Michael Jackson was indisputably the King of a musical era. He was a powerhouse performer with a boundless passion for entertaining the world. His presence on the stage captivated the attention of millions and continues to do so long after his passing. His legacy and musical style continues to reverberate throughout music today, with artists such as The Weeknd putting their own spin on Jackson’s iconic style in several songs. But will another artist ever come close to reaching Michael Jackson’s level of fame or influence in today’s digital world?
The short answer: Maybe. The long answer gets a bit more complicated.
Michael Jackson’s most influential work was Thriller. The album sold more than 46 million copies, and continues to hold that record today. The issue, is that modern day music sales hardly deal with physical copies. Honestly, when was the last time that you went to the store to buy an album? You probably just went on YouTube or Spotify to listen to that song you couldn’t get out of your head. This is where the biggest discrepancy lies. Even though Jackson’s Thriller album was such an iconic hit, it wasn’t released in the same way that albums release today. People didn’t listen to music then the same way that they listen to music today.
When Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson were producing Thriller, Jones said that his goal with the album was to “get kids out of the video arcades and back into the record stores.” Well, he was successful for a brief time, but here in 2017 the record stores AND the video arcades have landed in our pockets.
People don’t go out to buy physical copies of music like they used to. Streaming services such as Spotify, YouTube, Tidal (well kind of) and others are completely dominating the market. Because of this, it’s almost impossible to draw comparisons between artists then and artists now. 30 years ago, and long before the internet, only a few artists at a time could hold the spotlight. Now on the other hand, famous artists are a dime a dozen. People listen to the music of artists all over the world thanks to the internet, and no one person can hold the title of King. Instead of listening to entire albums, people create playlists of their favorite songs and listen to them on shuffle. Pop music has reached a sort of saturation, where one song is popular only until the next big hit comes out. Long gone are the days when everyone you knew was listening to the same album right when it dropped.
In short, the musical atmosphere is completely different.
But there is a sect of people who believe that the next King of Pop has already risen. They claim that he has already established himself as a musical legend. They claim that that person is Drake.
It’s a bit of a long shot I’ll be honest, but when you look at the numbers it’s easy to see why people draw the comparison. For one, Drakes 2016 album, Views, gained 13 American Music Award nominations, which broke Michael Jackson’s 32 year record of 11 nominations for Thriller in 1984. Michael Jackson received his 11 nominations on his sixth album, while Drake received his 13 on his fourth album. On top of that, we have to take video stats into account. Granted, Michael Jackson didn’t have YouTube when he was making music videos, but it doesn’t diminish how important the platform is when it comes to fame. As of today, Drake has more than 3 billion views on his music videos. That’s 3,000,000,000 views. Heck that number alone was probably some of the inspiration for his 2016 album’s title. With so many views from around the world, and record breaking statistics Drake could actually become the next King of Pop (if he isn’t already).