Wednesday, July 25, 2007

UNBREAKABLE: Michael Jackson Defines Greatness

When asked what the message of his song "Unbreakable" is in a 2001 interview with TV Guide, Michael Jackson responded with the following: "That I’m invincible, that I’ve been through it all. You can’t hurt me. Knock me down, I get back up."


When asked what the message of his song "Unbreakable" is in a 2001 interview with TV Guide, Michael Jackson responded with the following: "That I'm invincible, that I've been through it all. You can't hurt me. Knock me down, I get back up."

Michael Jackson is the most successful singer in popular music-history, selling more records than any other solo artist. Due to this success, Jackson is one of the greatest musicians ever. He is also one of the most criticized artists ever, both negatively and positively. Negatively, he has been the subject of almost constant controversy in the media, in part because of his own actions but mostly because of his greatness as an artist, which will be discussed further in this essay. In trying to determine how Jackson has achieved greatness I will look at what he value's most as a person and how what he value's translates into achieving greatness. To see what he values most, I will examine his autobiographical song entitled, "Unbreakable," and use value analysis as the method of critique. In this essay I will thoroughly analyze each verse of lyrics in subsequent order to determine the value presented in each verse, as well as its relationship to achieving greatness. Michael Jackson shows through his song, "Unbreakable" that people become great when they exercise the value of perseverance.

The message of the song, as Jackson commented in the TV Guide interview, is that he is invincible. Proclaiming himself as being invincible seems it cannot possibly be true until the message is explained in more detail. It was a message he was eager to get out, being that "Unbreakable" appears as the opening song on Jackson's 2001 album, "Invincible." Not only was the song the opening one, but it was also the opening one on an album that was his first of entirely new material in six years. The opening verse begins to explain the message of why he is invincible:

Now I'm just wondering why you think
That you can get to me with anything
Seems like you'd know by now
When and how I get down
And with all that I've been through, I'm still around

Here Jackson acknowledges he has been down, but he also proclaims nothing can keep him down. He has overcome all the times and situations he has been down, using the evidence that he is "still around." He has not run away from his obstacles but instead has confronted and overcome them. This verse demonstrates the fact that Jackson will always overcome discouragement. Always overcoming discouragement is what Jackson value's in the opening verse and can be defined more simply as the value of perseverance.

In the second verse Jackson continues to explain:

Don't you ever make no mistake
Baby I've got what it takes
And there's no way you'll ever get to me
Why can't you see that you'll never ever hurt me
'Cause I won't let it be, see I'm too much for you baby
Having previously proven he exercises the value of perseverance due to the fact he is "still around," Jackson begins to elaborate on what exercising perseverance means. In the second line Jackson states he has "what it takes." In this instance "it" is a reminder of the value of perseverance he identified in the prior verse. Due to this value, there's nothing and no one who can control or hurt him, rather Jackson is free and in control.

In the chorus Jackson proclaims his greatness boldly:

You can't believe it, you can't conceive it
And you can't touch me, 'cause I'm untouchable
And I know you hate it, and you can't take it
You'll never break me, 'cause I'm unbreakable

Within the first and third lines of the chorus Jackson identifies two negative values perseverance always overcomes but also always attracts from individuals who lack "it" themselves. In this case as well as before, the word "it" is referring to perseverance or greatness. In the first line, the negative value of ignorance is identified and in the third line jealously is named. Ignorance is a lack of knowledge and only those who lack knowledge cannot "believe" or "conceive" or rather understand "it." Jealousy is a lack of respect or an unwillingness to learn from those who have become great by exercising "it." Jackson follows each negative value with a subsequent proclamation of his greatness, stating that he is "untouchable" and "unbreakable" in the second and fourth lines of the lyric. Being that the chorus of a song is repeated multiple times, it is important to Jackson for everyone who listens to understand and learn who he is and what is greatness.

In the third verse Jackson reiterates the reasons perseverance is the formula for achieving greatness:

Now you can't stop me even though you think
That if you block me, you've done your thing
And when you bury me underneath all your pain
I'm steady laughin', while surfacing

He proclaims he is unstoppable in the first line and gives the reason why in the fourth, stating he will always, by using the word "steady," and confidently, by using the word "laughin,'" resurface or comeback. What someone thinks as stated in the first line, being blocked, as in the second line and being buried as in the third line are all temporary setbacks. Also the third line is an evident example of what someone does when they lack perseverance and instead possess the negative values of ignorance, jealousy or both. Jackson demonstrates someone who lacks greatness does not value themselves and would rather try to negatively criticize or tear down others to help make their personal pain go away than simply learning from others to improve their self-worth. Jackson illustrates in this third verse that perseverance is permanent and obstacles are temporary.

Lastly, in the fourth and final verse Jackson leaves a lasting image of the truth having already proven he exercises the value of perseverance:

You can try to stop me, but it won't do a thing
No matter what you do, I'm still gonna be here
Through all your lies and silly games
I'm a still remain the same, I'm unbreakable

Jackson proves his definition of greatness to be true by using his life experiences in this song as the evidence or proof he persevered, is persevering and continues to persevere to become and remain great. By proclaiming his greatness in this song, Jackson inspires others to also become or remain great by persevering in their lives. Michael Jackson defines greatness as someone who exercises perseverance and through this value a person becomes "Unbreakable."

Author: Timothy McGaffin II

"Michael Jackson, the king of music and dance, proves he is  unbreakable  because he exercises the value of perseverance." -Tim McGaffin

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