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The Relation Between The Career of Michael Jackson and Realism

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Michael Jackson and Realism

Michael Jackson released the all time best selling album, but his life was not the all time best, it was filled with scandals and never ceasing critics. Realism was a literary movement that started in the 1840s, and was able to affect singers like Michael Jackson a century after it started. This essay will prove that Michael Jackson was great musician and a realist writer. In order to do so, Michael Jackson’s career will be inspected to learn how he became a great musician. Then Realism will be defined, so its definition can be used to prove that Michael was a realist writer.

Michael Jackson was born on August 29th 1958 in Gary, Indiana, to Joe and Katherine Jackson (Rolling Stone 3). He died on June 25th, 2009 of cardiac arrest (Rolling Stone 2). He was such a good artist that the press had to acknowledge the fact that a young black man could be the biggest pop star in the world (Rolling Stone 1). Michael Jackson grew up listening to a lot of music. His parents constantly influenced him musically. His dad, Joe, played in a band, and his mother, Katherine, had sing alongs with her children and taught them a lot about music (Rolling Stone 5). After some time, Joe started working with his sons into an ensemble. He made Jermaine, Michael’s older brother, the lead singer. One day Katherine saw Michael singing and Dancing along to James Brown, she was shocked by his talent, and potential (Rolling Stone 6). Michael loved dancing and singing (Rolling Stone 7). Joe Jackson started training his kids when he learned that they wanted to be entertainers. The better they got the more they enjoyed it. In Moonwalk, Michael said that he got hit when he messed up (rolling Stone 8). Michael’s dad probably expected perfection, so he hit Michael to make sure he did not make the same mistakes again, and that in the end he ends up being the best artist.

It was around 1964 that Joe started putting his kids in talent shows, they won most of them. When one of their singles, “Big Boy” got local success, Joe realized how professional his sons were. In 1966 he started booking his sons into nightclubs (Rolling Stone 9). After some time, they started touring in the “Chitlin Circuit”, a network of black venues in the United States. While touring the Chitlin Circuit they opened for many R&B artists, including the Temptations, Sam and Dave, and Jackie Wilson (Rolling Stone12). The most famous venue was the Apollo in New York, where they won an Amateur Night Show. While in Apollo, Joe had the opportunity to meet Gladys Knight. Gladys and Bobby Taylor, both were Motown stars, encouraged Joe to to make his sons audition for Motown, one of America’s best black pop label. Michael said, “we auditioned and they loved it, and Diana Ross came over to us special after the concert we did for them and she kissed us all and said we were marvellous and she said she wanted to play a special part in our career and that’s how it started” (Pidgeon 14). They had so much talent and potential that Motown stars wanted to help them achieve the success they were capable of achieving.

In 1969 after being moved to Los Angeles by Motown, Berry Gordy, Motown’s owner, started working with them. According to Michael, Gordy told him that their first three singles would be number one (Rolling Stone 13). Michael and his brothers came to be known as the Jackson 5. The Jackson 5’s first four songs were number one, just like Gordy promised (Rolling Stones 15). Michael was the real star of the Jackson 5. His voice worked beyond typical male-soul singers, and beyond gender norms (Rolling Stones 16). However, they did not write their own music.They asked their producer if they could write their own music, but he said no. The restriction to write their own music would have prevented the jackson 5 from growing, and Michael to launch a successful solo career (Rolling Stone 18).

In 1975, Joe Jackson negotiated a new contract for his sons with Epic Records, for a 500 percent royalty-rate increase (Rolling Stone 18). “Royalty is payment made for the use of an intellectual property right” Collins. The contract also included solo albums for the everyone in the Jackson 5, except for Jermaine, who stayed at Motown because he married Gordy’s daughter. Motown did it best to prevent that contract from happening, but the only thing they could do was prevent the group from using the name Jackson 5, now the group came to be called the Jacksons (Rolling Stone 19). Epic Records moved them to Philadelphia, with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, their new producers. It was in 1978, with the album Destiny, that the Jacksons finally took control of their music (Rolling Stone 20). Shortly after, Michael felt that he needed to make a few changes to have a successful solo career. His first move was firing his father as a manager, and getting a new manager. He hired Quincy Jones, who was a highly respected producer. Michael liked Jones’ talent for mixing complex hard beats with soft overlayers. Michael later said “It was the first time that I fully wrote and produced my songs… I was looking for somebody who would give me that freedom, plus somebody who’s unlimited musically.” Michael also said that he wanted his solo album to sound different than the band’s album (Rolling Stone 21). Together they made the album Off the Wall, which showed that Michael was a mature artist. By 1985, the album had sold more than 5 million copies in the United States alone (Rolling Stone 22). Michael expected Off the Wall to win the Record of the Year and album of the year awards in the 1980 Grammy Award. But, it only won the Best Male R&B vocal award. After that, Michael was saddened, but encouraged to make an album that everyone will recognize (Rolling Stone 23).

Then Michael wanted to make the best album ever. He released Thriller in November 1982. Michael wanted Thriller to be a collections of great songs, each song was designed for different audiences (Rolling Stone 24). The songs were genuinely made and described Michael’s inner life. Those songs dealt with Michael’s fears, and experiences, the album was filled with personal revelations. Thriller was a mass market masterpiece. It was an achievement that will probably never be topped (Rolling Stone 25). A few months later, the Jacksons performed their greatest hits for Motown’s 25th Anniversary. After his brothers left the stage, Michael vaulted into “Billie Jeans”. It was Michael’s first public performance outside the of the Jacksons, as a band. It was one of the best performances ever (Rolling Stone 26). Seven song from Thriller made it to Billboard’s Top 10, and the album became the best-selling album in history, as of right now it sold about 50 million copies, it probably sold more. In the 1984 Grammy Award, he received eight awards. Then he went on a worldwide tour with the Jacksons (Rolling Stone 29). He was at the height of his career. He was the greatest musician at that time.

Everything started falling apart slowly when Michael became victim to racist backlashes. He was accused of changing his skin color to please his white audience and get bigger sales figures (Rolling Stone 31). According to Randy Taraborrelli, author of Michael Jackson: The Magic and the Madness, Michael did not really like his body (Rolling Stone 32). He later admitted doing plastic surgery to change his nose and chin, but denied changing his skin color (Rolling Stone 33). Michael’s body kept changing over time, people started believing he wanted to be white and others thought he was an androgyne, someone with both male and female traits (Rolling Stone 34).

Michael wanted his next album to be better than Thriller, but that was pretty much impossible. He also wanted to defend himself from all the criticism that he received, because he felt disrespected. He was not criticized on his music, but on the things he did, like; his devotion to his animals as if they were his friends, his ongoing facial reconstruction, and charges that he slept in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber to maintain his youthfulness (Rolling Stone 35). In 1987 he released Bad, which was good, but not as good as Thriller and Off the Wall (Rolling Stone 36). In 1988 he did not win any awards at Grammy Award, and got first on Rolling Stone’s “worst of the year” readers polls (Rolling Stone 39).

Michael then moved to L.A. where he built a home known as Neverland. In 1993 a story broke out saying that Michael of molested a 13-year-old boy (Rolling Stone 40). He settled it with money outside of court, because he wanted to put it behind him (Rolling Stone 41). That episode made him even more infamous, which caused him to use drugs, which he kept on using until his death. That same year he unexpectedly married Lisa Marie Presley, Elvis Presley’s daughter, their marriage was highly criticized, they divorced 18 months later. (Rolling Stone 42). Michael’s musical drive fell off, and his music was not as successful as before. His new music usually was to justify himself, and to reply to the critics (Rolling Stone 44). Even though he had a few good moments, his music was less popular in the 1990’s. His Invincible album from 2001 finally adapted to the cultural and stylistic changes made by hip-hop and other urban music styles. Michael was not known for his music anymore, but for his mistakes (Rolling Stone 46). In 2003 in an interview with Martin Bashir, he talked about sharing his bed with kids that were not his in his Neverland home. That caused a lot of criticism and controversies. According to rumors, he was so devastated that he tried a morphine overdose to kill himself (Rolling Stone 47). Later, another child molestation controversy appeared, and Michael was shaken (Rolling Stone 49). The biggest star in the world had fallen. He left the United States for Bahrain. In early 2009 when he announced a series of 50 concerts, known as the “Final Curtain” (Rolling Stone 50). Those concerts were probably to restore his name. On June 24th, Rolling Stones reported that everything went fine in his rehearsal, and he looked like he did back in the days (Rolling Stone 51). He died the next day from a drug overdose. His physician was later charged for manslaughter because he gave Michael the drugs (Rolling Stone 52).

Moving on to Realism, it is a type of literature that is about interpreting reality as it really is (Washington State University 1). Realism appeared the 1840s and dominated Western lifestyle until the 1890s, it began in France then spreaded to other countries (McKay 744). Realist writers believed that literature needed to reflect life the way it was, they just saw things happen, then wrote them down. Major realist writers focused on observing everyday life, then making fiction based on their observations (McKay 744). George Eliot, a Victorian writer who improved the method of psychological analysis of modern fiction (Haight), defined realism as, “the doctrine that all truth and beauty are to be attained by a humble and faithful study of nature, and not by substituting vague forms, bred by imagination on the mists of feeling, in place of definite, substantial reality,” (Mullan 1). Realists wrote about subjects that were not really talked about like, alcoholism, strikes, and violence. Those subjects are not talked about because they are everyday things that people see, and they stopped caring about them because they are used to them. Those subjects became normal everyday things, which made it harder for people to speak up against them.

Many critics proposed that there is no real difference between Realism and Naturalism. Realism is hard to define, because it has different contexts, European and American (Washington State University 2). In American literature, Realism has to do with the time after the Civil War. The article states that, “The increasing rates of democracy and literacy, the rapid growth in industrialism and urbanization, an expanding population base due to immigration, and a relative rise in middle-class affluence provided a fertile literary environment for readers interested in understanding these rapid shifts in culture,” (Washington University 3). The fact that realists wrote about current events in the United States, back then, helped people understand what was going on in their country. It also made them appreciate Realism, because it was through it that they knew what was going on.

Michael Jackson was a realist writer, despite not living in the 1840s. Five songs have been used to show his realist writing style ; in songs like “Bad”, “Smooth Criminal”, “Dirty Diana”, “Man in the Mirror”, and “Just Good Friends”, Michael sings about events that happen in real life. In “Bad”, he says “ Just show your face, In broad daylight, I’m telling you, On how I feel, Gonna hurt your mind.” This is probably an answer to his critics, because he was tired of all the things they said. This scenario does not only happen to Micheal, it also happens to other people. There are people who like to bully or talk behind others’ backs. Those people, usually never “show their face in broad daylight”, which means they never want to confront the person they hurt in public. Michael wants to confront the critics, and he will tell them how he feels and what he will tell them will hurt their minds. Michael is not looking for a fight, but what he will say will destabilize the critics. Usually when a person is getting bullied and decides to confront the bully, he will not be looking for a hand to hand fight, but a talk that will thwart the bully’s will to keep on bullying. He is telling the truth about bullies without twisting anything. Later in the song he says, “You’re not a man, you’re throwing stones, to hide your hands.” By saying that he mean the critics do not have the guts to face him like a man, and they avoid him while trying to harm him with insults. They hide they hands because they do not want to be involved in whatever happens next. This is exactly what bullies do. His song “Bad” reflects the conflict with modern bullies, and backstabbers. He fictionalized the events that happened to him, and sang about it to reach a big audience to spread the words about bullies. He said what they do and how they do it without twisting the truth and said it humbly, without calling them out as if he wanted to fight.

The second song that show realist lyrics in Michael’s songs in “Smooth Criminal”. “Smooth Criminal” mirrors first degree murders. In “Smooth Criminal” Jackson said, “ He came in her apartment… She was struck down, it was her doom.” The murder knew when and where he could find, then kill the target, because he went to her apartment and found her there. The murder then kills his victim. Later in the song he says, “Every time i tried to find him, He’s leaving no clues, left behind him, And they have no way of knowing, Of the suspect or what to expect.” When the defunct person relatives try to find the murderer, they usually cannot. First-degree murderers usually plan things to make sure there are not any clues left behind, so no one can catch them. When Michael says “they have no way of knowing”, he is talking about the police because they are not enough clues. “Smooth Criminal” reflects real life first degree murders, as those people are kind of normal in society. Murderers are everywhere and people accept that fact without trying to stop murderers. People only try to stop them after they kill someone, they cannot find the murderer they give up instead of trying to search differently. Murderers are taken lightly because society does not care enough to stop them, it is like society does not care about them at all.

The third song that has realist lyrics is “Man in the Mirror”. In “Man in the Mirror” he says “ I’m gonna make a change for once in my life… As I turned up the collar on my favorite winter coat, this wind is blowin’ my mind, I see the kids in the street, with not enough to eat, Who am I to be blind, pretending not to see their needs.”A lot of people say they are going to change something in their lives, but do not change. They usually keep their promise when they see someone who lives a tougher life than them, because they simply cannot ignore the fact that they are being ungrateful for things they take for granted. Later in the song he says, “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change.” To change the problem packed earth one has to examine himself before examining others. This is a paraphrase of Matthew 7:5, which says “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Michael saw how people wanted to change the world, but did even bother changing themselves. Michael tells the truth about changing the world, because the only way to change it is not to wait for others to change, but to start by yourselves. He decided to take the first step to make the world a better place, because he could not stand the fact that the world was in such a bad shape and no one really tried to change it. Everyone accepted it as a normal fact.

The fourth song that contains realist lyrics is “Just Good Friends”, featuring Stevie Wonder. Michael said, “(Before you make) Before you make, (A big mistake) Remember, that looks can fool you.” This exactly what happens in the twenty first century.People are attracted to others because of their looks only. Being attracted by looks became so common that people basically worship looks. A lot of people try to do surgery to look even better so they can be more attractive. Those lyrics should be taken as a warning by a lot of men and women, because a lot of people fall in love with people of the opposite gender because they look good on the outside. Michael calls it a big mistake, and it truly is a big mistake. Getting fooled by looks will cause a lot of sad moments. Later in the song, Stevie Wonder said, “You better take advice, never trust first impressions.” This is another warning to people about love. People always love to make a good first impression to look good, but sometimes those people are the worst people ever. Not trusting first impressions will save people from a lot of sad and deceiving moments, because people will be able to learn if the person they are interested in is a bad or good person..Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder sang about modern love problems. They said what the truly thought about it because the saw enough of it to be able to write such a song.

The last song that reflects realist writing style is “Dirty Diana.” In the song, he said “I was too blind to see, that you seduce every man.” This is another twenty first century problem. Nowadays there are men, and women that seduce every single person they see. Sometimes they are so good at it, that it is really hard to notice what they are doing, until it is too late. Later in the song, he said, “She waits at backstage doors, for those who have prestige, who promise fortune and fame.” There, he talks about gold diggers. Those are people who fake loving others just to get money, or fame. In his song, “Dirty Diana”, Michael talks about fake love in the modern world.

Although only five songs were used to show that Michael Jackson was a realist writer, there are more songs that support that claim. Michael Jackson had a good musical career despite the scandals and critics. His album Thriller was and still remains the all time best selling album. Realism literature was a literary movement where people fictionalized real life events as they saw it. Based on those characteristics of Realism, Michael Jackson was a realist writer and singer, because he sang what he wrote. Therefore, Michael Jackson was a musical realist writer.

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The Relation Between the Career of Michael Jackson and Realism. (2018, October 02). GradesFixer. Retrieved November 28, 2021, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-relation-between-the-career-of-michael-jackson-and-realism/
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