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Thread: Were MJ and other artists of the old TRULY great?

  1. #1

    Were MJ and other artists of the old TRULY as great as people say?

    I've been thinking this not just about MJ, but old artists in general. You see tons of people complaining that music isn't as good as it used to be, but is that really true? Could it be not so much that music has gotten worse, but that people look at the past with rose tinted glasses? It's not like people started to hate music in recent years; popular music has always had naysayers since the dawn of time. I'm sure plenty of people hated Elvis in the 50s, Beatles in the 60s, all the disco groups in the 70s, MJ in the 80s, etc. Nowadays, though, people look back at those eras and usually have nothing but praise for them. Seems to me that most people praise those eras simply because they grew up during them, that was their childhood, that was their youth, etc. And today's youth praises it largely because it's old and they have old people telling them how good it was. Even stuff that was hated in the 2000s, like Britney Spears, NSYNC, Justin Timberlake, etc get more respect than they did back then. Obviously because the people who grew up on them are older and more vocal about them. I guarantee you that Justin Bieber, One Direction, Taylor Swift, etc will be treated as legends in the 2020s.

    So, how does this specifically tie into MJ you ask? Well, I see people arguing that his post-Thriller work was generic and safe, but couldn't you say that about what came before, too? What even is "generic"? Sounding similar to a bunch of other stuff? If so, wasn't Jackson 5 were just another bubblegum group, Jacksons were just another disco group, Off The Wall just another disco album and Thriller just another pop/post-disco album? And yet, so many people put his early adult material on such a high pedestal. But why? Seems like just nostalgia to me. Sure, Thriller is the best selling album of all time, but commercial success doesn't equate to quality; otherwise, Justin Bieber is a legend. And why was that album so successful? Much of its success was due to the fact 1) MJ just happened to be one of the first black artists to get his videos played on MTV 2) MJ made the moonwalk popular 3) And not even these first two reasons were enough to make the album the huge phenomenon it ended up being. As many of us know, by summer 1983, album sales lagged. Epic was ready to call promo off, but MJ begged to keep it going. It was then decided that there would be one more single and video, which was, you guessed it


    The Thriller video revolutionized the music video format, being the first music video to be directed by a major movie director and the first to feel like some sort of mini-movie. Once the video hit, sales skyrocketed to brand new heights; it was a never before seen anomaly in the industry. From that point on, the album was immortalized as this omnipresent thing that would continue to show up reasonably high in the charts for years and years to come. Even today, it sells 130K per year. And let's be real, it was mainly thanks to the Thriller video. Without that video, would Thriller have been significantly bigger than other notable 80s album, like Purple Rain, Born In The USA, Bad, Like A Virgin, etc? Nah fam. And it wasn't for piracy, Thriller's sales would have been overtaken a long time ago.

    So, really, a lot of MJ's success was due to the fact he just happened to be among the first people to do things that most people hadn't seen before. Doesn't actually say anything about quality, though. With all that said, I no longer believe MJ declined after Thriller. For his whole career, he was really just another pop artist who happened to get lucky. There's nothing wrong with that at all; Thriller is still my favorite album of his, don't get me wrong. but there's nothing that really sets MJ apart from pop stars today; he played it safe and so do they. Thoughts?

  2. #2
    I'm gonna be straight up and say I tried about 4 times to respond to this. I really can't articulate my thoughts other than to say; I'd sooner listen to Sign 'O' The Times by Prince than Sign Of The Times by Harry Styles. It's all relative to what you like man.

  3. #3
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    I didn't bother to read the whole text, stupid to speculate, todays music in the radio and the manstream music is bad and thats a fact, but ofc there is good if you search, bottomline old is and will be best, I love classic music much more today than i did in the past, when you grow old you begin to appriciate good and timeless music.

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    Manufactured to sound good>Manufactured to look good.

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    Universe, you have some good points, but you let yourself down.

    "If it wasn't for piracy, Thriller's sales would have been overtaken a long time ago....."

    Nonsense and clearly ignores the fact that piracy did exist in Thriller's day.

    You could argue Purple Rain was one album that benefitted from the sales of Thriller. As did others that year. Indeed, by 1985, black artists accounted for 25% of all sales for the first time ever in the history of the recorded music industry. Thriller's impact continued to reverberate.

    Of course, the Thriller video is what broke the all time album sales record previously held by the Bee Gees. Thriller had sold 12 million worldwide by September 1983 - even with the Moonwalk on Motown25. But between December 1983 and mid February 1984, the Thriller video caused an explosion in sales of 14million.

    More than all the previous promo efforts combined. Sure, luck played it's part which is there in all records in many fields.

    But no album was going to outsell Thriller simply because nothing since has caused a paradigm shift. And Thriller sold what it did because it caused a paradigm shift.

    After putting all the work in, you still have to be able to spot an opportunity and then act on it. Thriller video was a surprise.

    Especially since at that time, special effects was really innovative and becoming even more influential. Thriller represents the marriage of music and film into one better than anything else.

    Michael's sales average isn't something that's typical in the industry even now. Either cumulative or rapidity of sales. This is not "just another popstar who got lucky". This is a popstar who worked extremely hard at what he did for years before he spotted an opportunity, put his money where his mouth was and continued to work extremely hard AFTER the one off peak rather than resting on his laurels.

    No other act pushed as much as Michael Jackson did, creatively and commercially. Usually, acts focus on one or the other - most of the time they focus on the creative with the commercial bit a necessary evil as they've bills to pay. For most acts, the commercial side of the business wasn't a huge priority.

    Already, the industry is rapidly changing from the one Michael Jackson knew post-Thriller. The business he knew pre-Thriller was very different to that post-Thriller too.

    Nostalgia is certainly a factor that makes people think the past was better. Yet, very, very few of the acts of the old days are listened to in significant numbers or bought in significant numbers. The legends certainly are still, but they're the few. Michael is one of them.

    Personally, I'd be surprised if any act from 2000-2018 are still listened to or bought in significant numbers 40 years from now.

    But Elvis, the Beatles and Michael Jackson still will be.

    Only the best continue to live on. That's the litmus test. Mozart's music has lived on for 400+ years now. Barely anyone else from his time are when you think about how many composers there was.

    Yet in reading all your post.....I don't see what point you're trying to make?

    If it was that Michael Jackson was just another run of the mill popstar.....well, I don't know what to tell you other than he wasn't that.

    "If you want the boy next door, don't go see Michael Jackson 'cos he ain't the boy next door!" - Sammy Davis, Jr
    "Because we do not know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you can't even concieve of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even that. How many times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless." - Brandon Lee

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  7. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by PG13 View Post
    Universe, you have some good points, but you let yourself down.

    "If it wasn't for piracy, Thriller's sales would have been overtaken a long time ago....."

    Nonsense and clearly ignores the fact that piracy did exist in Thriller's day.

    You could argue Purple Rain was one album that benefitted from the sales of Thriller. As did others that year. Indeed, by 1985, black artists accounted for 25% of all sales for the first time ever in the history of the recorded music industry. Thriller's impact continued to reverberate.

    Of course, the Thriller video is what broke the all time album sales record previously held by the Bee Gees. Thriller had sold 12 million worldwide by September 1983 - even with the Moonwalk on Motown25. But between December 1983 and mid February 1984, the Thriller video caused an explosion in sales of 14million.

    More than all the previous promo efforts combined. Sure, luck played it's part which is there in all records in many fields.

    But no album was going to outsell Thriller simply because nothing since has caused a paradigm shift. And Thriller sold what it did because it caused a paradigm shift.

    After putting all the work in, you still have to be able to spot an opportunity and then act on it. Thriller video was a surprise.

    Especially since at that time, special effects was really innovative and becoming even more influential. Thriller represents the marriage of music and film into one better than anything else.

    Michael's sales average isn't something that's typical in the industry even now. Either cumulative or rapidity of sales. This is not "just another popstar who got lucky". This is a popstar who worked extremely hard at what he did for years before he spotted an opportunity, put his money where his mouth was and continued to work extremely hard AFTER the one off peak rather than resting on his laurels.

    No other act pushed as much as Michael Jackson did, creatively and commercially. Usually, acts focus on one or the other - most of the time they focus on the creative with the commercial bit a necessary evil as they've bills to pay. For most acts, the commercial side of the business wasn't a huge priority.

    Already, the industry is rapidly changing from the one Michael Jackson knew post-Thriller. The business he knew pre-Thriller was very different to that post-Thriller too.

    Nostalgia is certainly a factor that makes people think the past was better. Yet, very, very few of the acts of the old days are listened to in significant numbers or bought in significant numbers. The legends certainly are still, but they're the few. Michael is one of them.

    Personally, I'd be surprised if any act from 2000-2018 are still listened to or bought in significant numbers 40 years from now.

    But Elvis, the Beatles and Michael Jackson still will be.

    Only the best continue to live on. That's the litmus test. Mozart's music has lived on for 400+ years now. Barely anyone else from his time are when you think about how many composers there was.

    Yet in reading all your post.....I don't see what point you're trying to make?

    If it was that Michael Jackson was just another run of the mill popstar.....well, I don't know what to tell you other than he wasn't that.

    "If you want the boy next door, don't go see Michael Jackson 'cos he ain't the boy next door!" - Sammy Davis, Jr
    Not much more to say after this post. PG laid it all there

    Universe brought up that by summer 83, sales had lagged....That was after 20 weeks at #1.

    Luck has a lot to do with a lot of great acts, whether its Michael or Prince or Stevie and others.

    Michael had a great album, a great marketing team, a longstanding bond with the audience going back over 10 years and the support of his record label to get to the goal he wanted

    Prince, who before Purple Rain, only had 1999 and the moderate success of his second album as true commercial successes. Purple Rain was a surprise for many, even though it was his sixth album.

    Stevie was almost dropped from Motown before the higher ups were convinced to give him more rein on the creative process when he reached puberty. Stevie's 1972-1976 "classic period" was after FIFTEEN ALBUMS

    It's what they do with it AND their talents that makes them shine. Was Michael just another pop star after Thriller? I don't think, in my view, anyone who actually experienced Michael Jackson between 1979-1996 can truly agree with that. Dude was THE pop star

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    Hell, look at the cases of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

    Messi needed growth hormone therapy and was lucky enough to have Barcelona's La Masia Academy pay the thousands of dollars needed for it. His was a middle class family.

    Cristiano Ronaldo had a heart murmur and needed surgery which his club (I think Sporting) paid for. He came from a poorer family than Michael Jackson did.

    Both these men had the talent and work ethnic to become the very best at what they do. And both had some element of luck.

    Just as Stevie Wonder could have been dropped by Motown, so Ronaldo and Messi could have been dropped by their clubs as a liability.

    But their clubs believed in them. Motown believed in Wonder - eventually.

    Michael too had his own set of believers.

    Talent is not enough. Hard work will open more doors, but some element of luck will prove to be extremely decisive at key moments.

    The argument I've made applies to anyone who has made it to the top.

    Michael Jackson. Stevie Wonder. Lionel Messi. Cristiano Ronaldo. Michael Jordan. Etc.
    "Because we do not know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you can't even concieve of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even that. How many times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless." - Brandon Lee

  10. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by PG13 View Post
    Hell, look at the cases of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

    Messi needed growth hormone therapy and was lucky enough to have Barcelona's La Masia Academy pay the thousands of dollars needed for it. His was a middle class family.

    Cristiano Ronaldo had a heart murmur and needed surgery which his club (I think Sporting) paid for. He came from a poorer family than Michael Jackson did.

    Both these men had the talent and work ethnic to become the very best at what they do. And both had some element of luck.

    Just as Stevie Wonder could have been dropped by Motown, so Ronaldo and Messi could have been dropped by their clubs as a liability.

    But their clubs believed in them. Motown believed in Wonder - eventually.

    Michael too had his own set of believers.

    Talent is not enough. Hard work will open more doors, but some element of luck will prove to be extremely decisive at key moments.

    The argument I've made applies to anyone who has made it to the top.

    Michael Jackson. Stevie Wonder. Lionel Messi. Cristiano Ronaldo. Michael Jordan. Etc.
    Yes


    Also, I want to add something on the music front: Off The Wall, Thriller, and Bad weren't "generic" pop music.

    While Off The Wall can be classified as disco and came during the end of the disco era, what makes it such a great album that it blends other sounds and while has the disco feel, has its own identity. When you listen "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gayner", or Taste of Honey's "Boogie Oogie Oogie" or Andrea True's "More More More", all great songs and classics, but then you hear Don't Stop Til You Get Enough, Working Day and Night or Off The Wall, you hear a MAJOR difference in range and sophistication

    Some things that set Michael's music apart, aside from his talent, is how cohesive, simple yet complex, and melodic it was. It fit with the times but a lot of it...take it out of context time wise and a lot of it would still sound just as good.

    Things like that sets classics apart from really good songs

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  12. #9
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    Off The Wall basically doing Post-Disco during the Disco era is a pretty big accomplishment IMO.

  13. #10
    Being lucky only gets you so far. MJ zoomed right past that peak point.

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