As someone born in 1990, I grew up unfamiliar with MJ’s music. I and my contemporaries came of age through boy bands (Westlife vs. N*Sync, remember?) and female pop stars like Mariah Carey and Britney Spears. We watched them on MTV and listened to (and memorized) their songs. But the King of Pop? Not really. For years prior to his death, I know by heart only two of his songs; those revived by artists I listen to.
They were “I’ll Be There” (covered by Carey) and “Human Nature” (revived by Filipina singer Kyla). Meanwhile, I came to know “We Are The World” because there was an item about it in a United Nations quiz bee I joined in back in high school. I have to admit that during those years, I only know “Thriller” and “Billie Jean” by their titles. I became interested in “Thriller” two years before his death thanks to the dancing inmates of Cebu.
When a friend texted me about Jackson’s death early morning of June 26, 2009 (evening of June 25 in California), the first thing I did after confirming the news via CNN was to look for “Thriller” in YouTube. Just like how a historian gets so excited with the possibility of recreating what has happened in the past, I researched and downloaded with much gusto a number of MJ hits. I felt like finding so many musical gems from decades ago.
Other than the songs I listed earlier, I now have “Man in the Mirror,” “You are not Alone,” “Black or White,” “Childhood,” and “Gone Too Soon” in my computer playlist. I even repeatedly watched his live performance of “Billie Jean” in New York (for his 30th anniversary concert) and Manila (in 1996, his one and only solo concert here). I can’t help but be amazed at how he do his robotic dance moves and the moonwalk. To say that he is a major loss to the global music scene is still an understatement.
No words can adequately describe the void he left in the entertainment industry. As he said in “Black or White,” he is “second to none.” However, his death gave me and this generation of music lovers the opportunity to appreciate him better (thanks in no small part to online music-sharing websites). All musicians, no matter how many chart toppers they produced or albums sold, will die someday, but the songs they live behind will live on forever.