Over Michael Jackson
It doesn't really matter if Michael Jackson bullied the world's media into calling him the King of Pop in the early 1990s or if they just started using that sobriquet on their own. Either way, he earned it. Whether singing "I Want You Back" as the 11-year-old frontman of the Jackson 5, breaking the MTV color line with the explosive "Billie Jean" or defending the world's downtrodden and misunderstood (himself, that is), Jackson set the standard for pop singing, songwriting, dancing and, let's face it, weirdness for the better part of a quarter century. He came of age in the Jackson 5, then moonwalked out of the family's clutches and into his own universe with three groundbreaking albums made with producer Quincy Jones. Off the Wall, Thriller and Bad blended soul, funk and rock influences into a taut dance-pop that transformed the sound of radio for the rest of the century. Singers and producers from Madonna to Timbaland are still trying to catch up. Prosecutors and paparazzi have been playing catch-up, too, with some of Jackson's questionable life choices, and since the late 1990s, he has seemingly spent more time in the tabloids than on the pop charts. On June 25th, 2009, Michael Jackson passed away at the age of 50.