Beyoncé vs Michael Jackson: Who is the greatest performer of all time?
Recent happenings have had adept fans of music claiming that Beyoncé has overtaken Michael Jackson as the greatest performer of all time
With Beyoncé's release of the visual album to her 'Black is King' on July 31, 2020, some fans of music from all over the world have started to make a case for her being the greatest performer of all time - taking over from the legendary Michael Jackson.
Beyoncé has a swarm from her 'Beyhive' who seem to be certain that she should outrightly be regarded as the best over Michael Jackson, who has been dead for precisely 11 years and 2 months. The question however is, how much buzz does this claim hold?
The origins of both artistes are somewhat similar as both were raised by fathers who Inadvertently shaped their early careers. They each came out from successful groups to become established singers. Both harnessed the power of music videos and used it to ascend to the peak of their respective careers. Individually, however:
In the yellow corner stands Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter, with over 40 singles, a hundred and twenty million-plus records sold as a solo artist, 70 Grammy Awards nominations with 24 wins, entrepreneur, wife, prominent figure in the black community, and an irrepressible force of nature.
Beyoncé has been using her superstar status to 'fight' for the black community over the award-laden period of her career. She possesses 'stage skills' and coordination that border on the edge of godlike; flawless and irresistible craft.. Her performances in the past decade have set the stages of the world on fire.
From performing while heavily pregnant in the 2017 Grammy Awards in support of her massively successful album Lemonade to becoming the first black woman to headline Coachella in her 2-hour long breathtaking 2018 performance, Beyoncé might have no equal alive( unfortunately, Michael Jackson is (un)dead).
Beyoncé regularly describes the daily struggles that black people, especially black women, encounter in their daily lives with her songs. Her Lemonade album will probably go down as the most significant piece in entertainment with regards to black women in America in the past decade.
In the 'Black or White' corner stands Michael Joseph Jackson, a.k.a King of Pop, a.k.a MJ, the most awarded artist in the history of popular music, progenitor of modern dance steps including the 'moonwalk', over 350 million records sold worldwide, creator of Thriller, and an Icon.
Michael Jackson, much to his discredit, was a mad genius. His deep-seated insecurities, which inevitably led to his death on June 25, 2009, was always plastered over by his supreme ability. An unmatched force of creation who was simultaneously a joke to the mass media at some point (they even dubbed him Wacko Jacko).
The undisputed wizard of weird, who could mimic almost any instrument with his voice, had a four octave vocal range that could easily flow to falsetto. Michael was the poster boy for the black dilema; unrivalled power with little control. Due to the events before his death, many would be forgiven if they do not remember him as being a black artiste - but he was.
Despite all these flaws, as a 'performer', Michael Jackson was a Demi-god (half-god, half-man). He holds the record for the largest attendance in terms of human audience to a concert; has 3 of the highest attending paying concerts ever, has the most tickets sold in a single city. Even before the era of instant technology and improved social media reach Michael Jackson was not only known worldwide, but he also had an average of 5,000 fans fainting per concert in each of his tours. One time 1,550 people got hurt while trying to get closer to him on stage.
As soon as Michael would step on the stage, he would sometimes standstill in a spot for minutes, and there would already be hundreds of fans fainting and thousands more screaming and crying out of pure delirium before he even sang a note or moved a muscle. He didn't need back up dancers or a crew to put out a show, he was always the show.
It takes a whole town to make a Beyoncé hit, but Jackson was a one-man wrecking crew. Although it should be noted that he did work with accomplished producers, he however composed many of his greatest hits solo. And as he proved with his career-making moonwalk on “Motown 25” in 1984, he did not need a whole host of people to make the crowd go wild. Not to mention his unreal 45-degree lean stance.
Nothing in the history of black entertainment in the last half-century can match the impact of Jackson and “Thriller,” the all-time best-selling album by a black musician.
Jackson existed in an era before social media inflated our perception of popularity, he created a broad mass appeal that cut across all races, ages, continents, and languages. He paved the way with his own sweat for the next generation of black artiste and inevitably suffered what all pioneers suffer; shame. Without a doubt, the next generation of black artistes would have been impossible without his trials and travails - in essence, there would be no Beyoncé without Michael.
Beyoncé on the other hand is a master of the game, playing her cards right with the 'Balck Struggle' to gain critical acclaim. She consciously manipulates her black audience by entertaining them with the ideal that she in on their side at times while calculating the best way to achieve the highest profits. The authenticity of her struggles pales in comparison to the greats, the likes of Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, and Mary J. Blige,
While Beyoncé thrives on her star power and massive fan base, Michael existed purely because of his creativity. Although without a doubt, Beyoncé is a master of the dark arts of owning the media, Michael Jackson was the creator of the arts.
The conversation of placing them side by side is obviously still 15 years or more early. As of now, Beyoncé is not fit to be mentioned in the same space as Michael Jackson.
To Beyoncé's credit, Michael had 50 years to stake his claim. She still has a long way to go before then. Although it is highly unlikely that she'll ever get to that level, it won't hurt to see her try.