Top 10 Artists of All Time: #9 – Michael Jackson

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“The King of Pop.” Ever since the “Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5” album hit the world in 1969, Michael Jackson was a star and an influencer in pop music. Jackson used his performance, songwriting and vocal abilities to become one of the greatest and best-selling artists of all time.

Above all, Jackson created music that didn’t fit into any category, and his delivery was nothing short of perfection. Although most listeners and critics would consider most of his discography to be pop-rock, being constrained to a genre or even multiple did not appeal to Jackson. From album to album, Jackson was developing into something entirely new, over and over again. The tone of his music changed with his stages of life, which made fans feel a more personal connection to him.

The way Jackson wrote his songs is astounding by itself, but how he used his voice to arrange the music in his head made it hard to believe he was human. During the production stage, he would actually sing every instrument to explain how everything was to be performed. Then, he would arrange all of the polished sounds almost like a mental math problem. It was all in his head, and the fact that he was able to memorize every instrument’s part, vocalize it, and then put it together flawlessly was mind-blowing. If that isn’t stupefying enough, he said he typically was working on 5 songs at the same time. During the “Dangerous” court case, he testified against plagiarism charges by singing all four base lines layered on top of each other on a tape recorder, pitch-perfect. 

Everyone who has seen or heard Jackson knows he had tremendous musical talent as well. Although Jackson was actually able to play multiple instruments (keyboard, synthesizer, guitar, drums, and percussion), the core of his ability lies in his voice. Jackson had several incredible skills, like beatboxing, singing falsetto, and a perfect pitch.

Epic Records
Epic Records

One of the more interesting parts of his voice was how high it was. According to close friends and accomplices, Jackson actually had a deep voice when he spoke normally (which was almost never). This was also evident in a few songs like “Burn The Disco Out,” but the highs are what really made Jackson shine. According to Rolling Stone, Jackson hit as high as a C or a C sharp on several of his most popular tracks.

On top of this, it was baffling how Jackson used his voice as an instrument; he never tried to impersonate an instrument, but rather he made his own sound. Especially evident in “Billie Jean,” Jackson threw in a slew of grunts between lyrics. His little “oohs” “ows” and “ahs” made every song irreplicable. Many artists have done this before and Jackson’s time, but the way he did it was simply different.

If his raw talent in mechanical skills wasn’t enough to make you flip, take a listen to his outtakes in “We Are The World.” If you put the vocals into an audio editor and use autotune, it hardly sounds different. Jackson’s voice was trained and perfected so well that he truly almost had a perfect pitch. 

Regarding Jackson’s sound, he never failed to bring something new to the table. He began his style with the Jackson 5, with a high voice. Later on, he maintained this while inventing new techniques. In the album “Off The Wall” His style became tougher and deeper, but he often fell back to his buttery soft voice to give the song contrast and feel. Then later he began using his beatboxing more frequently, especially in “Thriller”. Later in the 80’s, his album “Bad” fell more into a disco feel, with slow-punchy tracks like “Man in The Mirror.” After that, he began to focus more on his raw singing and pitch, mainly by holding longer notes and refraining from beatboxing and singing fast. Through all his time contributing to music, Jackson remained innovative. He created many new techniques and influenced some of the musicians and singers artists of all time. 

As a songwriter, a vocalist, and a performer, Michael Jackson was a legend. Countless artists and musicians alike hail him as one of the best inspirations for any kind of music. He entertained a plethora of listeners and watchers throughout his life. Although deceased, his influence and legacy lives far past his lifetime. All in all, Jackson would have no issues making it into the top portion 0f any list.