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Whitney Houston vs. Michael Jackson: Why must we compare them in life or death?



Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston/Getty ImagesThe King of Pop, Michael Jackson, died in 2009 of a sedative overdose. The Queen of Pop, Whitney Houston, died in 2012, and though the cause is still officially unknown, it's believed to be a result of a deadly mix of sedatives and alcohol. Both were addicts. Both were chart-toppers in music during the '80s.

But which death ultimately affects us the most? 

Michael was on the verge of a series of concerts in London that might have given final shape and definition to his career, after which he expected to retire from performing. Whitney had just completed work on the movie Sparkle, which many believed would be her comeback project.

News organizations are racing around to make comparisons between the deaths:

Still. Which death ultimately affects us the most? I think the answer boils down to their past contributions -- and any future ones we've now lost.

In the field of music, it's hard to argue that anyone in the post-Michael Jackson era had a bigger impact on music. Not even Whitney. She topped the charts, but she didn't leave the lasting stamp that Michael did. And compare their two signature tunes. Thriller never seems to grow old. I Will Always Love You was cringe-inducing to some people during its run at the top of the charts in the early '90s, and people seem to have quickly tired of it again now that it's being overplayed again.

In the field of movies and videos, well, that's tougher. Michael didn't really try his hand at acting; Whitney had a fair amount of success in it. Michael's contributions are more in the video field; Whitney didn't try to match his success there.

As for the future, that's the big debate. There are reportedly hours of MJ recordings that haven't seen the light of day yet. His concert film, This Is It, showed Michael on top of his game. Meanwhile, concert reviews for Whitney over the last year have been less than glowing. We'll know in a few months, when Sparkle is released, if her acting game was back in form.

Ultimately, maybe it's pointless to continue comparing them with each other -- in life or in death. I doubt either artist would feel any pride in overshadowing the other in any race or contest. And both would exchange any victory for one more chance to take a breath and perform one more time. Maybe that's the only thing the rest of us should take away by comparing their tragedies.

[Last modified: Thursday, February 16, 2012 1:33pm]


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