By Ann Powers
Michael Jackson was not of this world. He always seemed to defy gravity, as a dancer whose signature move was so incomprehensibly graceful that it earned the extraterrestrial title “the Moonwalk,” a singer whose tenor was high but strong, a rhythmic instrument that went as sweet and tender as a clarinet on the long notes — and as a man whose physical presence was first androgynous and then seemingly cyborgian, forcing his astounded public to puzzle over their assumptions about race, gender and age.
He was the boy who knew too much, bursting upon the pop scene in the 1970s as the neon-bright center of his family group the Jackson 5, singing songs that communicated emotions that should have been beyond the grasp of a prepubescent boy. For the cameras, he danced in a newsboy cap to childlike rhymes — A,B,C, simple as 1,2,3 — but the children and teens who were his primary audience loved him because his voice went beyond the guilelessness of playground games.
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