Duality and Michael Jackson: How One Rock Critic's Perspective From The Early 80's Proved Startlingly Prophetic

Michael Jackson In 1984, Already Recognized As A Man Of Many Complexities

Recently I was researching some info on the 1982 video “Say, Say, Say” starring Michael and Paul McCartney. In the course of my research, I was linked to a very fascinating (but mostly forgotten now) book from the early 80’s-“Rock Eras: Interpretations of Music And Society, 1954-1984 by popular culture and rock critic James M. Curtis. I was very intrigued by Curtis’s passages on Michael Jackson, which seemed to me not only very insightful for someone writing about Michael in 1984, but also startlingly prophetic in many ways.

I recall that in 1984, Michael Jackson was just beginning to stake a claim as a subject worthy of serious study by rock critics. Up until then, he had been largely dismissed as a child/teen bubblegum star. But in the early 80’s, as it became very apparent to music critics that the now grown up Michael Jackson was someone worth watching, it was not surprising that the serious music pundits would begin trying to analyze his appeal, especially as it was spilling over into previously untouched territory-the mostly white, suburbian youth market. It wasn’t that Michael Jackson was the first black artist with crossover pop appeal, nor could he even be argued as the first black artist to make a name for himself in the white-dominated world of rock-Jimi Hendrix had already blazed that trial, long before Michael. But Michael Jackson was the first black artist whose record sales and commercial appeal actually threatened to usurp the heretefore unshakable thrones of Elvis, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. That was something new-and a bit sinister in the minds of many.

In 1984 Michael Jackson was still at the height of his “Thriller” fame. There was as yet no major controversy attached to his name. Vitiligo hadn’t yet turned him “white”; although he’d had some cosmetic procedures done, his changing apearance hadn’t yet attracted attention to itself.  The makeup, long hair, false eyelashes, and eyeliner (which would later induce many to speculate on his masculinity) were still several years away-yet already, the term “androgynous” was being applied to him, and writers like James M. Curtis were already commenting on what they attributed as Michael Jackson’s “androgynous appeal.” In 1984, it would still be several more years until Michael evolved into his very calculated “Peter Pan” persona; before “Childhood” became his personal anthem-yet already, in 1984, Curtis was aptly writing about what he perceived as a burgeoning “child-man” persona. Lastly, it was still over a decade before Michael would tell us in songs like “Is It Scary” and “Threatened” that he was essentially holding his dark inner self up to light in order to cast a mirror on the duality that dwells within us all-and himself. But Curtis was already onto it, noting that even in works as early as “Thriller” and “Beat It” Michael was already presenting himself as the embodiment of both Dr. Jeckyll and Hyde-and Dr. Hyde, it goes without saying, is almost always more interesting in some ways than the goodly Dr. Jeckyll.

Well, he’s certainly far more intriguing. For the very same reason that Shakespeare’s Iago upstages the noble Othello, we are always more fascinated with darkness than good. And Michael seemed to understand that this duality would form the essence of his adult appeal.

James M. Curtis’s analysis of Michael Jackson’s dualities are divided into three sections: The Child/Man, Man/Woman, Good/Evil, and even as Singer/Dancer.  I will look at each of these three sections-examining what Curtis has to say, then following up with my own commentary/analysis. In most cases, I agree with him, but there are other points I disgaree on, and I will try to elaborate on some of those points as I go through.

First of all, let’s look at the commentary that originally compelled me to look up James M. Curtis’s passages from “Rock Eras” on Michael Jackson in the first place-namely, this Wikipedia passage regarding his statements on “Say, Say, Say” and that video’s prsentation of Michael Jackson as the “Child/Man”:

Two authors later reviewed the short film and documented two central themes. The first is a “Child/Man” theme; the role of both a boy and an adult, which writer James M. Curtis states Jackson plays throughout the music video for “Say Say Say”.[37] Curtis writes that the bathroom scene involving the shaving foam is reminiscent of boys copying their fathers. He adds that the scene marks “the distinction between Michael’s roles as a Child and as a Man”. The writer also highlights the part where the singer supposedly becomes strengthened with a miracle potion, a further play on the “Child/Man” theme.[37] Furthermore, Curtis observes that Paul and Linda McCartney seem to act as if they are Jackson’s parents in the short film.[37]The author also notes that in a scene where Jackson is handed a bouquet of flowers from a girl, it is a reversal of one from City Lights, a 1931 film starring Charlie Chaplin, whom the singer greatly adored. [37]



I googled Curtis’s book to follow up on what he had to say about Michael Jackson and the Child/Man theme. I found out then that the Child/Man was just one of several dualities that Curtis had already pinpointed as already evident in Michael Jackson’s work and persona as early as 1984. Due to copyright laws, I can only excerpt small, brief passages, but I’ll provide the links and page numbers so that you can read these passages in context with the original.

On page 322, Curtis has been describing the dual personae that Michael presents in the “Thriller” video, as both good boy and werewolf/bad boy, noting that by turns, Michael is both “one of them” (the ghouls) and one of us. Yet he seems to relish equally in either role-and either identity.

Like the myth of Frankenstein and his creator which preceded it, the myth of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde creates a dramatic image for the schizophrenia of the modern world. We are, and have been, fascinated by split personalities because they speak deeply to the split which we sense within ourselves. Michael’s capacity to combine these oppositions within a single persona thus has great appeal, for we think that if he can do it, so can we.-James M. Curtis, p. 322,  Rock Eras: Interpretations of Music And Society, 1954-1984.

However, what follows after this is a very in-depth take on how Michael Jackson, having succesfully joined the escutcheon of aloneness and isolation inherent to rock stardom, may suffer the fate of being the eternal child if he does not at some future point more fully embrace the “Man” as opposed to “The Child.”

Michael In "The Wiz": Technically Still A Child, But Ready To Prove Himself A Man...It Would Not Be An Easy Transition

Rock stardom is so intense and so exclusive that it cannot sustain a relationship. hence, Michael can succesfully represent aloneness. Moreover, his alonness clarifies the way his persona combines four oppositions of personal attributes…{W]hile he was still legally a child, Michael appeared in The Wiz [1978}, Motown’s remake of the Judy Garland classic The Wizard of Oz (1939). Like Michael, Judy Garland became a star as a child, and the Child constituted a signifigant part of her persona. The trouble was, her persona did not allow for growth, and her career in the fifties was often a lament for lost innocence. I mention Judy Garland here because her self-destructive personality anticipated the self-destructive personalities of rock stars. This similarity may explain the reappearance of her A Star is Born, which came out at the very beginning of the rock era in 1954, in a rock version starring Barbra Striesand and Kris Kristofferson(1976).

Judy’s fate may await Michael. Unless he becomes more of a Man, and less of a Child, his ability to perform will suffer, and at forty he could find himself singing “Billie Jean” as a lament.-James M. Curtis, p. 324, “Rock Eras: Interpretations of Music And Society, 1954-1984.”

Okay, here’s a good moment to take a pause and look at what Curtis is actually saying here. In hindsight of all we now know about how Michael’s life turned out, it’s easy to look at that passage and say, Yep, he had it right on the money. Well, yes and no. I certainly wouldn’t agree that Michael’s ability to perform ever suffered. But what we did indeed see as Michael approached forty was an almost defiant  intensification of the “lost innocence” theme. In fact, Michael would come to embrace this theme in an almost martyr-like fashion, playing the victim and often seemingly rationalizing what the world and media were perceiving as his increasingly “eccentric” (and, as some would insist after the allegations- even “sinister”) behavior.

But lest we get too caught up in thinking of this as simply one more part of Michael’s very complex persona, let’s not forget the very tragic lesson of Conrad Murray’s audio recording and Michael’s own words-painful reminders that for Michael, this “lost innocence” was no act; it was a very tragic reality for him.

However, I do know exactly where Curtis is coming from; or at least, the position he was writing from in 1984. In many ways, the early 80’s was a very awkward transition period for Michael Jackson. To the world at large, he was still very much little Michael from The Jackson 5. We had not yet quite conditioned ourselves to thinking of him as an adult-yet. Videos like “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough,” “Say, Say, Say,” “Billie Jean” and “Beat It” presented us with a young man who was obviously not a child anymore, but by the same token, most of us weren’t really quite ready to let go and think of him as a full-fledged adult yet, either.

This period represents an interesting time in which we can literally see the transformation from Child to Man taking place, with the videos often toeing the line between innocence and the burgeoning sex appeal of a man. Yet it was an envelope they were still being careful not to press too far-not yet. Not until they’d had a chance to see how America and the world would react to the new, grown-up Michael Jackson.

With female child stars, we often see this transitional period as a phase in which the child star is increasingly allowed to become more provocative. We’ve seen this over and over-Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears, etc. With male child stars, it is often not as blatant, but looking back now and observing this period in Michael Jackson’s career, it seems to be a stage in which Michael-former child star and America’s Sweetheart- was testing the adult waters, while still being very careful and cautious not to alienate the audience or the fans who had made him famous-not yet, anyway.

"The problem With Being A Child Star Is, They Don't Want To Let You Grow Up"-Michael Jackson

Michael himself often said that the problem with being a child star is that “they don’t want to let you grow up.” There is truth in this, to be sure. What we would see with Michael Jackson for the rest of his adult solo career was an attempt to bridge the gap between Child and Man. However, we also have to keep in mind that Michael recognized the importance of the Child persona to his artistic integrity. Contrary to Curtis’s assertion that Michael would be artistically stymied by age forty, Michael actually proved that the Child would remain an artistically crucial and vital opposition to the Man.

But let’s get back to what Curtis had to say in 1984 about Michael’s sexual image, a passage that transitions into the discussion of the Man/Woman duality:

This second opposition in Michael’s persona does not so much contradict the first one as complement it. You first sense the feminine quality in his sexuality when you watch him lead the gang in the “Beat It” video in a series of aggressive bumps and grinds. Then, after doing this classic stripper’s move, he…flashes the audience. There’s no other way to describe it. He turns to face the camera, and whips open the sides of his unbuttoned jacket, only to close them again. Then, too, there’s a suggestion of traditional stereotypes of feminine sexuality in the cover photo for Thriller, where Michael sprawls langurously before us in his white suit with a couple of curls artfully arranged across his forehead. And let’s not forget that Michael is the first rock star in history who had a nose job.-James M. Curtis, p. 324, “Rock Eras: Interpretations of Music And Society, 1954-1984.”

The Scene That Used To Turn Me To Goo...There, I Admitted It!

I seriouly have to question whether Curtis knew for a fact that no other rock star before Michael had ever had a nose job! But those are some pretty interesting and “descriptive” comments regarding Michael’s body language in the “Beat It” video. There’s another very erotic scene in that video (I’m sure you all remember this shot!) where Michael is sitting poised on the edge of a pool table, and as he mouths the phrase “Beat it” turns to the camera with sensually parted open mouth, not so much singing as panting the words into the camera (that’s the scene that used to turn me to goo as a teen watching this vid!). A lot of the sexuality in that video  did seem very amped up and over-the-top, which begs the question: Why? Perhaps in addition to making the simple and obvious statement, “Hey, look at me, I’m all grown up and ready for action!” Michael was also, on a deeper level, bridging those oppositions-the duality of the video’s masochistic gang violence theme with the feminine sensibilities to “beat it.”

 Well, of course, that was only a small taste of what was to come in the next few years…Mr. Curtis hadn’t even seen the crotch grab yet! (Then again, kind of makes you wonder if the crotch grab wasn’t Michael’s answer to James M. Curtis! “Ok, dude, you think THIS is feminine?!”).

In "Beat It" The Sexuality Was Definitely Amped Up A Notch. But Was This Also A Subtle Message About Sex and Gender Roles?

But let’s get back to the point Curtis is actually making here, which he goes on to explain in more depth. As he explained, Michael Jackson may have come along at just the right time, when we, as a nation and a society, were reexamining all of the traditional roles of masculinity and femininity. He also acknowledges that Michael’s brand of androgynous appeal was certainly nothing new to rock.

This androgyny of Michael is not new, even among rock stars. David Bowie was probably the first major rock star with an adrogynous persona, but Mick Jagger also prances to mind as someone who learned to dance by watching Tina Turner, and who preens himself like a caricature of a woman onstage. Mick even poses as a cheap hooker on “Tattered”:”I can’t give it away on Seventh Avenue.” And before Mick, and the picture of the Stones in drag, there was Elvis. Specifically, Andy Warhol’s Elvis, which turns him into such a pretty boy that he comes across as feminine, even if he is holding a six-gun in each hand.

So Michael’s androgyny represents a culmination of the ambiguity which previous superstars have hinted at; but now, that ambiguity finds resonance in a much larger audience. If the opposition Child/Man enlarges Michael’s audience to include children, the opposition Man/Woman enlarges it to include teenyboppers. Girls between the ages of 10 and 14 are starting to discover boys, but they’re still uncertain about the whole thing, so they like stars who are a little like themselves, a little feminine. They definitely do not want an idol who is a macho man. In the late 70’s, this section of the market was putting pictures of Shaun Cassidy and Scott Baio on their walls; by 1984, it was Michael Jackson.-James M. Curtis, p. 325, “Rock Eras: Interpretations of Music And Society, 1954-1984.

Frankly, I’m not sure that Mick Jagger’s brand of androgyny is the best comparison to Michael Jackson’s. Mick has always been very much the arrogant, prancing, flaming peacock onstage-not that there’s anything wrong with that! It’s Mick’s particular schtick and one he’s been doing to perfection for almost fifty years. However, if you compare a typical Mick Jagger performance to, say, Michael Jackson’s “Dangerous” performance, you can see they are really coming from two totally, different spectrums as live performers-and that Michael Jackson is actually the much more dynamic of the two (perhaps again, precisely, because he embraced so many oppositions!). While Mick Jagger is a consummate performer and showman, he’s also mostly a one-trick pony onstage, whereas Michael was capable of many personas, all of which might be glimpsed and experienced in the breadth of a single show-even a single performance!

Perhaps in 1984 the choices of comparison were a bit more limited. As the 80’s progressed, and androgyny became more the norm in rock than the exception, it seemed at times that Michael was actually following the trend more than setting it. For sure, I think this goes a long way in explaining his increasingly androgynous late 80’s/early 90’s look in short films like Dirty Diana and Give In To Me, where he seems to be merely copying the pretty boy, hair metal look already popularized by bands like Motley Crue and Poison…or, considering the time period, merely blending in with the crowd.


Michael's Increasingly Androgynous/Glam Look of The Late 80's/Early 90's Probably Had As Much To Do With The Popularity Of Bands Like Poison and Motley Crue As Anything Else
Vince Neal of Motley Crue



 However, the popularity of this look-not just with Michael but with so many artists of the period-also raises another interesting question that Curtis fails to address. In fact, his whole analysis of the appeal of androgyny to young girls really smacks of a white, middle-aged male’s attempt to try to reconcile the erotic appeal of this seemingly “feminized” black man to females. Because the truth is, if the appeal of andogyny simply stems from some primordial fear of “maleness” that we females sense only at a certain age (puberty) that we’re not ready for, then why do women continue to find androgynous men sexy well into middle age and beyond? Or as I once put it to someone who was trying to argue this point with me, if the so-called “macho man” is supposed to be our society’s ideal of sexiness, then why is it always the skinny, long-haired, pretty boy in the band who seems to get all the action? Are we all simply closet lesbians, or is this indicative of something deep within the feminine psyche that the average male just doesn’t seem to “get?”

Michael Jackson seemed not only to “get it”, instinctively, but as the years progressed, he seemed to allow himself to more fully and-at times- brazenly embrace his feminine opposition. We saw the hair get longer; the makeup and eyeliner heavier; the public voice higher, as his physical appearance seemed to blur the lines of distinction between male and female-or, perhaps more accurately, our culture’s perceived definition of male and female. This seemed to come to a head in the gender-bending “Scream” video, in which Michael and Janet played on the whole idea of male/female identity (and perhaps also poking fun at the tabloid headlines that continually tried to portray them as being the same person!)

On The Set Of "Scream"...Taking Androgyny To New Heights

But-and this is where so many male critics have often been left scratching their heads in wonder!-the more androgynous Michael seemed to become over the years, the huger his international fan base became-especially among women. (And conversely, it seemed, the more the tabloids tried to convince the world that he had carved his face into a freak!). Talk about duality and opposition-so here is a man who is supposed to now look like a freak of nature, according to all the tabloids, yet women all over the world were still screaming, crying, and fainting in his presence like never before-certainly not the sort of mass reaction from the opposite sex one normally associates with someone who has been labeled “a freak!”).

When The media Tried To Say He Was a Freak, Michael's Female Fans The World Over Still Saw Only A Beautiful Man

However, I’m digressing. Let’s focus back on what James M. Curtis has to say, because I think he actually manages to explain the secret of Michael’s androgynous appeal quite well, and in the end, also redeems himself a bit for some of the things I questioned earlier:

But Michael is not a performer with limited appeal, like Shaun Cassidy, and he is not a sitcom star like Scott Baio. What keeps him from coming on like a wimp is the suggestion of evil in his persona. The suggestion of evil balances the goodness of his Child image, and of his role as a peacemaker in the “Beat It” video. -James M. Curtis, p. 325, “Rock Eras: Interpretations of Music And Society, 1954-1984.”

Now before anyone gets ruffled feathers, it might do to explain exactly what Curtis means by Michael’s “evil” persona. What he is referring to is actually not so much “evil” (which I personally think is a rather strong word choice) but simply the balance of “bad” vs. “good,” of “purity vs. impure”; of “light” vs. “dark.” Or perhaps more simply, the “bad boy” vs. “good.” This duality was, after all, a major essence of Michael’s appeal-that this same guy who could be so aggressively sexual and “all Man” onstage could then be so seemingly shy and “Child-like” off. It’s the same quality that keeps us endlessly debating what type of person Michael was; what he was or wasn’t capable of doing, saying, thinking, etc. But more importantly, it’s the opposition between good and bad; between moral and immoral; between the purity of childhood and impurity of adulthood that exists within all of us.

Curtis offers up a very interesting take on the single black glove that Michael wore at the American Music Awards and Grammy Awards that year. He points out that the character Khan in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982) wore a single, black glove, its purpose being to denote that the character was “unbalanced.”

Most people didn’t notice how Montalban created that effect, but Michael did. Yet when Michael wears a single black glove, it creates balance, not imbalance, because of the implicit goodness in the Child part of his persona. As Paul McCartney once said in an interview on MTV, “Nice fella, Michael; talented, too.”That image as a nice fella, as a mere Child, could stifle Michael as it stifled Judy Garland. He seems to have some awareness of this danger, and so is creating room for growth in his persona.-James M. Curtis, pp. 325-326, “Rock Eras: Interpretations of Music And Society, 1954-1984.”

In an interesting sidenote to the black glove story, Michael later gifted this same black glove to David Smithey, a 14-year-old boy suffering from cystic fibrosis who died one month later, in May of 1984:


14-Year-Old David Smithey Received Michael's Black Glove and "Beat It" Jacket One Month Before His Death in May of 1984

In a passage which I will summarize because it’s too long to quote verbatim, Curtis returns to the duality which  Michael represents in the Thriller video. We see him as a good guy, then as one of the monsters. In the climactic scene, the girlfriend-Ola Ray-escapes to her house, only to find that even there the monsters are still trying to attack! Michael emerges from this scene as the good guy, after all-“it was only a dream.” But then, in the final scene, turns sneakily back to the camera with the cat eyes once again!

Which is the “real” Michael?

The answer remains purposely elusive, just as it would for the rest of Michael Jackson’s career.

So we were wrong about Michael; we were limiting him by dismissing him as sweet and harmless. That delicately featured face and sweet voice conceal, and occasionally reveal, a demonic quality which is not illusory but inherent in him. That is to say by helping us recognize a demonic quality in him, he is also recognizing that quality in ourselves.-James M. Curtis, p. 326, “Rock Eras:Interpretations of Music And Society, 1954-1984.


"We Were Limiting Him By Dismissing Him As Sweet And Harmless"-James M. Curtis

There is more. Curtis goes on to write about the future difficulty Michael may face in reconciling his artistry with the Jehovah’s Witness church (a dilemma solved when Michael broke away from the church a few years later, though I think the split remained an integral part of his personal conflict for years afterward). There is also a very interesting comparison to the lyrics of “Billie Jean” with that of the Miracles’ “Shop Around” which seques into a very nice segment about the future of music and visual art-interesting stuff, coming as it did at a time when Michael was at the forefront of this new, musical innovation known as music video.

Quoting video director Julian Temple, he says:

For rock video to progress, it’ll have to get to where the movie musicals of the 40’s were, when directors and composers worked together to create a vital third entity between the music and visuals. It’ll have to become more of a two-way street between directors and musicians.”-James M. Curtis, quoting Julian Temple, p. 329, “Rock Eras: Interpreations of Music and Society, 1954-1984.”

That Michael Jackson, in 1984, was already recognized as one of the pioneers of this art form no doubt explains why an entire chapter is dedicated to analyzing Michael Jackson’s then-current appeal. Already, he was the embodiment of the ultimate duality, bridging both music and visual artistry in a way that had never been done before.

And through this new medium, we would continue to be at turns fascinated, repelled, intrigued, titillated, enchanted, and kept guessing by this wondrous, magical Man/Child…for many delightful years to come.

You can check out more of James. M. Curtis’s book here:


14 thoughts on “Duality and Michael Jackson: How One Rock Critic's Perspective From The Early 80's Proved Startlingly Prophetic”

  1. Thank you for this review, it seems like a worthy bokk, and I’ll definitely check it out. If I’m not mistaken, James. M. Curtis is the same journalist who wrote a preface to Joe Vogel’s “Man In the Music”.

    1. @Morinen

      That’s interesting! Ever since I found this, I’ve been wondering if he’s written anything more recent on Michael. It would be interesting to get a “then and now” perspective.

  2. Loved reading this Raven. I’ve read Man in the Music and I believe the forward was by Anthony De Curtis. I too would like to know if James Curtis wrote any other then and now articles on Michael, or for that matter, on anyone; it’s such a thought provoking comment. Thanks for sharing this with your readers.

  3. Hi,

    I was asked to pass this along. MJ site owners check your security. crazyovermj.com has recently been hacked. From what I saw it was not only hacked into, but a picture was left behind with a taunting message which may mean there is a virus attached to it.

    Nice site here.

  4. Don’t have time right now to do anything but skim this article. But I agree with you about that “panting” in Beat It. I thought it was sexy too. Still do.

    1. @anniedomino

      Yeah, I figure a lot of people probably skim the long articles before they read them, so that’s why I like to do the photos and captions.

      That scene was just too much! Still is even now, almost 30 years later, lol.

  5. Love that you have opened up this arena of inquiry. I want to pose the question, isn’t all of this belief that Michael is dualistic and contradictory based a BIT on archaic notions of good and evil – i.e, virgin good, sex bad etc? Could Michael have also been putting it to us that he, for example, could be way into sex AND sweet and innocent, and that this is rightfully NOT a contradiction, not a duality – that those qualities infact belong together, or are most awe-inspiring when they are wed?
    I would also like to ask if you truly think Michael remained a “child” too long. From my observation he was always both very old, ancient even, and very young, an innocent – from childhood to death. Could it be that Michael was so balanced that it exposed the rest of us for the truly unbalanced creatures we are or that life twists us into – and that, rather than he being any kind of freak, WE all freaked out because OUR imbalance was too much to face in the blazing light of his very comfortable embrace of, and reconciliation of “duality” within him – a duality as you have pointed out exists within us all. Could it be that he was just Born That Way? How many among us have embraced and married/neutralized those supposed inner oppositions as well as he did?
    Also, respectfully, how can any of us who haven’t lived through the removal of one’s childhood at the age of 5 possibly be qualified to decide that Michael was playing the victim, by pursing a childhood he was God-awfully robbed of, and pursuing it even more rigorously as he became confident enough, with age, to go for something everyone desparately needs – a real childhood? SHOULD childhood ever completely end? Aren’t there certain qualities of the child that should never be battered or driven out of us? The state of humanity doesn’t exactly support the position of leaving it all behind – we don’t seem to get better with age at all, until we return to some of our lost innocence – IMO.
    I wish we could all sit around and have a face to face discussion on this terrifically interesting matter you have put before us. What an excellent blog!

  6. Great article but i have to admit it was a little long for me to read so i skimmed through it sorry.

    “But in the early 80′s, as it became very apparent to music critics that the now grown up Michael Jackson was someone worth watching, it”

    I think we can both agree Michael was an enigma to watch even when he was a child anyone who underestimated him well it’s there loss.

    “It wasn’t that Michael Jackson was the first black artist with crossover pop appeal, nor could he even be argued as the first black artist to make a name for himself in the white-dominated world of rock”

    I would like to add to that I think Michael was the first Black superstar when it comes to a definition of a superstar yes they were talented blacks before Michael but i do not think any of them had the cultural impact like Michael and that Michael had the whole world watching him black, whites, Latino’s any minority were fascinated by him and the cultural impact he had I also think he was the first black artist who’s posters you could find on the wall in a white person’s home and other minorities. lets say Michael had the white establishment by the balls.


    I noticed this also especially Michael’s more rock oriented material like in Dirty Diana his jheri curl was the same but he added sum hard flair to go with the sound like the leather pants and the shirt i don’t think he was directly like Motley Crue or poison because those bands seem more trashy on stage than MJ. Michael somehow managed to make his image go with the sound but didn’t want to directly match these guys he still managed to seem clean on stage.

    1. Michael somehow managed to make his image go with the sound but didn’t want to directly match these guys he still managed to seem clean on stage.

      I think he was pushing that envelope, though. You could see him progressively allowing his act to get a little raunchier; for example, that move he does in the Dirty Diana video where he arches his pelvis into the guitarists’ face is…well, quite suggestive, to say the least. I think he was definitely borrowing a lot of the trappings of those metal videos-the pseudo macho posing, the skin tight pants, the wind machine effects, etc. But the difference with Michael’s approach-as opposed to those other acts-was that he always seemed to approach sex as a cautionary tale, and in his songs, he is actually preaching a moral message-there are wages to be paid for sin, and lust in thought or deed (outside marriage) is a sin. I’m sure this was all a large part of his JW upbringing coming into play. I think he liked the IDEA of being sexy/sexual onstage, and pushing that envelope, but he was also always ultimately aware of the message he was sending to young impressionable fans. The biggest difference between MJ and some of those other acts is that for most of them, it was just all about the sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll. With Michael, you always knew it was more than that; deeper than that. There was always a moral message. (“Give In To Me” may have been, to my knowledge, his first song that openly celebrated a sexual relationship for its own sake, but even there, you got the feeling that this could well be a committed relationship).He was the only artist I ever knew of who could be that damn sexy while telling us, basically, that sex was a sin, lol.

  7. Michael Jackson had enormous sex appeal. It was a combination of his physical looks, enormous musical gifts (singing and dancing) and his wonderful personality/character. He was a genius and a humanitarian. I cannot think of another musical artist with his crossover appeal. All you have to do is spend some time on YouTube to see this.

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