“If you want to make the world a better place,
take a look at yourself and make a change.”
One can preserve these lines for centuries and it’ll still be equally relevant. The song “Man in the Mirror” doesn’t count in Michael’s most successful songs, but with time it has proven itself to be worthy enough. The question that arises is why a song like this is particularly pointed out when we already have music of similar genres like “Heal The World” or “Earth Song”? The possible answer could be something like this.
Although it’s not written by Michael himself, Siedah Garrett and Glen Ballard’s work synchronized with his message. So much so, he even called Siedah upon the selection of the piece and later offered her to supervise the vocal recording process.
An article on Shmoop discussed the popularity by putting it like, “Man in the Mirror” is a “song that tells two stories”. The first one being the time around Bad album release, the late ’80s, and the next was about Michael’s struggles in the 2000s. But it doesn’t necessarily need to be explained like that. On a general note, it talks about a common man’s role in this chaotic world.
Hunger, poverty, riots, these inhumane events torment us, but what can we do? The answer is, we can all start by changing something in our own life. A small step is big enough. Even preventing an untimely pregnancy by taking the slightest precaution can change lives.
The song in itself is a protest against the corrupted system that exploits people like us. It’s one of the earliest songs of its kind in the American pop genre. Every time Michael performed it, he sang it with utmost passion and love as if he was carefully spreading his message through the song. The audience went crazy, they would cheer, cry, dance to Michael’s performance.
Instead of taking on a noble crusade, “Man in the Mirror” offers a little practical solution. That’s what makes it different from other songs that only emphasize stereotypes, which we can admire but not get involved in. Michael chose the song to serve a purpose, which was to spread awareness about those who have to fight every day just to keep breathing.
After his passing, his fans and basically a huge number of people needed something to hold onto. “…when people are grieving they don’t necessarily want a dance one, and they don’t necessarily want a slow song either, because it might be too much,” said Matt Blank to BBC. “Man in the Mirror” was the perfect choice to go forward with, it has a medium tempo, it bears Michael’s signatures and most importantly, it was perfect for the phrase ‘legacy’.
For someone like Michael Jackson, who could look into the mirror and challenge himself, this song carries the ethos of a society that he had always dreamt of. That’s the reason the song got popular because it’s interpretable on multiple levels and each of them is the flagbearer of a better world.