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When Michael Jackson made history

Last updated on: June 25, 2010 18:44 IST

When Michael Jackson made history

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Raja Sen in Mumbai

A Michael Jackson video was always an event.

The greatest entertainer of all time also turned out the most spectacular videos, complete with big-name directors, short-film style interludes, and unheard-of budgets.

The result are videos that were cultural milestones, videos that matched the great songs he brought to us.

And while virtually every Jackson video is a stunner -- right from Scream to Jam to Dirty Diana and Blood On The Dance Floor -- the following six are the historic ones, the gold standard in music videos, the very best of the best.

So click on to watch Michael at his most astounding and most memorable.


Image: Micheal Jackson

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6. Beat It

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Directed by ad-film legend Bob Giraldi, this video poured Jackson into a red leather jacket and saw him lead a group of street toughs in a dance-off.

Inspired by West Side Story, the video showed MJ depicting black youth for the first time.

The video starts with news of a fight, the buildup escalates superbly, and then Jackson shows up right before the knife-war breaks out, exhorting the ruffians to solve their differences via dance instead.

Truly unforgettable.

 


Image: Beat It

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5.Remember The Time

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The setting is ancient Egypt. A cat leaps onto an ottoman and looks provocatively at the camera before we see Iman as the stunning Queen, seated next to her Pharaoh, played by Eddie Murphy.

The Queen expresses her boredom and asks the Pharaoh to remedy this, and a bevy of entertainers come forward but the Queen isn't impressed, having the performers -- a stick-juggler, a fire-eater -- ordered to death.

A man in a black cloak, like a druid, comes forth and throws black dust onto the floor. Like magnetic powder it rearranges itself and turns gold, following which the man vanishes into the pile of powder.

This then shapeshifts into Michael Jackson, in a gold satin costume and a white skirt over black pants -- who goes on to ask the Queen if she remembers their time together.

Boasting of terrific choreography and art direction, this John Singleton video turns on the adventure and scores very cinematically indeed.


Image: Remember The Time

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4. Black Or White

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There was a little bit of everything in this groundbreaking John Landis video.

It opens with Macaulay Culkin, playing a rock-obsessed kid fighting his father over the volume at which he can listen to music.

The kid turns the amplifier up really loud and, after surrounding his father with speakers, twangs an electric guitar so loud it smashes the house windows and catapults his father halfway around the world, setting the stage for the song.

The song itself features a montage of global scenes, with Michael and sometimes Culkin dancing around rapping kids, Masai tribesmen, Russians, who are all dancing a la Jackson.

There is a heavily controversial version of the song that shows MJ first as a panther and then gyrating extremely suggestively, but even the clean version aired on MTV showed immense originality, not least with the final section, featuring a cross-selection of faces from around the world morphing smoothly into one-another, like a Benetton ad come to life.

The morphing technology was immense, and blew everything else at the time out of the water.


Image: Black Or White

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3. Smooth Criminal

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Wearing a lounge suit and fedora in tribute to Fred Astaire, this amazingly cool video showed Jackson fake an impossible move called The Anti Gravity Lean.

A hitching device was built into the floor and special shoes were fitted to allow Jackson and his men to lean impossibly forward.

Jackson later patented this technology and used it on stages live, but the impact it makes in the video is something truly, truly special.

The video itself is highly choreographed and tremendously stylish, Jackson's white suit complemented by a black hatband, armband and shoes, all adding to the '30s, prohibition-era setting, itself immeasurably romantic.

There's really not much more to say, but a lot more to stare at.


Image: Smooth Criminal

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2. Bad

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Another Michael take on his beloved West Side Story, this is a heavily influenced yet startlingly original film.

An eighteen-minute short directed by none other than Martin Scorsese, it stars Michael as Daryl, youngster being provoked by his hoodlum friends about how he isn't bad enough anymore.

Spurred on by the noxious Mini Max, played by Wesley Snipes, Daryl tries to mug an old man at a train station but doesn't go through with it, turning instead on his heel and breaking into Bad.

The snapcracklepop choreography is clearly influenced by the 1961 classic, but Jackson, wearing that legendary black leather outfit, is an unquestionable fulcrum, an explosive dominatrix-dynamo taking the video forward.

Stunning.


Image: Bad

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1.Thriller

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Arguably the greatest music video of all time, this 14-minute John Landis masterpiece is a wonderfully made B-movie in itself.

Set in the 50s, it shows Michael and his date in a forest, with him turning into a were-cat and lunging at her. She screams, and we see her in a movie theatre, frightened out of her skull as Jackson grins and digs into popcorn.

She leaves the theatre, disturbed, and Jackson teases her on the way home, bursting into song. Yet this isn't as harmless as it seems, because, as they pass a nearby cemetery, the zombies begin to react to the music. And all this while the inimitable voice of Vincent Price lays down that heavy, fantastic rap.

The zombies chase our pair but suddenly Jackson too turns into a zombie, leading the other undead into a dancing chorus as he keeps singing. The girl screams and runs but the zombies break through the house and Jackson's zombie version closes in on the helpless girl's throat

Fantastic beyond description, this video. And so few songs ever actually manage to have the last laugh.


Image: Thriller

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