Morning Countdown #12 (6/28/09): Michael, You’ll Be Missed…

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Today’s Countdown is dedicated to the one and only Michael Jackson. I am sure a lot of people can relate when I say that I still cannot believe that he is really gone. Like him or not, there can be no denying that he was one of the most integral figures in world pop culture. To think that he is no longer part of our collective consciousness–except in our memories, where he’ll forever remain–seems surreal and even absurd, like saying that the time of 3:05 will no longer exist, and 3:04 will now just pass right into 3:06. I can honestly say that I’ve never felt more affected and shaken by a celebrity’s death (only Princess Diana comes even close).

Here’s today’s Michael Jackson Morning Countdown:

1) Blame It On the Boogie (Jackson 5)
2) The Man in the Mirror
3) She’s Out of My Life
4) Rock With You
5) You’re Not Alone

My first clear memory of Michael Jackson is when he swept the Grammys with his Thriller album (it was either right before or right after I immigrated to the U.S. in ’84). He was winning everything left, to the point that he ended up apologizing to Lionel Richie after winning yet another one. So when I was introduced to Michael, he was already the very definition of SUPERSTAR.

So it wasn’t until a couple of years ago when I ended up hearing “Blame It On the Boogie,” one of the singles from his Jackson 5 days. It’s a fabulous, fun disco number, and I was shocked to find that it performed so disappointingly on the charts (stalling at #54!). Personally, I much prefer it to earlier #1’s like “ABC” and “I Want You Back,” as good as they are.

But it’s Michael’s solo material that really defined him as a legend, and “The Man in the Mirror” is one of the very best, in my opinion. It’s my 3rd favorite MJ track (the first two will both be on the Top 101). Michael brings absolute fire to his vocals, and the lyrics are some of the best he’s ever written. The message is so on-point. One thing that drives me crazy about a lot of celebrities (and celebrity wannabes) is their mantra of “Oh, this is me, I’m not gonna change for nobody, I’m gonna love myself the way I am, if you don’t like it, screw you, etc, etc.” Yes, it’s a valid point, but no one seems to add the fact that a pivotal part of loving yourself is to always try to improve yourself and to work to be a better person than you currently are. That’s the message that Michael’s sending out here, and I say, “Amen to that.”

The versatility of Michael’s voice is (I’m sorry, I can’t bring myself to use “was” quite yet) one of his greatest strengths. Already, we’ve heard him in disco-flutter range, the fire and brimstones of “Man in the Mirror” and now he’s all tears and vulnerability with “She’s Out of My Life.” It becomes a bit too sappy near the end, but the melody, as well as that voice, sure is pretty.

“Rock With You” brings Michael back to disco mode, and it’s my favorite track from his Off the Wall album. It’s danceable but also breezy, perfect to listen to whether you’re getting ready for a night out or just lazying around your couch.

And the countdown comes to a close with “You Are Not Alone,” and as much as I’ve always liked that song, it’s never moved me as much as today. The lyrics can’t help but rip into you right now. “How could this be that you’re not here with me? You never said goodbye, someone tell me why did you have to go and leave my world so cold?” Oh, man, Michael…

Of course, I didn’t know Michael. I’ve never met him (though I did attend his concert when I was a young boy in L.A.). My only real link to him is all the music he’s given me and the rest of the world. But that is certainly more than enough for me to say, “Thank you, Michael.” Yes, you and your music will always, always be in my heart.

Winners (tie): The Man in the Mirror

& You Are Not Alone

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