Source: Metallica via Facebook
You don’t earn the title King of Pop without reason. Jackson’s status as one of the most globally recognisable musicians is impossible to challenge, even for those unmoved by his songs. Most genres share some characteristics with pop music, and so perhaps it isn’t that surprising that artists at the forefront of grunge and heavy metal have chosen to salute Jackson’s influence.
Metallica served up a cover of the Jackson hit Beat It at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2003, and have since played it again in concert. After one performance in 2009, James Hetfield told the crowd that this song had a huge influence on band member Kirk Hammett’s guitar-playing style. It is presumed that Hetfield is referring to Eddie Van Halen, who featured in a guitar solo on Beat It, but the tribute from Metallica is a testament to how Jackson’s songs could bring together diverse genres.
The metal covers of Michael Jackson do not stop with Metallica by a long shot. There is an album titled Thriller – a Metal Tribute to Michael Jackson. Its artists are not quite of Metallica’s stature but it does feature Phil Campbell, formerly of Motorhead, and ends with Alien Ant Farm’s unlikely smash hit cover of Jackson’s Smooth Criminal. However, if you’re seeking an homage to Jackson from a more famous artist, then look no further than Nirvana.
Kurt Cobain once wore a t-shirt bearing Michael Jackson’s face, as did fellow band member Dave Grohl. Of course, people will wear t-shirts with pretty much anything on these days, but at the time it was a significant statement for Cobain to don an MJ shirt when the music industry was fascinated by the battle for supremacy between pop and alternative rock.
Source: Nirvana via Facebook
In 1992, Nirvana’s seminal album Nevermind toppled Michael Jackson’s Dangerous from the number one spot in the album charts, heralding a new age for music. On a slightly relevant note, the man who posed as the then-baby on Nevermind‘s front cover is still paid today to be photographed jumping into a pool as a recreation of the album artwork.
In the same year, Nirvana won Best Alternative Video at the VMA Awards. Nirvana sent a Michael Jackson impersonator to collect the award with the proclamation that the King of Pop was to become the King of Grunge instead. Rather than a malicious joke, this act demonstrated a tongue-in-cheek recognition that Jackson was indeed the king.
Outside of the world of music, there are other surprising examples of homage to the King of Pop. For instance, the Ubisoft-developed Michael Jackson: The Experience is a PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii game that allows users to recreate some of his seminal music videos and signature dance moves. Meanwhile, as part of Fabulous Bingo’s line-up of slot games, users have the opportunity to partake in the MJ King of Pop slot. In the 5-reels, 25-paylines title, some of Jackson’s greatest hits are used as background music, with a number of symbols being based on his garb and dance moves.
There are also a number of tributes throughout multiple industries that demonstrate how Jackson remains at the forefront of popular consciousness even today. Germany’s World Cup-winning midfielder Mesut Ozil declared that his two main sources of inspiration are two who hold the initials MJ, the NBA superstar Michael Jordan and Michael Jackson himself. Certainly, when Ozil is on top form, you can see the panache and showmanship of Michael Jackson in his playing style. However, for the most part of this season, Ozil has been embodying one MJ song in particular: Bad.
Source: Goal Japan via Facebook
This is not the only tribute to Michael Jackson in football, and far from the weirdest. That title goes to the statue of Jackson erected outside Fulham’s stadium. Why? That question was asked by many at the time. The answer is that Jackson was good friends with Mohamed Al-Fayed, the owner of Fulham. To commemorate Jackson’s passing, Al-Fayed commissioned a statue that ended up outside Fulham’s stadium to the confusion of Fulham fans. The statue was eventually removed, and Fulham were soon relegated from the Premier League in what is probably a coincidence. Michael Jackson’s not quite that influential.
Back in the world of music, Beyonce’s 2016 Super Bowl performance served as tribute with her outfit a testament to one of Jackson’s iconic looks. This once again demonstrates Jackson’s relevance today, although Beyonce’s role in the world of pop means that her homage is far less surprising than those of Metallica and Nirvana. Gone are the days when Nirvana and Michael Jackson battled at the top of the charts, but their legacy endures.