Hearne: Was Michael Really King of Pop? The Debate.

King of Pop or has been? You make the call…

Forget for a moment the debate over whether Michael Jackson will be best remembered as a musical genius or world’s biggest perv. The question at hand is, was he in fact The King of Pop as the front page of the Kansas City Star today decreed.

“You can have the debate,” says KC Confidential entertainment writer Brian McTavish. “But I mean, it’s self-serving. He invented the title for himself and he certainly promoted it’s use.”

Kief’s Downtown Music in Lawrence main man Steve Wilson concurs.

“As great a career as Michael Jackson had, that was a tribute he gave himself,” Wilson says. “You know, he wanted very much to be in that Pantheon with Elvis and the Beatles. And what could be bigger than the king of pop? This is how the myopic and self-involved that are isolated by their own little Mafias think. They kind of have to be continually reminded and reinforced that they’re something special – and in many respects Michael Jackson was something special.”

But after more than a decade of musical irrelevance, did Jackson still lord over the pop kingdom?

“He petered out years ago,” McTavish concedes. “Elvis also fell, but when it’s all said and done, they were geniuses at what they did. And if you look around we’re still taking applications for the next pop music genius. I ask you, who else since then qualifies?”

Has there been a successor to that fictional throne since jackson ceased to matter musically?

“No, no there hasn’t,” Wilson says. “But that’s more a function of what’s happening in the music business. The reason no one has sold 28 million records like ‘Thriller’ is because records just don’t sell that much anymore. And I think that was going to be part of Michael Jackson’s problem if he got back into it; he could put out a great record and it wouldn’t sell 28 million because what does? So what if he was the king of pop, he was the king of an era that’s gone. The last (new) record he had that sold in excess of 3 million copies was probably ‘Bad’ and that came out in – what? – 1987.”

Other mega pop stars have come, peaked and in some cases gone in recent years, Wilson says – Mariah Carey, Justin Timberlake, Michael Bolton, Britney Spears…

That said, here’s one thing that sets Jackson apart:

“I can walk over to our $2.99 to 99 cents CD section and I promise you I will find Mariah Carey and Britney Spears,” Wilson says. “But you won’t ever find Michael Jackson in there. I will say this, his stuff did hold value. So maybe he was the king of pop. I just don’t know if that’s a title that holds value anymore.”

One problem with Jackson’s legacy is – unlike even Elvis – he dropped so far out of sight musically in his later years, Wilson says.

“I think artists are about building and sustaining careers and relationships with their audience and Michael Jackson hasn’t done that the last 15 years,” Wilson says. “When’s the last time you heard a new Michael Jackson track? You know, Michael Jackson got frozen in that little prison of fame and he ceased to matter.”

If Michael Jackson was indeed still the king of pop at his death “it was by default,” Wilson says. “No one else came along to take the crown.”

McTavish has a kinder, gentler take on whether Jackson continued to sit on that self-made throne:

“He can now – he’s dead now – he’ll live on in gloriousness forever. He doesn’t have to mount the comeback now.”

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10 Responses to Hearne: Was Michael Really King of Pop? The Debate.

  1. Anonymous says:

    There’s no debate. And there’s no debate on your blog. Are you wishing you were still working for the newspaper where you get to write and other than a page of selective comments, communication is just one way. newspaper to reader?

    The beauty of a blog is the feedback software and you’ve made it hard to read the feedback. fact is, most of the time, feedback is more interesting than the original articles.

    I think you’re missing a major element of the new medium. I think one reason why the internet has replaced newspapers is this very feature.

    I’ve noticed your newspaper habit, of tightly controlling feedback… limiting responses. Too bad and I suspect your real agenda is to keep the focus on YOUR thoughts rather than sharing reader attention on anyone elses.

    Course its your blog, you can run it any way you want. Like Rush does. Rush’s show is about Rush.

  2. Anonymous says:

    elton john

  3. Anonymous says:

    You are pathetic. Those are your two sources on Michael Jackson, the greatest overall story in the history of entertainment?
    What is your fascination with quoting anyone who works at Kief’s (the only stereo store ever encountered with the unconvincing multi-tier pricing stupidity) ???
    The whole premise of this column is fucked. Of course no one thinks he was the king of pop lately. It’s a great headline title used by hundred of papers for this story. It gets the job done. Why are you singling out The Star? Is it because they fired your massive-correction-causing ass???
    The more you write, the more I think less of you.

  4. Anonymous says:

    A fond farewell to the most influential pedophile of the last thirty years.

  5. Anonymous says:

    saw stevie wonder last night. Noone comes close
    to his musical masterpieces. He’s been around
    since the 60’s. Michael Jackson/Jackson 5
    have been around since the 60’s and everytime
    I hear their songs (both as a group and as
    michael separeately)I realize the longevity of
    their music…its still sounds good after almost
    50 years.
    These artists along with elton/billy joel/
    stones/beatles/all came along almost 50 years
    ago and their music is still incredible.
    Todays acts don’t last. they have nowhere near
    the talent of these older artists.
    MJ fought the devil and in the end the devil
    Great talent wasted.

  6. Anonymous says:

    news flash cool dude- help yourself out and don’t read the blog if you hate it.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I also went to see Stevie last night and am so thankful for the opportunity to see him live. What a great show- i had goosebumps a couple times. That show will certainly go down in history- the tribute to MJ, the chance to see Stevie in all his Wonder, part of only a what…5 or 6 date tour?

    IMO MJ is a legend, no matter what. The people who dis him will never impact such a great number of people. He was truly a creative genius who will live on forever.

  8. Anonymous says:

    R.I.P. Michael Jackson!You might? be gone, but you will never be forgotten!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Julio Cesar
    Think about it, MJ invented his title he called himself the king of pop and then everyone bought that. But in reality, (take your time to investigate)he didn’t achieve as many things as THE BEATLES did they are the true kings, actually the true kings of rock ‘n roll and pop, no-one will evercome close to THE BEATLES.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Brittany Murpyh RIP video
    goodbye brittany murphy

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