I will never forget the day the King of Pop died. As a budding high school freshman, celebrity deaths were scarcely on my radar. Sure, I would browse their “Life in Photos” displayed across the pages of People magazine, paying homage to the deceased. However, none had ever reached my heart. Michael Jackson was different. The legend that made pop culture what it is today passed away the summer of 2009, a death both shocking and truly saddening to me, along with millions of other fans. Five years later and the King is still touching hearts and topping charts with his gift. But, this is not without the help of the very-much-alive Prince of Pop – Justin Timberlake.
Last week’s release of the post-mortem Michael Jackson album XSCAPE contains one feature and one alone: the man who brought Sexy Back – and back again in his Suit & Tie – Justin Timberlake. However, what I find most remarkable is the video of the the featured track – “Love Never Felt So Good”. Justin Timberlake is a current pop sensation with his explosively popular 2013 album The 20/20 Experience. Handling the creation of a music video depicting a duet with half of the duet five-years-deceased is a daunting task. It would have been easy to feature the pretty-faced Timberlake who is alive to sing and dance along to the pop-dance track. In fact, it could have easily become a seemingly Justin-only production, Jackson fading into the background. But, much to my satisfaction, Timberlake did not let that happen.
The memorial-esque music video to “Love Never Felt So Good” pays homage to the King of Pop in a tasteful and iconic way. Jackson and Timberlake are equally prevalent in the video as current clips of suave Justin are interspersed with classic clips of Michael doing what he did best. The mix of the Prince and the King of Pop together makes it very clear that Timberlake is giving thanks to Jackson for the talent he has shared and the expertise he has taught. The Jackson clips memorialize him in a way to make audiences happy he was alive rather than sad he is dead.
Many have questioned why it is that Timberlake was the chosen successor to Jackson as the future of pop music. However, in examining the two artists, they truly aren’t very different from each other. Both stole the hearts of the masses early in their lives amongst different singing groups (NSYNC and The Jackson 5). They both continued to make audiences swoon and marvel through not only vocal talent, but smooth and sleek dance moves. And whether it’s via a bedazzled glove or a suave bow-tie, neither of them ever underestimated the value of accessorizing.
The death of the pop legend that is Michael Jackson will always strike a chord in my heart. The peak of his popularity may have been before my time, but his music continues to be iconic much beyond my time. My high school’s marching band performed “Thriller” – dance and all – in the Homecoming game’s halftime show. My best friend and I would belt out Billy Jean in her mom’s car on a regular basis when we were kids. Like a good cheese, Jackson’s music has only ripened with age. Timberlake not only recognizes that, but respects it and showcases it in the delightfully touching “Love Never Felt So Good”. Five years later, the crown has been rightfully passed down to the Prince of Pop – and I have no doubt he will use it well and honor Michael Jackson’s memory along the way.
Written By: Hanna Sutton