Man in the Mirror is one of the most popular songs by the late Michael Jackson. It addresses the theme of social change (Man in the Mirror). The change starts from an individual, who emphasizes on his or her call for change. The song was released in 1988. In 1991, it became an instant hit, becoming number 1 in rock music charts.
Although the song was typified by very good messages, it was not the best in the “Bad” album. It was nominated for the record of the year at the Grammy Awards and, for two weeks, it remained at the top of the hottest 100. However, things were not good for the song in the United Kingdom. In fact, it only improved to the second most popular song in the nation after the death of Jackson.
It also became the most downloaded song on iTunes, and about 1.3 million copies were purchased online, implying that a large number of people liked it across the world. The song was a departure from the style that had made Jackson famous in thriller and it did not focus on the musician and other characters like most of his previous works.
It addresses a variety of world issues in a unique manner, unlike Bon Jovi’s We were not Born to Follow (Blake 114). Its images include the then president Ronald Reagan, civil rights heroes, such as Rosa Park, and video footages from the Iranian hostage crisis and KKK rallies.
It also depicts Yoko Ono, John Lennon, South African activist Bishop Desmond Tutu, and Kennedy brothers, Hitler, and Gandhi (Man in the Mirror). Jackson wanted to show the world its best and worst sides so that each person could consider the change that he or she could bring about to impact the world at large.
In other words, his intention was to use the song to inspire change all over the world, which is why he incorporated so many people and events that transcended geopolitical, sociocultural, and ideological borders (Schloss, Starr and Waterman 34).
Glen and Garret did the composition of Man in the Mirror, although Jackson added some background vocals from Garret as well as the Andrea gospel choir, which gave the song a noticeable gospel feel. A G-Major and an AB3-C6 vocal range typify the song, while its tempo is 100bpn, and (Man in the Mirror).
Jackson and his producers concentrated on using the guitar and a synthesizer. Unlike traditional pop music, such as The Beatles and Rolling Stone, which predominantly used the guitar, this song is mostly a blend of instruments and synthesized music (Blake 110; Schloss et al. 78).
There was probably little emphasis on the instruments since the song’s focus was on the message and the overall feel (Flory 140). It was meant to appeal to listeners’ deepest emotions, and there was no better way to do this than to use subtle and gentle instruments, and overt emotional vocals (Schloss et al. 65).
It is claimed that the song displayed Jackson at his worst (Flory 140). It has been described as gentle and touching. According to many people, it has a gospel feel. It stands out among every good deed Jackson has done. Although he incidentally did not write it, he proceeded to give a personal commitment. This is demonstrated when he says that he would like the “man in the mirror” to change, which can only happen if there can be self-realization.
The video was notable with regard to its departure from his traditional films since he is only seen in the last clip, wearing a distinctive red jacket, while a large crown was featured in the montage. However, it is ironic that in the last decade of his life, Jackson seemed to contradict nearly everything in the song. He was embroiled in numerous legal battles over sexual harassment, copyright issues, and drug addiction scandals.
When examined in the context of his personal life, the song seems a simple and a sincere reflection that forced listeners to re-examine the relationship between the musician’s life and his music (Schloss et al. 102). Instead of embodying the self-improvement that he shows in the song, he seems to have gone the way of many other superstars who sing positivity, but wallow in drug addiction and other negative vices that ultimately destroy their lives and careers (Flory 136).
During the Grammy Awards ceremony in 1996, Jackson performed a live extended version of the song. It is also important to note that Michael Jackson frequently performed it in dangerous world tours. He also performed in Brunei in the mid 1990s with the view of promoting unity among people from different ethnic groups.
The event was known as “United We Stand”. During the Big Brother show in 2007, a contestant used it to rebuke several contestants who were bullying Shilpa Shetty, a Bollywood actor, and it was played in the house as an alarm the next morning, implying that it was a hit song.
I have lived most of my life in a diverse environment, and on some occasions experienced discrimination because of my race and gender. The song, therefore, appeals to me since it shows that we can always work together since each person tries to improve individually for the sake of humanity. In my opinion, one of the most important historical figures in the song is Mahatma Gandhi, who was an advocate for personal change.
He believed that we should be the change we want to see in the world. Listening to the song, or watching the montages in the video, reminds me of the complex and even the evil world in which we live. People frequently harm each other for no tangible reasons, but in the same way, others have risked their lives to protect the weak and have dedicated their lives to making the world a better place for all of us.
At the end of the day, it does not matter that one does not have power, influence or money, but the most important component of change is found free in all of us. The will and ability to change one’s mind about issues of politics, race, gender, and sexuality are all that the world needs to become a better place, and only a few songs have expressed this possibility better than Man in the Mirror. I am a firm believer that individual choices shape the world and not the other way round. As a result, the song will remain a timeless piece of art, both because of its ethereal feel and for its transcendent message.
Blake, David. “Between a Rock and a Popular Music Survey Course: Technological Frames and Historical Narratives in Rock Music.” Journal of Music History Pedagogy 5.1 (2014): 103-115. Print.
Flory, Andrew. “Rock Narratives and Teaching Popular Music: Audiences and Critical Issues.” Journal of Music History Pedagogy 5.1 (2014): 135-142. Print.
Man in the Mirror. Ex. Prod. Michael Jackson. New York, NY: MJJ Productions Inc. 1988. DVD.
Schloss, Glenn, Larry Starr, and Christopher Waterman. Rock: Music, Culture, and Business. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press, 2012. Print.