IMHO, Michael Jackson was never the "king of pop." His best records were his first ones, with the Jackson 5; they had a youthful exuberance and represented the next generation of the classic Motown Sound. (Due more to Barry Gordy and his producers and writers than to the performances, I'd wager.) Jackson's most famous records, as a solo artist, certainly sold well, but they weren't groundbreaking. They may have represented the logical culmination of then-current producing and recording techniques, but they didn't push the envelope in any way, shape, or form. You want groundbreaking, you listen to Stevie Wonder or Marvin Gaye. Jackson's stuff was entertaining, but that's it. Not an innovator at all.
Jackson's music was popular, however, for various reasons. Well, it had a good beat and you could dance to it, of course. It also helped to break genre and color lines, especially in the world of MTV and music videos; in this way, Jackson was more of a cultural phenomenon than a musical one. But the songs, the records, they just don't have any staying power. Does his stuff get played on any radio stations today? (Well, other than the 24/7 mournathon we're currently in, that is.) No, it doesn't. The earlier Jackson 5 stuff does, because it endures. "Thriller," "Billie Jean," all those songs, they're easily replaceable. They don't stand out, they're too representative of their time; they simply don't wear well over the years. That's not great music, folks.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know, Jackson was a captivating entertainer and dancer. So compare him (probably unfavorably) to Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, not to Elvis Presley and John Lennon and other true musical innovators. You want musical innovators, talk about Chuck Berry and Little Richard and the Beatles; don't talk the so-called "king of pop." If anything, he was the king of cloying pap. Nothing more than that.
But I don't think he was a king at all, and I'm tired of hearing Michael Jackson talked about as if he really, truly, changed the world of music as we know it. Even his so-called accomplishments were really collaborations with (and driven by) Quincy Jones. What were Jackson's contributions? A few squeaks here and there and the introduction of the moonwalk -- which was itself an appropriation of existing dance steps. I'll give him one thing; he helped to turn pop concerts into singing-and-dancing extravaganzas, complete with synchronized dance steps and a troupe of scantily clad dancers. So we have Michael Jackson to thank for Britney Spears. Oh joy.
I'm sick and tired of the cult of artificial celebrity, which has reached its zenith with the enshrinement of so-called reality show stars like Jon and Kate and all those other losers who never accomplished anything in life other than acting out their pitiful lives in front of the video cameras. Michael Jackson was a talented performer, but nothing more. Let's not treat him as a god on his passing; let's not pay any more attention than that deserved by a has-been hitmaker with some very serious personality disorders. Michael Jackson, meet Frankie Lymon; that's your comparison, right there.
Enough is enough. That's much more than I ever intended to say about Michael Jackson, dead or alive, so I'll just stop now.
But that's just my opinion; reasonable minds may disagree.