Why Do Millennials Love Prince More than Michael Jackson?

By: H.T., H.T.’s Blog

In the constant debate on who had the better musical legacy, the debate on Prince versus Michael Jackson has long since been settled as frankly Jackson’s legacy lives solely as a figment of the times in which they were made. His very first album sounded like Jackson 5 B sides, Thriller sounded like overly watered down R&B made poppy for top 40 radio, Bad’s sophomore slumped its way into fame only because better music from bands and artists that year like the Smiths, Depeche Mode, Terence Trent D’arby, David Bowie, and yes, Prince hadn’t made as many radio friendly songs. Seriously, the only album of his I liked was Dangerous, and that’s only because it was the last time Michael’s music sounded anything relevant to what actual black or just good music of its time sounded like. If anything, Michael’s ability to fail upward was proven by his worst album, Invincible winning a Grammy only because he got far more talented people to produce and write for him. But as far as influence goes, Michael’s influence isn’t felt because frankly we stopped being a culture that needed his kind of music anymore, if anything, Prince stayed on our good side because Prince understood that if you can’t get them to dance, you can always get them to fuck and that’s why his legacy music wise has lasted so long. Your run of the mill Soundcloud trap R&B singer or producer could learn far more about making good music from just one NPG era Prince album more than anything Michael or any of his siblings or nephews could ever make. Prince? He restarted Chaka Khan’s Career, The Bangles, Sinead O’Connor, Tevin Campbell, Jimmy Jam (who if Prince hadn’t given him his big break, would never have produced the album that got Michael’s sister a Grammy), Morris Day, T.C. Ellis, and of course actress and choreographer Mayte Garcia, who would go on to work with the likes of Britney Spears. In short, Michael was only the best sum of what he could find and only made what they gave just more of his persona while Prince made a masterclass of great musicians and performers along with creating a sound that like his lyrical content could be described like pornography: I can’t describe it, but I know it when I hear it.

Honestly, I take back what I said about the Grammys possibly rewarding the least abrasive artists over actually good ones. Good art shouldn’t be something that is given validation by committee, and that includes music. I don’t care if the Grammys give album of the year to an album that is literally a white guy hipster sampling Sade with synths and autotune, it just tells me what not to listen to and it should tell all of us that this is what we should avoid as well. And stop saying Michael was pro-black, he was simply kinfolk that knew how to market himself like kinfolk even though his music wasn’t FOR us. The only reason they gave Michael any airtime on MTV was because they’ve always known that nothing sells like a non-threatening black face singing and dancing. Speaking of blackface, go back and watch the music video Jackson made with Paul McCartney. But I guess Remember the Time makes up for it, huh?

Honestly, do I think he did it? Frankly, my heart wants to say yes, but my mind realizes that the reason the accusations have lingered is because Michael was such a weird man, out of touch with society that I really think this was a man that was a victim of growing up within household that beat rigidity and authoritarianism into his brain. I don’t blame Jehovah’s Witnesses for this because Prince grew up under the same religion and became one of the greatest musicians of his time, all it did for Michael was give him artistic anxiety about what he wanted to make. Michaels’ music has fallen into the pit of nostalgia because his first albums sound like an artist walking on eggshells to not piss off his church elders. Prince? This was a man who regularly talked about premarital sex and sexuality itself, sure he made his peace with God, but the man understood that God didn’t give him so much talent that he would just be another has been from the 80s. And yes, I’m calling Michael Jackson a has been from the 80s. All he was was a man who could pick good producers, hell one of his worst attempts at trying R&B was written by R Kelly, who child rape aside writes sexual songs like a horny precocious middle schooler. Even company if you ask me. Look, if you want to debate if Michael touched kids, debate it amongst yourselves as frankly I’m more of the camp that the man had a complex about sex that rendered him mainly asexual as frankly the guy grew up in a highly repressive religion. But that’s the thing: to a perpetually horny yet undersexed generation of people, Michael Jackson’s music feels like when you and your girlfriend stay the night at your parents place and have to sleep in different rooms. It’s so neutered and frankly just kind of sad. Michael might be the king of pop, but what’s a king to a god and a god to a non-believer that vapes and eats ass?

Michael falls off in the discussion of why my generation took more to Prince as opposed to Jackson because of a very simple fact: he is dad music. Michael Jackson is what you hear when you go around your aunts and uncles at the cookout, asking you about your life and the job you hate and when you and your girlfriend are going to have kids. Prince is what you listen to as your away from all those annoying family members, fucking said girlfriend in your apartment, smoking a bowl and eating Thai food. In other words, Jackson’s music doesn’t have the same bad cultural ties as Princes’ does. For my generation, Prince is basically a better dive into nostalgia over Jackson because for the world we live in and where most of the music WE listen to now comes from. At best, you get black music that tries to sound like him via the Weeknds “Starboy” album, but in the end what you get is a pseudo Prince album if it were produced by Quincy Jones when he still did blow, allegedly.

Seriously, the entire trap soul sound EXISTS because of Prince, most notably the sound Prince made in the 90s. Sure, the chord progressions sound more Teddy Riley with certain artists, but even I think Riley is on par with people like Prince and even Dr. Dre as far as black music producers, but at the core of it all, Prince made the sound of what remains of R&B today because of things like Spotify and YouTube. Most of us figured out what we like musically both from the past and of today BECAUSE of YouTube. Hell, it’s because of YouTube artists like Rick Astley are still touring due to his song being turned into one of the oldest jokes on the internet. For us, YouTube lets us crate dig sonically to find what we might like and what we couldn’t name. Sadly, it literally took Prince dying for his music to legally be allowed on YouTube and thus why his popularity spread posthumously.

The problem with Michael Jackson’s sound within the context of modern culture is that sonically, it’s not BAD music, it’s just overly ubiquitous to the point that anything derivative of the music he’s made so far sounds painfully bland. Honestly, the only person left who even occasionally sounds like him is Chris Brown, but even he’s veered more into the EDM sound of things when he’s not making mixtapes. Really, I won’t potentially lie and say no one today sounds like him as I don’t really follow much of pop music. The only time I get any idea of what’s going on pop music wise is when I listen to the top 40 in the UK, and even then some of the songs that chart there barely get airtime here, so who fucking knows what modern pop music sounds like?

I’m not going to say Prince is the greatest artist ever as that’s to subjective of a title, but if were talking just within the context of black musicians, I can’t take you seriously if he doesn’t make your top 5 at the minimum. The man is by and large responsible for so much music that exists within just the DOWN END of his popularity that you can’t say he’s not impressive on some level. But maybe I do speak from a place of bias, after al,l according to my parents I was conceived to Thieves in the Temple as it was one of my mother’s favorite albums of that era. And for me, I truly feel like if there was no Prince, there would be no Tevin Campbell whose song Round and Round got me my first slow dance and kiss. So for me, Prince is special on a level I’m not sure counts as unbiased. But here’s the thing: Michael also isn’t terrible, it’s just when you take the music he made, remove all implications of scandal and the like from it, it’s not that great BECAUSE as a society, not as a culture, a SOCIETY grew up with this man’s music being a institution that wasn’t BAD, but as far as 80s music goes, that’s not what I go to. At the most pedestrian, I’ll listen to Hall & Oats, but you’re talking to a guy with clear memories of grinding on a large assed goth girl at a club in Ann Arbor to Strangelove by Depeche Mode, and so do a lot of other people as far as music of the past goes. Michael Jackson is good music, but for people of my ilk, if we were at a cookout and MJ starts playing, this would be the point where I and one of my cousins go off to smoke a bowl and make another plate, because such music is very nostalgic but hard to listen to for the umpteenth time.

Maybe I am blowing up Prince too much, but I will at the minimum admit my bias as the writer and tell my goddamn truth that frankly I am not cut out for MJs music and that the reason my generation has such an easy time casting his music off to the side, not unlike R Kelly, is because even from the stance of meritocracy such music doesn’t hold with us. Honestly, people my age daily listen to legit terrible people who made music, but the music didn’t become the soundtrack to capitalism trying to have fun. Fact is, I can deal with things like pedophilia out of an artist as you’re talking to a guy who laughs at Bill Hicks’ “Goat boy” bit, so I can’t say pedophilia ruined the MUSIC. Hell, I still listen to shit like Jerry Lee Lewis, Ike Turner, James Brown, Rick James and the Stone City Band, Sam Cooke, The Rolling Stones, Bob Marley, Tupac, Motley Crue, Johnny Paycheck, and Marvin Gaye. All people that have done repugnant shit but made great fucking music. So really, as it is with my generation, the issue isn’t that Michael allegedly fucked kids, it’s that he’s the one artist I know that died, was given better modern producers and at best the last bits of his work they released sounded like everything Sony refused to put on his albums. It’s not a matter of being good enough to ignore rape charges, it’s more a matter of whether the devil on the radio can make me dance.

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