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Michael Jackson

Did Michael Jackson bully the media into dubbing him “The King of Pop,” or did they invent the sobriquet on their own? It doesn’t matter; either way, he earned it. From his beginnings singing “I Want You Back” as the 11-year-old frontman of the Jackson 5 to breaking the MTV color line with the explosive “Billie Jean” to defending the downtrodden and misunderstood (read: himself), Jackson set the standard for pop singing, songwriting, dancing, and weirdness for nearly twenty-five years. After coming of age in the Jackson 5, then moonwalked away from the influence of his domineering father and into his own universe with three groundbreaking albums produced by Quincy Jones. Off the Wall, Thriller, and Bad blended soul, funk, and rock influences into taut dance-pop that transformed the soundscape of the twentieth century. The rest of the music world, from Madonna to Timbaland, has been trying to catch up ever since. Prosecutors and paparazzi also trailed the superstar incessantly (driven by Jackson’s questionable life choices), and from the late 1990s he spent more time in the tabloids than the pop charts. Jackson passed away on June 25th, 2009 at the age of 50, a sad and sudden conclusion to his strange, extraordinary, and influential career.