There are so many angles to the story about the shocking and tragic news of Michael Jackson’s death. Several times last night on TV, and again on late night radio, a remark was made that there will not ever be another singer quite like Michael Jackson. It was said for more than the obvious reasons of honor and respect. There are some hard solid numbers to support the claim.
Let’s start with the numbers, which are almost beyond comprehension.
Thirty-seven Top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. Twenty-nine U.S. Top 10 singles, 13 of them No. 1’s, nine of them platinum sellers, 16 gold.
Thirteen Grammy Awards and 750 million albums sold worldwide.
Owning a Michael Jackson record is a bit like having a phone or a stove.
Let’s talk just about “Thriller”: a No. 1 album for 37 weeks, 80 consecutive weeks in the Top 10 of the Billboard 200. At 28 million copies, the second-best-selling album in U.S. history (second only to the Eagles’ “Greatest Hits”). Still the only album to top the charts in two separate years and featuring seven Top 10 singles. It appealed to black and white audiences as no other album ever had. As showcased by MTV — which he was about to show to be far more important to how music was consumed than anyone yet realized — Jackson was probably the most electrifying dancer ever.
And on and on and on.
There can’t ever be anyone like Michael Jackson again.
Nobody can so completely dominate the pop conversation. Our culture is too atomized, too specialized, too niche-oriented for a pop juggernaut like that.
These days, recorded music isn’t just in record stores; it’s easy to find on the Web for free, so sales figures like Jackson’s seem so distant and mythic as to be beamed in from another world.