This year, Michael Jackson, arguably the greatest entertainer to have ever lived, would have turned 60. Jackson was one of the first to really embrace the possibilities of the music video as a form of art in its own right. He almost single-handedly altered our consumption of music through video and we are thrilled he did. His music videos – which he more accurately referred to as short films – are almost as famous as the tracks they accompany.
For a start, the video of Beat It really thrust Jackson onto the international stage as a bona fide pop icon. The clip is one of the firsts to include choreography of a mass of dancers – a move that became a Michael Jackson trademark. It won multiple awards and was the first step to changing the face of music videos altogether.
Thriller, without a doubt, is Jackson's most popular and recognisable work. The 13-minute epic is credited for combining music and filmmaking and is one of the most influential pieces of pop culture still to this day. The clip, which is set in the 1950s, shows Jackson out with his girlfriend when he suddenly transforms into a werewolf. But the key to Thriller is the fantastic group choreography that spawned lots of imitating dancers around the globe.
The music video for Bad reached new levels with the extended edition playing for 18 minutes. The video was written by novelist Richard Price and directed by the renowned Martin Scorsese. The clip visits one of Michael Jackson's popular themes, street gangs, and has strong ties to West Side Story. Yet again, the choreography of large groups of dancers is classic MJ!
Similarly, The Way You Make Me Feel is perhaps the best example of Jackson's dancing ability. The clip, which again follows a narrative courtship, highlights MJ's exceptional physical movements. Amazingly, at the 1988 Grammy Awards, Jackson had two nominations for the Best Choreography award – The Way You Make Me Feel and Bad.
With the visual accompaniment of Smooth Criminal Jackson's gravity-mocking lean became an outrageous move that possibly every fan still hopes to mimic.
Remember the Time, another Michael Jackson short film, runs for more than nine minutes and stars Eddie Murphy and model Iman. Murphy plays a pharaoh and his wife (Iman) wants to be entertained. Following a few failed performers, Jackson enters dressed as a hooded wizard. He performs a trick which sees him emerge as a gold-clad version of himself. It is here that the singing and dancing begins and of course, the Pharoah's wife is suitably impressed, but the Pharoah is not, which leads to a chase. The Egyptian-style choreography and scenes are the highlight of this narrative.
Simply put, MJ's musical legacy includes a cavalcade of amazing clips that were ground-breaking and will continue to make us groove.