I’m speaking to a headline I noticed today, while not bothering to research further.
Katy Perry has apparently tied Michael Jackson's string of number one hits from a single album.
For the King of Pop the album was Thriller and for Katy Perry, Teenage Dream.
I needed to search for that album title, something that ultimately helps prove my point: If the headline is that Katy Perry is somehow on the same level of notoriety as Michael Jackson for this statistic, then shouldn't I be able to recite the name of Ms. Perry’s release without resorting to a Google search?
Shouldn't I be able to identify at least a few of those “hits” that Ms. Perry has given us?
The knee jerk reaction is simply to decry me as “old” and to suggest that I’m not in touch with the outlets that enable the “hitmakers” to reach their audience.
I’m used to the accusations of being old, and it impacts me as much as the label of Obama being a “socialist.” It’s convenient. It’s easy. But it really doesn’t address the defense that I haven’t heard/can’t name the aforementioned “hits” that Katy Perry has delivered, which caused the press release that she has somehow matched a similar feat that Michael Jackson accomplished over two decades ago.
Turning back to that period of time when Thriller was still residing high on the pop charts, I’m confident that even my parents were able to identify at least a few of Jackson’s hits through sheer osmosis.
I understand why that is. Radio was the dominate platform with MTV as another delivery method for my generation and younger. There were fewer outlets than we have today, and with such consolidation it was harder to escape the impact of Top 40 music, regardless of your age.
And when you’re face with the kind of sales that Jackson had with Thriller, it was nearly impossible to escape the hits that came from that record.
As a matter of fact, I have never owned a copy of Thriller ever because nearly every song was a hit and I became so tired of them that I didn’t need a copy. Thanks to its exposure, the songs are ingrained into my fiber and I have no desire to hear them again.
Sidenote: I recently got a copy of George Michael’s Faith reissue and immediate was disappointed with it after playing it. Not because of anything to do with the quality of the music, but because it reminded me of the record’s overexposure (it too, if you’ll recall, featured a huge number of hits when it was originally released) and after one play, it brought me back to the moment where something from it was played every hour.
Where I’m going with this is that Katy Perry’s accomplishment is not something we should even consider in terms of prior accomplishments. There will never be a superstar that is able to reach the same caliber of Michael Jackson's success with Thriller, so why pretend that Ms. Perry's feat somehow matches it.
The Billboard charts are a joke, a weak facsimile of what they once were and a tally of some strange Turkish blend of sources that manage to point to a long tail culture where even niche artists can make the top 10.
And like a box of Camels, it's all a smokescreen for a dying database.
In today's world, Katy Perry is a star.
But in Michael's world, she wouldn't even hold a candle to baby sister's Rhythm Nation.
So let's tone down the comparison rhetoric a bit. Give Ms. Perry her plaque and move on, but please don't try to put her accolades on the same level of Jackson's domination from Thriller.