Michael Jackson revolutionized the world of music videos — he embraced the medium and took it to a new level by creating groundbreaking short films. Jackson spoke to MTV News back in 1999 about why he felt music videos are more than just commercials for the artist — they were an important part of the creative process for him.
"The idea is to take it a step further and innovate, otherwise why am I doing it?" he said. "I don't want to be just another can in the assembly line. I want to create, do something that's totally different and unusual."
Before talking about some of his greatest music-video achievements at length, he went on to say that "in my opinion, it has to be completely entertaining and has a linear sense of continuity. I like having a beginning, middle and an ending so that you can follow a story. I am very much involved in complete creating of the piece. It has to be from my soul."
In 1983, Jackson changed the face of music videos with his John Landis-directed music video for "Thriller," off the album of the same name. "We're never serious on the set, so it's fun working with John 'cause I get to throw water balloons and stink bombs at him," he said. "That's a ritual for me — after we wrap on each video I throw a lot of stuff at everybody. My idea was to make a short film with conversation at the beginning and bookmark it with conversation at the end. Believe it or not, I'm afraid to watch scary movies. I always try to be a pioneer and innovator in whatever I do."
While choreographing the video, Jackson wanted to make sure that dancing zombies would look natural, not cheesy. "It was a delicate thing to work on, 'cause I remember my original approach was, 'How do you make zombies and monsters dance without it being comical?' So I got into the room with Michael Peters and he and I together kind if imagined how these zombies move."
Before Jackson released the video for "Thriller" in 1983, he released "Beat It." And surprisingly, he found his inspiration for the video from a McDonald's commercial. "I remember [Quincy Jones] telling me to write this song that I would enjoy with an edge. The song is so self-explanatory that it was so easy to make the short film," Jackson explained. "I had seen ... I think it was a McDonald's commercial. I said I want this director [Bob Giraldi] for this piece."
In "Billie Jean," also released in 1983, Jackson made sure to include some of his signature dance moves.
"It's kind of surreal and it's different. I didn't come up with that concept. I think it was a British fellow, Steve Barron. I thought he had wonderful ideas but I let him go with it," Jackson recalled. "The only part I wrote in the piece ... I said, 'Give me a section I can dance a little.' So that whole section where you see that long street, that's the only part I contributed."
In 1991, Jackson released the controversial video for "Black or White" off his album, Dangerous, but looking back on the song eight years later, he didn't see any reason for the controversy.
"I wanted to do a dance number [and] I told my sister Janet, I said, 'You remind me of a black panther.' I said, 'Why you don't do something where you transform into a black panther and you transform into yourself again?' She said, 'I like it,' but she didn't go with it," he explained. "The two of us, we always think alike. So I did it. And in the dance, I said, 'I want to do a dance number where I can let out my frustration about injustice and prejudice and racism and bigotry,' and within the dance I became upset and let go. I think at the time people were concerned with the violent content of the piece, but it's, like, easy to look at. It's simple."
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