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Comparison of Rockit and Billie Jean

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        Recently we have gone back in time to review two different but intriguing musical artists and songs that were breaking ground in different genres for different reasons.  The year was 1982 (34 years ago) and the medium for music was evolving from just radio to also video with MTV (Music Television) coming onto the seen through cable TV stations. During this time video was becoming the new radio for young followers of music.  During this time there were two individuals that were definitely making their mark on the music industry in different genres and for different reasons.  One of these musicians was Herbie Hancock who was one of the first musicians to venture into the realm of electronic synthesizers also known as electro/fusion; this was a combination of traditional instruments and electronic modification.  In 1983 he had a mainstream hit using this style of music; it was an instrumental single titled “Rockit” and was the first jazz hip-hop song.  This instrumental soon became a worldwide anthem for breakdancers.  Breakdancing is a style of street dance that originated primarily among African American and Puerto Rican youth.  This form of music also included a new element called scratching into the mix, scratching is where a DJ would cue a record up then by using different hand movements and electronics to produce varying sounds to add into the mix.  I can honestly say that this is probably one of my least favorite musical genres because of the extended use of the electronics and the scratching.  While I may not enjoy this music it did have a strong following and did break new ground for artists, even with these advances the musician still had to rely on the tried and true methods of creating patterns and melody’s through the use of percussion instruments for the pattern and a heavy emphasis on the use of keyboards for the melody.  In 1984 at the Grammy Awards this particular selection won best R & B Instrumental performance.

        During this same time period Michael Jackson has burst onto the pop scene as a solo artist after having prior success with his siblings in the musical group the “Jackson 5”.  Michael brought a new flare to the pop scene and was soon dubbed the “King of Pop”, not only did he emphasize the music but in his performances he brought a somewhat theatrical feel to his performances through the use of stage props.  Some props were simple and others elaborate.  A good example of this was his performance of “Billie Jean” which was and still is very well known.  Michael’s musical style was completely different from Herbie’s in where the emphasis was placed for the delivery and performance of the song, Herbie relied on the technology and instrumental delivery where Michael utilized a more traditional band and the clear delivery of the song lyrics.  In the live performance of “Billie Jean” from 1983 Michael is seen coming out onto the stage with an architectural backdrop featuring arched openings, the microphone on a simple stand and a stool at center stage.  When he makes his entry he comes out in slacks and a white tee shirt carrying a small suitcase, when he reaches the stool at center stage he places the suitcase on it and opens it, then in a methodical and very calculated fashion he starts to remove elements from the case starting with his jacket, then his fedora and finishing with his trademark single white glove.  In doing so he is building the audience up in anticipation and playing upon their enjoyment of the theatrics to enhance their enjoyment and anticipation of what is coming next.  During his performance the band is nowhere in sight but is clearly heard with each instrument playing its part in the arrangement.  Once again we find the use of the percussion section to keep time but the melody is delivered by varying instruments to add depth to the piece.  Though I am not a huge fan of pop music I did find this



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