Can there be another Michael Jackson icon in Internet era?

Wed Jul 8, 2009 10:38am EDT
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By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The extravagant mourning for Michael Jackson has some critics wondering whether the pop singer's global superstardom could ever be duplicated in an Internet era offering endless entertainment choices.

Jackson's sudden June 25 death caused an outpouring of praise for the singer, whose 1982 "Thriller" album is the best-selling of all time with estimated sales of 50 million copies. In death, Jackson's personal scandals no longer seemed so important to his fans and those caught up in the moment.

"In the world of YouTube, no one could occupy the worldwide effect of Michael Jackson's 'Thriller,'" said Jonathan Taplin, a University of Southern California professor.

"I was scouting a movie for Walt Disney in 1983 in Congo, Gabon and Ivory Coast. All you heard on the radio was Michael Jackson," said Taplin, a former television and film producer.

The Internet has joined the world together in new ways and can elevate unknowns to stardom in an instant, as illustrated by Susan Boyle, the dowdy British singer who shot from obscurity to international fame when her performance on a British talent show was posted on YouTube.

But such fame is fleeting and one Internet sensation is quickly replaced by another. "There will be thousands of Susan Boyles, but no Michael Jacksons or The Beatles," Taplin said.

Before the emergence of cable TV and then the Internet, tens of millions of people regularly tuned into the same hit shows at the same time. Now, the Internet has flooded the world with choice and diluted audiences.

Dubbed the "King of Pop," Jackson, 50, sang with his brothers in the "Jackson 5" before achieving solo stardom with hits like "Billie Jean" and "Beat It," which he promoted with boundary breaking videos on cable music video network MTV.   Continued...

<p>Actress Brooke Shields speaks at a memorial service for Michael Jackson at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, July 7, 2009. Mariah Carey, Stevie Wonder and Usher led an emotional public memorial for Michael Jackson on Tuesday as the music world, the Jackson family and thousands of fans bade farewell to the "King of Pop." REUTERS/Gabriel Bouys/Pool</p>