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Holy moly that voice.
When Michael Jackson died 13 years ago, the pop music world lost a legend. However markedly mysterious and controversial his personal life was, his contributions to music will go down in history as some of the most influential of all time.
Part of what made him such a beloved singer was the uniqueness of his voice. From the time he was a young child singing lead for The Jackson 5, his high-pitched vocals stood out. Hearing him sing live was impressive, his pitch-perfect performances always entertaining.
No one could ever really be compared to MJ, or so we thought. Out of the blue, a guy showed up on TikTok recently with a casual performance that sounds so much like the King of Pop it's blowing people away.
Brandon Conway posted his first TikTok video ever on July 24, and in less than three weeks it's been viewed more than 27 million times. It's just him standing in a parking lot snapping his fingers and singing "The Way You Make Me Feel," but when he opens his mouth, whoa.
As he keeps going, it gets even more whoa. Then he hits Jackson's signature "he he" and the whoa turns into what?!?
Take a listen:
First post on tiktok let me know what you guys think! More videos coming soon feom mj to country to rock so yall be sure to stay tuned!#fyp #singer #usherchallenge @usher @tpain #letsgo #firstvideo
Uncanny, right? If you need a reminder of how Jackson himself sounded when he sang it, here's a live performance from Auckland during his 1996 world tour.
Very impressive. You can follow Brandon Conway on TikTok to hear more from him.
And he did it without saying a word.
Bobby McFerrin is best known for his hit song “Don’t Worry Be Happy,” which showcased his one-man vocal and body percussion skills (and got stuck in our heads for years). But his musicality extends far beyond the catchy pop tune that made him a household name. The things he can do with his voice are unmatched and his range of musical styles and genres is impressive.
The Kennedy Center describes him: “With a four-octave range and a vast array of vocal techniques, Bobby McFerrin is no mere singer; he is music's last true Renaissance man, a vocal explorer who has combined jazz, folk and a multitude of world music influences - choral, a cappella, and classical music - with his own ingredients.”
McFerrin is also a music educator, and one of his most memorable lessons is a simple, three-minute interactive demonstration in which he doesn’t say a single word.
In a video shared by the World Science Festival, McFerrin demonstrates the power of the pentatonic scale by prompting the audience to sing specific notes when he stands in specific places on stage. With just his body movements and a handful of sung notes, he turns the audience into an instrument, showing them how intuitive the pentatonic scale truly is for all of us.
The pentatonic scale has five notes per octave instead of the seven we often think of as standard (the heptatonic scale). The pentatonic scale is thought to have been used since pre-ancient times and is found in nearly every culture in the world. Its beauty is in its simplicity; many folk songs have been composed using only the notes in this scale.
Perhaps that’s why it seemed so natural for the people in the audience to know what notes to sing when McFerrin moved without him telling them which notes to sing beyond the first few. It’s a delightful demonstration of how music connects us in an innate, inexplicable and seriously incredible way.
Watch the demonstration from the "Notes & Neurons: In Search of the Common Chorus" event in 2009:
With a hair band power ballad to boot.
It was the year we saw violence in Tiananmen Square and the dismantling of the Berlin Wall. The year we got Meg Ryan in "When Harry Met Sally" and Michael Keaton in Tim Burton's "Batman." The year "Seinfeld" and "The Simpsons" debuted on TV, with no clue as to how successful they would become. The year that gave us New Kids on the Block and Paula Abdul while Madonna and Janet Jackson were enjoying their heyday.
The jeans were pegged, the shoulders were padded and the hair was feathered and huge. It was 1989—the peak of Gen X youth coming of age.
A viral video of a group of high school students sitting at their desks in 1989—undoubtedly filmed by some geeky kid in the AV club who probably went on to found an internet startup—has gone viral across social media, tapping straight into Gen X's memory banks. For those of us who were in high school at the time, it's like hopping into a time machine.
The show "Stranger Things" has given young folks of today a pretty good glimpse of that era, but if you want to see exactly what the late '80s looked like for real, here it is:
Oh so many mullets. And the Skid Row soundtrack is just the icing on this nostalgia cake. (Hair band power ballads were ubiquitous, kids.)
I swear I went to high school with every person in this video. Like, I couldn't have scripted a more perfect representation of my classmates (which is funny considering that this video came from Paramus High School in New Jersey and I went to high school on the opposite side of the country).
Comments have poured in on Reddit from both Gen Xers who lived through this era and those who have questions.
First, the confirmations:
"Can confirm. I was a freshman that year, and not only did everyone look exactly like this (Metallica shirt included), I also looked like this. 😱😅"
"I graduated in ‘89, and while I didn’t go to this school, I know every person in this room."
"It's like I can virtually smell the AquaNet and WhiteRain hairspray from here...."
"I remember every time you went to the bathroom you were hit with a wall of hairspray and when the wind blew you looked like you had wings."
Then the observations about how differently we responded to cameras back then.
"Also look how uncomfortable our generation was in front of the camera! I mean I still am! To see kids now immediately pose as soon as a phone is pointed at them is insanity to me 🤣"
"Born in 84 and growing up in the late 80’s and 90’s, it’s hard to explain to younger people that video cameras weren’t everywhere and you didn’t count on seeing yourself in what was being filmed. You just smiled and went on with your life."
Which, of course, led to some inevitable "ah the good old days" laments:
"Life was better before the Internet. There, I said it."
"Not a single cell phone to be seen. Oh the freedom."
"It's so nice to be reminded what life was like before cell phones absorbed and isolated social gatherings."
But perhaps the most common response was how old those teens looked.
"Why do they all look like they're in their 30's?"
"Everyone in this video is simultaneously 17 and 49 years old."
"Now we know why they always use 30 y/o actors in high school movies."
As some people pointed out, there is an explanation for why they look old to us. It has more to do with how we interpret the fashion than how old they actually look.
Ah, what a fun little trip down memory lane for those of us who lived it. (Let's just all agree to never bring back those hairstyles, though, k?)