A few weeks ago, the King of Pop Michael Jackson posthumously released a new music video for his song "A Place with No Name" on Twitter. Just last month, Prince's movie Purple Rain enjoyed its 30-year anniversary. It was inevitable that these two colossuses of the music world would be compared to each other, especially since they showed up to a lot of the same places at the same time. Some have even attempted to judge which one is the superior artist, though never satisfactorily. That's about to change right now though. I've scored each artist on 8 categories that I believe define what it means to be a musical artist on the global stage. Here's how the two measured up.
If any credit should be given to the early bird who gets that worm, then we must consider the official start of both artists' careers.
MJ made his first public appearance as part of The Jackson 5 in 1964 at the tender young age of 8. This could easily be chalked up to the fact that Michael was born into an already famous family””sure. But he rose to the occasion.
Prince, Michael's contemporary, released his first albumFor You in 1978 when he was 20 years old. Prince was also born into a musical family, and his father was the pianist for a jazz band called the Prince Rogers Trio (the inspiration for Prince's name).
You want to talk about music? Let's talk about music.
MJ had a unique and amazing method of composing his songs: He would come into the studio and sing each note and strain of the melody and the orchestration. Then someone else would notate for him. Although the King could only play a few instruments at a basic level and wasn't able to read or write music, the man was still conceiving his own songs.
Prince, however, conceptualized and wrote all his own music. And he is famous for being able to expertly play several instruments. Early in his career he wowed a music reporter when he invited her into the recording studio and started riffing on all the instruments that were there. Rolling Stone also listed him as the 33rd best guitarist in the world. Gotta give the guy credit for that.
OK, Prince may win the instrumentalism prize, but who wins the voice contest? This one is tough, because judging voice is so subjective. Both could belt, and they both knew when less was more. However, there's one metric we can use to objectively determine vocal ability: vocal range.
Prince had a range that spanned 4.5 octaves. Michael Jackson only sang in 3.3 octaves. More is more.
Sometimes a musical artist is judged not only on the merits of his music, but also his photogenic qualities. Both MJ and Prince followed up their hit singles with awe-inspiring music videos. "Thriller" is one of the shining achievements in music videos to this day .
But unlike the King, Prince wrote the music to an entire feature length movie. Purple Rain not only boasts one of the best soundtracks in film history, but it also solidified Prince's status as a consummate pop star.
There may be blood on the dance floor, but there are also a lot of sweet moves coming from both artists. Now Prince had some defining pelvic thrusts, a few spandex defying lunges, and could really manipulate a mic-stand.
But Michael Jackson arguably invented his own style of dance that took cool to a new level. It blended Jazz, Ballet, Hip Hop, Tap, Pop and Lock, and some lunar footwork no one had ever seen before. As far as sheer movement is concerned, MJ cleans up.
Though the glitter of Grammy gold doesn't necessarily tempt me one way or the other, I thought it'd only be fitting to bring them up here. But there's really no contest. Yes, Prince has won his fair share of Grammys for his sound tracks and rock performances. Don't forget about a trove of MTV awards.
But Michael Jackson really takes the prize for winning the most prizes. Check out his collection: 23 Guinness World Records, 40 Billboard Awards, 13 Grammys, and 26 American Music Awards. Add the award for winning the most awards of any musical artist, and you've got a trophy shelf that shines like the sun.
At the live show that is. A comparison between the two artists has got to take into account their on-stage acts. Now MJ had some drop-dead, extravagant events. Even his creepily realistic hologram struts the stage to packed houses.
But again, Prince gets crowned on this criterion as well. Rolling Stone ranked his live show as #2 of 2013 when the Purple One was just 55 years young. Yes this was after MJ had left us for the next world, but it's still a seal of approval. Prince is known for stripping on stage, grinding on guitars (and band mates), and taking extended solo breaks.
As you can see, we're all tied up. So who's the better artist? Will we ever really know? Should we just drop this thing right now? Absolutely not. After all, even MJ wanted to hype up a rivalry between Prince and him for the media: He wanted to sing the song "Bad" as a duet with the Purple One and stage a duel for the music video.
So how do we come to a final ruling? Easily. Prince just announced to release not one but two new albums this fall. The first, Plectrumelectrum, is a collaboration with the group 3rdEyeGirl, and the second is a solo album entitled Art Official Age. MJ never released two albums in the same year in his entire career.
Michael may have released Xscape after his death (pretty impressive), but Prince is dropping two records at 56.