I’m really at a loss for words with Michael Jackson‘s untimely death, so I figured the best way to honor him is to enjoy some of his greatest videos (in my opinion). Apologies for the low quality on some of these –MTV Videos is the only site that allows embeds of Michael Jackson’s videos.
First up is the most obvious and lauded, both by audiences and critics, “Thriller”. Jacko went all out with this one, even hiring acclaimed film director John Landis, of An American Werewolf in London fame. Legal woes aside (in January, Landis filed suit for 50% of the roaylties from “Thriller”, as he co-wrote and directed it; in May, Jackson’s costar in the vid, Ola Ray, also sued for royalties), Jackson knew exactly what he wanted and Landis made his vision come to life. Clocking in at around 14 minues, the mini-film flourishes thanks to perfectly delivered narration from Vincent Price and badass choreography from Michael Peters, who previously worked with Jackson for the “Beat It” video.
“Thriller” didn’t just define the type of artist Michael Jackson was and the
music videos short films he created –it defined a generation and in doing so solidified MTV as the go-to place for new musical artistic expression.
Click through for 5 more of Jacko’s greatest videos…
Now the one this post takes its name from… Directed by John Singleton (Boyz N the Hood, Poetic Justice (starring Janet Jackson!), Higher Learning and many others) and featuring Eddie Murphy, Iman and a funny appearance by Magic Johnson, this Egyptian-themed tale has a cute story and a sweet “walk-like-an…” dance break. I remember the night this premiered, me and my friends crowded around the TV to see what Jackson was going to do next. Needless to say, we were far from disappointed and we spent the rest of the night trying to recreate the intricate choreography.
What can I say about this one, other than I simply cannot ‘get enough.’ To me, this is a perfect example of Jackson’s talent and magnetic personality. Featuring just Michael, smiling in a tuxedo and doing his now trademark dance moves against a cheap background of shimmering kaleidoscope gem and jewels, calling the video sparse is a grave understatement. But that’s what makes it so endearing to me: the beat, the hook and the dancing is all so infectious. Props to Quincy Jones for the song’s production –just one of many amazing collaborations between him and Jackson.
Back to another groundbreaker… “Scream” was directed by music video auteur Mark Romanek and features Janet Jackson. It premiered in 1995 in response to the child molestation charges brought against Jackson in 1993. It won countless awards, most notably a Grammys for Best Music Video, Short Form and three Moonmen. Other than Janet’s contribution, I love this video for the art direction and subjective imagery. It’s crazy to think this video is almost 15 years old, since most current big budget videos pale in comparison.
Okay, so this one has a similar subject matter to “Scream” (Jackson’s life as worldwide current events, coupled with speculation about his reckless spending), but seems a bit more lighthearted to me for some reason. Maybe it’s the collage animation style or the amusement park built on and around Michael Jackson, a la “Gulliver’s Travels”, but I equate this song with happy times of my youth. Oh, and he dances with the elephant man’s bones –which just proves that Jackson was both self-aware and had a great sense of humor.
Last, and certainly not least, we have “Black or White”. Featuring “Cheers'” George Wendt, a rapping Macaulay Culkin (okay, I know that’s not him), dancers from various cultures around the world and of course the much parodied scene of destruction wherein Jackson takes out all his aggression towards racism and discrimination, “Black and White” was one of the most buzzed about moments in music history. It reportedly premiered in over 27 countries to a truly global audience of 500 million viewers.
In conclusion, no one can deny Michael Jackson’s contribution to music and pop culture, specifically the music video art form. Much like his music, his videos tackled issues like racism, globalism, privacy and early hints at our celebrity-obsessed, over saturated paparazzi culture. Artists like Michael Jackson don’t come around very often. He will truly be missed, but I for one am incredibly thankful to have experienced his greatness in my lifetime.