Man in the Mirror

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The death of Michael Jackson has given many fans and critics cause to revisit his work. The controversies that surrounded his life in the last decade made Jackson the subject of many jokes and was threatened to end his career in shame and obscurity. But his untimely death provides an opportunity for us to look back at his musical career, and to celebrate his talents as a singer dancer and songwriter. Like other pop stars, Jackson wrote many songs about love and partying, but a number of his songs, such as Heal the World and We Are the World, showed a keen awareness of global issues such as poverty, hunger, and environmental conservation. This may seem contradictory to the questionable choices Jackson made in his personal life, so this is why Man in the Mirror may be his most personal and revealing work. With Man in the Mirror, Jackson reveals a deep inner-conflict and proposes a challenge to himself and to his listeners that in order to change the world, people must first change themselves.

There are many contrasts in the song that reveal the social issues that concerned Jackson. People without food, especially starving children, are mentioned in the song: “I see kids in the street, with not enough to eat”. The problem of homelessness and people with not enough money to borrow or loan is also discussed: “There are some with no home, not a nickel to loan”. This is in contrast to Jackson himself, who is of course wealthy enough to own: “Could it really be me pretending that they’re not alone”. Ironically, though the song is full of imagery of mirrors and reflections, it is Jackson who is unable to see. Early in the song, he sings: “Who am I to be blind, pretending not to see their needs”. Therefore, the journey he takes in the song is from blindness to being able to see the harsh realities of the world, as well as his own irresponsibility.

The “mirror” in the song, or, more accurately, his own reflection, is a symbol of a part of himself—the part of himself...
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