Michael Jackson's Xscape will see its posthumous release on May 13, and it features a few famous names that could easily be deemed successors of the King of Pop's crown. A Justin Timberlake/Michael Jackson "duet" "Love Never Felt So Good" is one of Xscape's eight tracks, and Justin Bieber also lent his voice to an early version of Xscape's "Slave to the Rhythm." The Justins have both have both triumphed onstage and off while growing into their own incendiary pop careers, much like the Gloved One before them--and they're not alone. We'd like to think that Michael would've freaked out over "Single Ladies" and "Grenade" with the same hysteria that we did had he still been with us upon the release of some of the greatest pop songs of the past decade, and it got us thinking: who's the rightful heir to MJ's pop throne?
Every single one of these pop greats has done MJ's musical legacy proud, be it through fancy footwork, controversial stage antics or insatiably addictive hooks that render their hits timeless. Be sure to give Xscape a listen on May 13, and spin songs from these next MJs while you're at it.
When Justin Timberlake took to the stage at the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards for the first time as a solo performer, the Michael Jackson comparisons started flying, and it's easy to see why. Octave-leaping vocal ability? Check. Killer moves, complete with a perfected moon walk? Check. Tipped fedora, cool demeanor, penchant for drama? Check, check, check. Since then, Timberlake has flourished as a pop impresario and a singing, dancing force of nature, and his 20/20 Experience is an opus on par with MJ's greatest hits.
If you click through a handful of Usher's best music videos, the similarities between Atlanta's Homecoming King of Pop and The King of Pop are uncanny. Usher's moves nearly match the early days of Michael Jackson's break-out solo career step for step, and The Voice judge has definitely earned his spot as one of the most respected and adored multi-faceted entertainers out there. (Seriously, watch "Bad" and "Yeah" back-to-back and tell us the surgical precision on the dance floor and attitude rocked by both aren't identical.)
Just picture it: Michael Jackson listens to Beyoncé's "Single Ladies" for the first time. He freaks out and watches the video on YouTube 912 times before calling her up and demanding a meeting. The two have a dance-off, Michael's glittery glove giving Bey's robotic one a run for her money. Sadly, Michael passed long before "Single Ladies" saw its release, but it's the career-defining single that elevated Beyoncé from pop star to pop icon. (And we're 100% sure MJ would've memorized the choreography for it in 2.5 seconds.)
Like Michael Jackson, Justin Bieber got a start on his meteoric music career on the early side, laying tracks before hitting puberty and winning over the hearts of teen girls the world over. Bieber's continued in MJ's footsteps as he's grown up, expanding his musical tastes and crossing genre lines to keep an army of Beliebers on their toes. He's reinventing himself with each album, and that's nothing if not a page from the MJ playbook.
Bruno Mars is an exceptional performer, first and foremost, and his ability to deliver a stunning show each and every time he hits the stage is one that rivals that of Michael Jackson himself. His theatrical chops and dynamite voice don't hurt, either, and its this timeless talent that has him shouldering up against MJ when it comes to securing his pop god status.
Janelle Monáe is cut from the same cloth as Michael Jackson, and she's got the charisma, confidence, killer pipes and inimitable style to show for it. The Electric Lady can dominate a song with little more than a smile and a soaring note, and her stage presence is something the King of Pop would've applauded.
We could start by saying that Pharrell and Michael Jackson both turned simple toppers into iconic looks, but their creative ties go so much deeper than the hats they rocked as they danced themselves into their respective frenzies. Pharrell's never seen a beat, catchy chorus or R&B-ridden riff he hasn't liked, and he and MJ have that in common, too.
Michael Jackson could silence an arena with the raise of an eyebrow, a sharp pose or a soaring high note, and Miguel has been known to do the same. Every move, note and phrase the "Adorn" singer comes across oozes R&B, and he can command a room like none other--except for maybe the King of Pop himself.
Lady Gaga is the only one who's come close to upstaging Michael Jackson's epic crotch grab with her own stage antics and unpredictable live stunts. As weird as she can get with her puke-stained performances and constantly changing assortment of personalities, she does so with a ton of danceable hits (and the full support of the Little Monsters) behind her. We may not get Gaga most of the time, and we didn't necessarily understand some of MJ's artistic choices, either. It's undeniable that these eccentricities have given way to some truly memorable pop moments, and that's why we think she'd carry Michael's torch with ease.
Michael Jackson was no stranger to controversy. Neither is Chris Brown, and the two never let the headlines and personal drama come between them and their music. Like JT and Usher, Brown's natural habitat is split between the spotlight and the dance floor. If he were to compete against MJ in a dance-off, we'd hate to be the judge of that tight competition.
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