Music can be a real gift to our lives. It speaks volumes in its way to inspire and, most importantly, create dialogue. This seemed to be lost upon Hot 97, the Facebook comments section of hip-hop, when it decided to create an unbalanced bracket dedicated to pitting Beyoncé and Michael Jackson’s discography against each other. Some of the match-ups included were “Drunk In Love” vs. “Black or White,” “Diva” vs. “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing),” and “Lose My Breath” (a Destiny’s Child tune) vs. “Beat It.” But for the sake of attention and content, we continue to have the moronic song-by-song conversation of “Michael Jackson vs. Beyoncé.”
“With debate reaching a boiling point, Ebro in the Morning created a bracket that will solve the Beyoncé vs MJ talk once and for all,” their post about the bracket said Monday (May 14). Except there is no debate. Comparing Beyoncé to one of her biggest influences is damaging in many ways. It proves what little research we’ve done to preserve the matter of music education and music history.
“Michael taught me that sometimes you have to forget technique, forget what you have on. If you feel silly, you have to go from the gut, just let it go,” shared Beyonce on the five-year-anniversary of his death. Over the course of her career, Bey has mirrored MJ and has time and time again called him a point of reference in her music. “Michael Jackson changed me, and helped me to become the artist I am,” she added.
Don’t @ us bro, but Beyoncé is the best entertainer on the planet. Point blank AND the period.
No one commands a stage quite like she does in this day and age, and her star power is so magnetic that budding musical ingenues cite her as inspiration for their own careers. However, Beyoncé’s superior gifts do not negate the obvious and present influence that Michael Jackson has had on her as a performer, nor do her extraordinary skills nullify his success and talent as the undisputed King of Pop.
Beyoncé isn’t the next Michael–she is Beyoncé. Creating division, even in the playful sense, only shows the lack of respect we have for our legends. It’s something we see in the hip-hop space far too often, which only prove the genre will not age well if we keep comparing apples to oranges, pears to avocados, and figs to pomegranates. Can we just appreciate someone’s talents without diminishing the successes of others that came before them? Throughout their careers, these artists only attempted to best themselves.
“Creating division, even in the playful sense, only shows the lack of respect we have for our legends.”
The Ebro in the Morning team had a reason to create the conversation. Over the weekend, Chance The Rapper received an honorary doctorate from Dillard University and gave a rousing commencement speech, where he spoke to the power of influence and shared his opinion about Beyoncé surpassing Michael as a better performer. Chance placed emphasis on how the next generation will have Bey as a form of reference because of their connection to her music, visuals, and presence over popular culture. His biggest example was her “Beychella” performance that owned the 2018 Coachella Music Festival.
Sure, Beyoncé continues to excel in terms of production both in the booth and on the stage. However, how can we compare the Beychella set to MJ’s Super Bowl XXVII performance? Or Bey’s 2016 Video Music Award medley of Lemonade hits to Mike’s iconic moonwalking debut at the Motown 25 anniversary special? Both of these artists elicited different levels of personal performance power that the world was enamored with at different times. No one’s art is better than anyone else’s because legends don’t need comparisons. They create their own lanes.
If we continue to compare artists or figures who operate on the same caliber, it appears that these legends, their titles and their own personal successes come with an expiration date. If Michael Jackson—Beyoncé’s inspiration—was “dethroned” as the greatest entertainer of all time, then are we saying James Brown was “dethroned” when Michael Jackson did the moonwalk? Was Louis Jordan “dethroned” when James Brown did everything he did as a soul/R&B singer? This doesn’t just happen in music. It occurs in sports, too. We’re constantly bombarded with debates regarding Michael Jordan and LeBron James, and it all needs to stop.
“Legends don’t need comparisons. They create their own lanes.”
While it’s great to have conversations about superior talent creating their own history, comparisons between legends seemingly diminish and discredit the work that these artists and athletes have put in. Beyoncé didn’t spend her whole life attempting to perfect her craft as a performer and all-around artist to be compared to someone else. Neither did Michael, who was a pioneer in his own right.
So again for those who skimmed this, Beyoncé is not the Michael Jackson of her generation, she is Beyoncé, and Beyoncé alone is pretty f**kin’ spectacular.
So please, let her be Yoncé and let Michael moonwalk in heaven.