Hours after the news came down that Michael Jackson had passed away at age 50, the mood in New York's Times Square had turned somber. Gone was the celebratory singing and chanting of the afternoon. Instead, it was replaced by more pragmatic considerations of Jackson's life and career.
"I think he'll be remembered both as a great musician and as a weirdo," said Black Mayo, a beatboxer plying his trade well after midnight. "When Eminem dies, it'll be the same way: There will be hardcore fans who defend him and people who hate him." Mayo admits that his memories of Jackson will be fond. "I loved Thriller, and I also loved 'Moonwalker' for the Sega Genesis — that was tight."
Elsewhere in Times Square, several cars appeared to be circling the area with "Beat It" and "Billie Jean" playing on repeat. Fans congregated around Madame Tussaud's, which had moved it's wax sculpture of Jackson to the front window.
"I was shocked — it wasn't like with Ed McMahon," said Baily Gains. "We didn't know if he was sick or anything." Though he admitted he thought Jackson had something of a mixed legacy, "People have short memories. He'll be remembered more for the music than anything else."
Rebecca Hands thought this was truly a huge event. "It's a big deal because he died so young," she said. "I didn't think much of him as a person, but it's hard to deny that he was a great singer and dancer. And I still love his songs."
As compilations of Jackson footage played across Times Square's giant video screens, people stared and took pictures, trying to capture the moment. The biggest crowd actually congregated in front of the now-closed Virgin Megastore, perhaps suggesting that the drive was there to re-consider Jackson's musical legacy.
Earlier in the day, the mood was much livelier. "Everybody took it very personally," said MTV News' Micaela Rogers, who spoke to people in the area. "People talked about race issues and how he touched them personally. You could tell they were physically upset." Rogers said she couldn't remember an event that seemed to drive so many people to express themselves. "We couldn't pull the microphone away from most people. Everybody had something to say."
Well, everybody except the guy dressed up as Elmo who stands outside the Toys R Us. When asked if he had any reaction, he just shook his head sadly.
Follow the rest of the coverage of Michael Jackson at MTVNews.com