Watching video footage of Michael Jackson on stage is easy to believe that he was something more than human. His electrifying dance moves and attractive personality made him one of the most significant stars of the 20th century.
Michael was a skilled entertainer but a big part of stagecraft is the power of illusion. The King of Pop released a number of tricks and inventions to charm audiences throughout his concerts and music records. Let’s reveal a few of them.
Dancing was among the ways that Michael Jackson identified himself throughout his profession. His vibrant dance moves made him a magnetic figure onstage. When he came to fame, he brought the moonwalk, a move first performed in the 1930s, to around the world.
A lot of Jackson’s moves appeared too cool for the human body to carry out. The anti-gravity leans from the “Smooth Criminal” video was totally breathtaking.
Patent #US 5255452, this dance move works on the principle of the “system for permitting a shoe user to lean forwardly beyond his centre of mass by virtue of wearing a specially developed set of shoes, which will engage with a drawback member movably projectable through a phase surface.”
In layperson’s terms, that indicates Michael and his backup dancers were wearing special footwear that hooked into little protrusions on the floor. They would lean forward and appear to defy gravity.
The lean impression has been adopted by a number of magicians too. You need a lot of leg and ankle strength to pull it off, even with your shoes secured to the stage.
Jackson was ingenious in the studio too, with noteworthy assistance from engineer Bruce Swedien. In the pre-digital era, musicians taped on analogue tape, virtually chopping it up into 24 private “tracks” of instrumentation.
Running that tape over and over to add sounds causes it to slowly decay, stifling and muting tones. Swedien’s Acusonic technique avoided that by never ever re-playing the master rhythm track, rather synchronising whatever to a time code. That kept the drum parts on albums like “Thriller” lively in the mix.
In addition, since Swedien wasn’t restricted in the total number of tracks he might use, he recorded much of the critical overdubs in stereo, providing a richer presence on the final album. It’s a small thing, but it helped Jackson’s albums stand out sonically from their contemporaries.
Michael was wildly experimental in recording his singing parts, which likewise featured various overdubs. For “Billie Jean,” one of his greatest hits, he sang some of his lines through a five-foot-long cardboard tube.
In 2005, when preparing for a Las Vegas residency that never occurred, the vocalist had proposed the construction of a 50-foot self-governing robot that would roam around in the Nevada desert.
The robot, which of course would have been crafted in Michael’s image, was sketched by fashion designer André van Pier. However, monetary constraints caused the task being radically scaled down.