite Shirt Tales lunchbox with Michael Jackson stickers (thanks, Mom, for allowing me to purchase them from the gumball machine!). And in addition to the Michael Jackson folders that I used for my schoolwork, every week during my entire second grade school year, when it was my turn for Show and Tell, I shared something about Michael Jackson. Talk about being a dedicated fan!

These days there are many who blithely dismiss Michael and all of his musical achievements simply because of the string of recent mishaps in his personal life, which unfortunately have kept him front and center in the media (i.e., child molestation charges, nearly tossing his kid named "Blanket" over a hotel balcony, rumblings of bankruptcy, etc.). None of those private woes, however, can dampen the impact the man has had on music and culture throughout the world. During the 1980s, simply put, Michael Jackson ruled the world. From L.A. to K.C., from Berlin to Sydney, fans young and old around the globe watched his every move with baited breath, and we couldn’t wait to do our best to imitate. And if imitation is truly the sincerest form of flattery, then Michael continues to be honored like no other celebrity ever has before. Without the "gloved one," there’d be no Justin Timberlake, Usher Raymond or Chris Brown. Each of these young pop stars of today was clearly inspired by Michael and owes him a huge debt for paving the way.

Michael is a true American icon and he deserves to be honored time and again for his incredible contribution to popular music and culture today, tomorrow, and eternally. There’s never been anyone like him before, and in the 25 years since he first commanded the world stage, there’s yet to be anyone who even comes close to taking his place. | Retannical Russell

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