When one thinks of all-time greats of the music industry, it often comes down to two idols: Michael Jackson and Prince. And while both artists created seminal pop albums and hits, it’s this writer’s opinion that Prince is the greatest pop artist of all time.
When looking at the career trajectories of these two iconic performers, it the “icon” assessment speaks for itself. In the 1980’s, both MJ and Prince had released great hits and the most successful albums of their career. In 1982, Jackson put out his universe-shaking album Thriller, an record that surpassed anything that previous pop artists h ever done. With his single “Thriller”, Jackson created much of what many artists of today have been trying to get only a fraction of. Many believed at the time that Jackson broke racial barriers for African American artists.
Then, in 1984, Prince released Purple Rain, shattering records with the success of the film that shared the same album title. Prince won an Oscar for “Purple Rain,” too.
With so many similarities between Jackson and Prince, it’s really hard to pick a favorite. To understand what people around campus think, I conducted a nonscientific poll of CCP students. It was overly one-sided — with Jackson coming out on top.
When people are asked to pick between the two, most people respond with an instinctive “MJ”, which is respectable. But in analyzing this poll, I have figured out why so many are quick to favor Jackson: Many want a show when going to a concert. According to the poll, 85% of people say that Jackson gave a show like no one else in history. This theory is mostly supported by reports from those who worked closely with Jackson and can attest to his work ethic when preparing to perform.
I actually agree with that. But here’s the thing: Prince is the artist amongst the two. There’s no denying that Prince’s avant-garde fashion and timeless classics are truly works of art savored by those with a refined musical palate. And if I can’t convince readers based on music itself, let’s look at how the artists lived.
Both Prince and MJ, like lots of millionaires, lived in not-so-humble abodes: Jackson had the Peter Pan-inspired “Neverland Ranch,” an amusement park with rides and exotic animals. The lavish Neverland Ranch was basically a make-believe world. Prince, on the other hand, was too dedicated to his art to spend time in a fantasy land. After the success of the film Purple Rain, Prince decided to open up a recording studio named Paisley Park Studios. Even though Paisley Park undoubtedly had it’s share of extravagant parties, it was mostly known as a respectable place of business, where some of the biggest performers went to record. Much different from Neverland.
Both MJ and Prince headlined and performed during halftime at Super Bowls. CBS.com recently ranked the top-25 Super Bowl Halftime shows and, remarkably, Jackson came in at Number 6, while Prince reigns at Number 1.
One might even say Prince “Purple Reigns.”
Yes, Michael Jackson did what only he can pull off, with his mesmerizing two-minute pose at the beginning of his set, creating a powerful moment. But Prince’s performance went way beyond a memorable pose. In 2007, Prince headlined the Halftime show in the rain without missing a beat and yes, he even turned the rain purple. Prince ended his performance the only way one would expect him to (no, not flying off on a magical unicorn or transforming into a pile of diamonds and pearls), with the mesmerizing guitar chords and smooth vocals of “Purple Rain.”
Stories have come out from many sources that Prince wanted more rain for his performance. With mother nature giving Prince all she had, Prince still pulled out the performance of a lifetime.
There is only one Prince, and there will never be another Michael Jackson, but we have to come to the realization that these two icons are two entirely different people in music.
For a spectacular and jaw-dropping show, Michael Jackson was the best you can get. For a more artistic experience, Prince is hands down your guy.
Regardless of who one deems superior, suffice to say these are musical acts and performers who will never be forgotten. Sadly, as we learned of the news of Prince’s untimely death today, but are gone way too soon.