Flashback Review: ‘The performances that shaped a true cultural icon’, Michael Jackson


Michael Jackson never ceases to amaze and these two iconic performances are testaments to his brillance.

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Michael Jackson is undeniably one of the greatest entertainers of all time with talent that knew no bounds. His lengthy career saw some spectacular performances but there are two that stand out; performances that prove that Jackson was a star that set standards nobody could ever aspire to. 

In 1983, Michael Jackson was already riding on the huge success of Thriller, the best-selling album in history that made him a bona fide star and a timeless legend. However, it was his performance at the Motown 25th Anniversary special in March of that year where Jackson consolidated his status as one of the world’s greatest entertainers. He performed his famous track, ‘Billie Jean’, adorning his trademark hat and glove. He dominates the stage and immediately captures audiences with his meticulous yet recognisable choreography that is quintessentially Michael and it was here where Jackson debuted the moonwalk, one of his most famous moves. Jackson was an inherent perfectionist and the band weren’t able to find the groove he wanted so he made the decision to lip-sync throughout this performance. Albeit disappointing, this doesn’t diminish his talent or his ability to perform in any way. His goal was to entertain and he certainly did just that. 

This 1983 performance showcases his unmatched showmanship and his iconic dancing abilities. Jackson moves in such a way that we can only attribute it to him and the choreography is so recognisable when emulated by other stars. It’s refined, artistic and a spectacle in itself, his work epitomises pushing boundaries. This performance proves that The King of Pop didn’t need the drama, the dancers or an elaborate set-up, his talent was simply enough. He truly was in a league of his own and this iconic performance is certainly a testament to that. 

Another iconic Jackson performance was at the 1995 VMA’s. Now with two more best-selling albums and 13 Grammy Awards under his belt, Jackson upheld his status as one of the world’s music icons. Jackson, now a seasoned entertainer and in the latter half of his career at this point, returns to MTV with a medley of some of his most famous tracks, like ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ and ‘Black or White’, which included a guitar solo by Guns N’ Roses legend Slash. 

The most iconic part of the 15 minute spectacle was his choreographed performance to ‘Dangerous’, perhaps an underrated track that features on his 1991 album of the same name. Jackson again displays an unachievable refinement to his dance moves with a band of dancers that unfortunately fade into the background as I’m sure it’s hard to stand out when you’re sharing a stage with Michael Jackson. It was stunning, elevated and dramatic, more so than the performance we saw 12 years prior. Jackson had shed that sparkling lover-boy image and traded it for an edgier look with ripped white shirts and bandaged finger-tips thus his 1995 performance definitely mirrored this change in Jackson’s demeanour; his identity as an entertainer was evolving and this performance reflected that. 

Nevertheless, Jackson showed us in 1995 that he was still a musical force to be reckoned with despite passing the peak of his success. He displayed an unrivalled technicality to his performance and proved that his music and talent is timeless and unique and transcends generations, even now 11 years after his passing. 

Both performances are unforgettable, responsible for the shaping of a true cultural icon; they are parades of Jackson’s endless, incomparable talent, perhaps a talent the world won’t bear witness to for a long time. Jackson has always found himself wrapped up in scandal and controversy but these performances are forceful reminders of his status as a legend with an unparalleled legacy and that he is, without question, the world’s greatest entertainer. 


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3rd year english student, can be found reading a dystopia or playing an oldies but goldies playlist on repeat

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