I have never asked you this outright, but are you of Asian heritage? Because you once mentioned Michael Jordan as a pop phenomenon from sports comparable to MJ. Unless you've lived in Asia or have Asian heritage, you cannot understand what it means for a popstar (or any other celebrity) from America to achieve legendary status in Asia. With the exception of Japan, it's probably harder for an American celeb rather than one from the UK because lots of Asian nations (including the one I am from ) have a frankly hilarious nostalgia for the BE in spite of the many ways in which it plundered them and have a snobbish view of America as a materialistic and hollow society (older societies tend to look at America with suspicion). So...when somebody like Michael Jackson becomes so popular that a right wing populist politician proudly brings him over to the city of Mumbai, you know what his impact is.
I can also explain the Taylor Swift phenomenon (as to why it and basically any non-Marvel/DC American product seem to achieve less global and specifically Asian appeal today). When the Iron Curtain collapsed, there was intense curiosity about America and MJ was one of the first American cultural products to be embraced in this wave of American curiosity. Titanic was probably the peak of this phenomenon. Since around the noughties, the Boomers and Gen Xers seem to have fulfilled this curiosity (and to be honest, older millennials like me have also sorted out our likes and dislikes of American music, movies etc) and are disinterested in new pop products, preferring the comfort of nostalgia instead. It's Zoomers who are the biggest fans of Swift (or Bieber or Katy Perry). My 15 year old cousin paid top dollar to attend a Bieber show couple of years back (where he lipsynced as usual, ha ha). But that's a particular kind of Zoomer who moves in upwardly mobile circles. MJ or Jordan's soccer-like appeal somehow has not translated to Swift. I don't know why that is and whether that is also the experience in the US. There was something aspirational about MJ; every kid wanted to dance like him. I don't think even the Zoomer Swift fans aspire to be like Swift.
Well I spent most of my early youth in the (Far) East. Make of that what you will.
But yes, having lived in Asia does give you a better idea of what life is like outside the West. You might recall moi observing that Diana was a largely British phenomenon
that spread to the rest of Europe and North America, which would've been a surprise to many Westerners back then (case in point: who really remembers Diana now?). But then in that very post (and elsewhere) I've expressed my own shock at being corrected by an old roomie from Ghana who said many people in Africa don't know what POTUS or the pope even looks like while almost everyone knows who MJ (the gloved one though His Airness has a sizable following himself) or Madonna is. In short you're probably not as worldly as you think and chances are you're not even aware of your own parochialism due to bias, inexperience, etc. (Think of all the posters here who accuse anyone who disagrees with 'em on cultural matters with the tiresome you-must-be-from-xxx canard.)
Also I suspect the BE nostalgia you speak of is more of a generational thing. My own dad certainly referenced it a lot (mainly to knock the Brits for their unearned snobbery), but I'm not sure I ever heard such pro-British/anti-American sentiments from my friends and classmates. And you happen to be hail from India where remnants of the BE loom large, which no doubt plays a factor, too.
Swift is big here among the Zoomers as well but nowhere near as big as MJ was in his Thriller
heyday. Of course I'm somewhat biased here as I'm an older millennial like you, and I doubt anyone could reach half of Jackson's popularity ever again, but TayTay is probably not even the biggest star of her own generation (vs. Beyonce and maybe Kanye) which makes this TS-MJ comparison even more of a nonstarter.
Agree. Lol look at the guys like Prabhudeva or Javed Jaffrey who made a career out of dancing like him.
The Beatles were influential too but more for the likes of RDB to nick some tunes lol or for the more elitist guys who had access to western music of those times. With the advent of cable TV by late 80's, early 90's - everyone watched MJ on TV. Everyone knew songs like Thriller even if they didn't catch a word lol. I guess that's how a lot of American stuff started influencing Asia - news channels, tv shows (which were hitherto either completely local or borrowed from British shows), even food - pizza, lays etc. It's sheer timing and of course MJ's own appeal.
Maybe I missed something but who's RDB?
I think in POP, it has mostly to do with the former two and sod all with the latter. If you wanted to be ASSURED of quality, you would attend a classical or jazz concert. Why would you punt on a pop star? You do because the risk-reward equation looks better. Higher upside in terms of enjoyment for much less effort (in terms of concentrating hard while listening for hours).
By traditional measures of musicianship pop clearly is inferior to classical or jazz, but it's a mistake to think the greatest pop stars were lesser musicians than, say, John Tavener (as opposed to the Renaissance composer John Taverner, without the 1st "r") because they couldn't tell you a lick about Bachian counterpoint or begin to play an intermediate-level Beethoven sonata. In fact I'd take "Pale Blue Eyes
," "Monkey Man
," "Billie Jean
," or "Israelites
" (to name a few personal faves off the top of my head) over anything by Tavener whom I find pretentious and New Agey AF. That's because what makes the best of pop, or what you might call its art, is not based on technical prowess or theoretical expertise but, again, what is made out of those 3 or 4 chords that looks so simple on paper but somehow becomes magic in the right hands.
As an illustration let's look at this fine analysis of Gaga's "Bad Romance
" by Owen Pallett:
Our mission: to dissect chart-topping pop singles and weigh their trembling flesh on the scales of Western music theory. Today I am typing about the un ...
It's one of the few genuine theoretical breakdowns in pop music criticism and I enjoyed reading it shortly after it was published, but it's hard to imagine anyone becoming a Gaga convert upon learning about her use of a raised seventh which wouldn't be out of place in Tchaikovsky's celebrated dirges. As Pallett himself points out the tritone is one of the tried-and-true formulas in Western music and one could (as her dimmer detractors do) well hold that against her, but I doubt most uninitiated listeners would bother with such trivia when faced with the deliriousness extravagance of Gaga's masterpiece (presented here without the MV for more "objective" appreciation):
Now I'm not such a fan of the silly lyrics which probably is why "Alejandro" remains my fave Gaga song - I do think LG surpassed Madonna as a lyricist a long time ago but she's no Joni or Dolly quite yet - but as a pure pop single "Bad Romance" is up there with anything by anyone which has less to do with the particulars of its construction than with its brute power and exuberance plus, yes, the sheer magnetism of its star.
Speaking of who let's move on to Dolly's "Jolene," another classic of a female lover's angst and insecurity:
Again if you tried to explain the appeal of this perennial pleaser using music theory you'd most likely fall short as it's based on the same simple chord progression for both the verse and the chorus except for this extra B-D# in 2/4 in the latter, but the song somehow never feels monotonous or repetitive. And the audience has agreed as it's arguably Dolly's signature song. What does that say about Parton vs. any of the decent music majors who could surely beat her on those usual midterms and finals in their sleep?
Or what about the fact that Billie never had big pipes even in her prime or that none of the Beatles (including self-admittedly Paul to this day) could read music? You get the idea.