The King of Pop is dead, so who’s the new heir to the throne?
For me, the question is blasphemous to ponder. There’s something to be said for just letting the man rest.
But being a musician myself, the conversation is inevitable among my peers.
It’s obvious that Michael was a one of a kind artist. But for every iconic musician, there’s someone primed to step into the void. You hear that Lady Gaga’s the new Madonna, or Beyonce’s the next Diana Ross. These artists are performing in a different context than their predecessors, but they have that star power that could propel them to legendary status.
To follow in Micheal Jackson’s stead, even the basic requirements on the application are daunting.
You have to be a writer-performer who can sing in the rafters, move with that magical juju, and have worldwide fans singing along to lyrics that they may not even understand. I mean, does anyone know what Shamon means?
There are some young pop stars my generation’s grown up with who seem to have elements of this package.
Usher Raymond was the first of the solo R&B pop acts who was just as talented singing as he was dancing.
Usher emerged young enough to appeal to teenagers, and grow up with those fans as they watched him mature. As we watched Usher develop physically, his music and persona had a tasteful sexual overtone reminiscent of Marvin Gaye.
That’s great to sell out a show full of women. But I think Michael Jackson partly achieved his universal adoration by not pandering to oversexed fans. Even when Michael was trying to be sexual…grabbing his crotch or singing songs like the Way You Make Me Feel…it felt kinda weird. And Michael was never taking off his shirt or humping chairs. His personality seemed to keep him from going all the way there, but that worked out to his advantage, because he became the sensitive dude who could cry onstage. Because Michael’s career spanned 40 years, his hits, though complex and edgy, were accessible to the whole family.
And then there’s JT – Justin Timberlake. His first solo outing seemed like a straight up Michael Jackson tribute album. Falsetto peaks, on top of Neptunes and Timbaland-produced ballads. He’s a child star whose talent let him step away from his group NSync, to sell out huge shows and achieve the closest dance prowess to Michael’s that any Mousketeer could hope for.
But Justin is missing the persona. He’s concentrating on being that artist who shows up for tongue-in-cheek cameos on SNL, that down home, have-a-drink with you type of dude. Michael Jackson projected an image that wasn’t near as accessible as his music – almost like if you touch him, you’d scream and pass out.
Chris Brown has the moves, the charm, and mild pop success, but after the Rihanna story broke, it showed that a lot of fans really didn’t like him enough for him to withstand a personal scandal. Of course, Micheal’s behavior in his later years was a turnoff for many fans, but the music was so powerful that many of us continued to embrace him with the unconditional love of family.
It’s a conversation I have with all my peers. Today’s music is good, but there’s something empty about it. Songs are so fly by night that I can’t think of a song that will stand the test of time the way Thriller did.
In part, there’s no heir to the throne because the palace has changed. The very industry of pop feels manufactured and dull. It’s rare to find solid gold music, dense with soul and bejeweled with originality.
So as we lay the King of Pop to rest, I’m both comforted and disappointed to admit, there’s no one in sight who’s even close to donning the crown.