For Millennials, Michael Jackson just a freak

Yet even during his plummet, The King of Pop never lost his crown.

Millennials only got to see the Michael Jackson that was a freak. And even if we do comprehend the awesome 1980s version, we lack the context to appreciate the sheer enormity of his awesomeness at his height. If you canâÄôt remember the beginning of something, itâÄôs difficult to realize its perfection. It requires a crazy, tremendous amount of effort to watch the 25th Motown anniversary performance or the âÄúThrillerâÄù video, or basically anything else Michael Jackson may have possibly been involved with, and not retroactively read into it like itâÄôs some premonition of imminent doom. ItâÄôs like Britney, except sheâÄôs just one toy carousel compared to Michael JacksonâÄôs entire Neverland Ranch. Britney Spears, Kanye West and Justin Timberlake combined cannot touch Michael JacksonâÄôs prevalence in 1984. Watch âÄúâĦ Oops I Did It Again,âÄù though, and itâÄôs like the beginning of âÄúRequiem for a Dream.âÄù Two years ago her hypothetical death seemed like it might be a relief for her. Now weâÄôre all in the bell jar together, mildly to moderately charmed by her black-hearted music, but can anyone really imagine a 50-year-old Britney? Michael Jackson got to the point where death was sort of the only out. There was no comeback left. Kansas City Star sports columnist Joe Posnanski compared the response of those born in the last 20 years, for whom the slick, shimmering Michael Jackson of Billie Jean can only be possibly captured through YouTube and a hearty gulp of imagination, to his own when Elvis Presley died. My mother said the same thing. Elvis was famous for being famous âÄî the tangible experience of his music was 20 years past. Eventually, though, if you watch Michael Jackson sing âÄúBillie JeanâÄù enough, or the âÄúThrillerâÄù video a dozen times, Michael Jackson becomes mesmerizing. You canâÄôt stop watching. He was just a person completely in possession of every synapse in his body, the external motion seamlessly flowing with the music and lyrics, just total control of every movement he made. Ironic, since he clearly had no real control. Context is everything, though. And, if we buddy up to context, we can revel in and respect the flamboyant perfection of the awesome Michael Jackson, the one who single-handedly launched MTV with âÄúThriller,âÄù rather than everything we otherwise know about him. Even without context, the past is still captivating. The real tragedy is in the loss of that perfection for himself, and perhaps even more so in the accompanying loss of the collective cultural innocence that propelled his dominance. Katherine Miller is a senior at Vanderbilt University. This column was written for Please send comments to [email protected]