Through all of his legal troubles and wrongs, though, it seems that Michael Jackson’s legacy still lives on through his music. Today, on what would be Jackson’s 53rd birthday, let’s set aside what we think of him personally and instead reflect on the influence he left on the music industry with a video montage of artists that he has directly inspired.
Regardless of your age, it’s almost impossible to not have been influenced by Jackson’s music. As a child, I remember listening to nothing but Michael Jackson nonstop, years before my obsession with Alanis Morissette kicked in. The same goes for many performers today—whether it’s his music or his dance moves, countless artists have looked up to the legend for guidance. Here are just a few:
Justin Timberlake: As soon as Justin Timberlake began his solo career, the Jackson comparisons were obvious. He could dance and sing similar to the King, and he even proved to have an impressive multi-octave vocal range as well. Timberlake even performed with Jackson’s sister Janet during the infamous “wardrobe malfunction” incident at the 2004 Super Bowl. And Speaking of Timberlake and Michael Jackson, does anybody remember that time the King of Pop upstaged N’Sync at the 2001 MTV VMAs during their performance of “Dirty Pop?”
Usher: While Usher is known widely for his dance moves, it’s all too obvious that the true man behind the moves is Michael. In 2001, Usher got to join Jackson onstage for his 30th Anniversary Special, as the pair plus Chris Tucker performed Jackson’s single at the time, “You Rock My World.” While Jackson obviously owned the stage that night, the mini dance-off between the stars proved once and for all just how big an influence Michael had on Usher, who continues to be one of pop’s best dancers to this day.
Janet Jackson: Obviously Michael’s little sister Janet had a lot to live up to, and she proved herself a star very quickly without much help from her brother. Still, Janet owes a lot to Michael, who taught her above all that the world’s problems can all be solved through a dance number—just check out the moves in “Rhythm Nation,” folks. At any rate, one of the most iconic moments of the 90s had to have been the brother-sister duo teaming up for the hit song “Scream.” Janet looked out for her big brother to the end, and their chemistry together was timeless.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs: How does an indie rock band from New York City possibly take influence from Michael Jackson? Well, though they’re not completely a pop act, their 2008 album It’s Blitz! makes the connection clear—especially in the video for their single “Heads Will Roll,” which features a dancing werewolf that emulates Jackson’s signature dance moves. Can anybody say “Thriller Part 2?” Okay, maybe not, but it’s pretty entertaining.
Janelle Monáe: Newcomer Janelle Monáe owes her act to many different influences, including James Brown, Disney, Judy Garland, Broadway and the King of Pop, himself. Monáe embodies old-school Motown and show tunes with a modern twist, and her stage presence is extremely commanding. She can even moonwalk! Monáe represents the new generation, and if she’s any indication of where music is heading, Michael would be proud. Monáe’s performance at the 2011 Grammys is hopefully just the beginning of a long, amazing career.
This article was originally published on AllMediaNY.com