Going triple platinum, winning a Grammy, conquering the video world with her ultra-smooth dance moves—Ciara is living the dream. But is she really ready to have it all?
21-year-old Ciara Princess Harris wasn’t even born when the video clip for Michael Jackson’s classic “Beat It” first kicked in the doors of MTV like Martin Luther King, Jr.’s soulful dream. But that hasn’t stopped the upstart singer from accepting the King of Pop as a personal icon.
“I am pretty sure any new artist you talk to will say they’re inspired by Michael Jackson,” Ciara gushes. Sitting in the semi-darkness of an SUV, zooming toward the Big E Fairgrounds in Springfield, Massachusetts, her voice is as breathy as the night air. “There was something about his passion and energy. The impact he made on music is truly amazing. When I see him performing on video, well, as an artist, he’s special to me.”
Like a funky phantom haunting today’s best playlists, the Ghost of Michael Jackson Past hovers over pop as though Thriller was released just yesterday. As someone who witnessed firsthand the stand-on-your-seat spectacle that was Michael, whenever I see Ciara and her contemporaries I’m instantly reminded of his rhythmic contribution. From the soft-shoe stepping of Justin Timberlake and Usher to the flamboyant wardrobes of Beyoncé and Ashanti to the youthful enthusiasm of Chris Brown and Ne-Yo, no matter how wacko Jacko became in the 20-plus years since he moonwalked onto the brain of popular culture, his influence on the new millennium is undeniable. Not only can traces of the Thriller aesthetic be seen in Ciara’s debut video, “Goodies,” and her latest for “Get Up,” but also pieces of his wild style can be seen in the kooky gloves she wears or the way the five-foot-seven-and-a-half-inch beauty boogies through almost every performance as if the man were watching her every move.
Ciara’s at the fairgrounds to perform a 45-minute set of her best material, and thunderous applause welcomes her. Her excited teenage fans (most of whom have waited hours for their “first come, first served” seats) rowdily cheer for their superhero clad in black. Rocking a belt with a large C on the buckle and platinum bracelets dangling from her wrists, she soars like a pop-locking nightingale across the stage. “Y’all so crazy right now!” Ciara screams during the encore of “Get Up.” “I haven’t seen folks act like this since Destiny’s Child performed here a few years ago,” says an excited, middle-aged white father standing behind me.