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Smooth Criminal

Michael Jackson still has plenty to answer for.

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No, Michael Jackson won't be behind bars anytime soon, moonwalking for smokes or attempting to brew Jesus Juice with potatoes smuggled from the mess hall. But that doesn't mean that the King of Pop is innocent of all wrongdoing. Far from it.

Though Jackson may have been acquitted recently of molesting a young boy, there are plenty of other offenses for which he has never faced trial. Hell, making parachute pants popular in the '80s should be enough to land him in the pokey.

And that's not all. A look back on Jackson's career reveals a litany of transgressions. Here are but a few of the misdeeds that warrant hard time. Jacko, consider yourself under citizen's arrest, because this sparkly glove fits, and we're not gonna acquit.

Burdening Good Guitarists With Bad Songs
On "Beat It," Eddie Van Halen first attempted to add rock muscle to a Michael Jackson tune -- which is like trying to turn Gumby into a cage fighter. A decade later, it was Slash who was called upon to ratchet up the torque on Jackson's "Black or White." Both were low points in the guitarists' careers -- and that's saying something, if you've ever heard Van Halen 3 or Slash's Snakepit.

Creating the Blockbuster Album
If Jaws was responsible for the creation of the blockbuster movie, Michael Jackson's Thriller spawned the blockbuster album. Having sold a then-unparalleled 25 million copies while maintaining the top position on the Billboard album chart for a mind-boggling 37 weeks, Thriller changed the way record execs do business.

All of a sudden, going gold or platinum wasn't good enough. Rather than developing smaller, more reliable acts capable of turning a tidy profit, major labels increasingly focused on investing huge sums in Big Event records. Sony spent a whopping $55 million producing and promoting Jackson's ill-fated 2001 disc, Invincible -- which proved quite vincible, actually, selling an underwhelming two million copies.

It was costly duds like that -- not to mention big-budget bombs from Mariah Carey and R.E.M. -- that helped spur a rash of major-label downsizings and mergers at the beginning of the decade.

Launching Weird Al Yankovic's Career
Much like Grandpa asking you to pull his finger, Weird Al Yankovic was amusing for about a minute -- 15 years ago. Granted, we can't deny the artistry of a song like "Eat It" -- "Have some more yogurt/Have some more Spam/It doesn't matter if it's fresh or canned." And "Fat," Yankovic's parody of Jackson's "Bad," was at least as funny as Meatballs 2.

But the ability to elicit a few chuckles in the '80s doesn't warrant a decades-long career that's bottomed out in recent years with dreck like "Pretty Fly for a Rabbi" and "Party at the Leper Colony." Inadvertently self-parodying acts like the Offspring and Coolio are far better at making themselves look like dumbasses than Yankovic ever was.

Turning Pop Stars Into Corporate Shills
Nowadays, you can't turn on the TV without seeing Justin Timberlake hawking Big Macs, Toby Keith vouching for Ford trucks, Jay-Z pimping Heineken beer, or Missy Elliott shilling for the Gap. These already overexposed popsters have become as impossible to avoid as death and Saved by the Bell reruns.

You can thank Jackson. His $5 million contract with Pepsi in 1983 was, at the time, the biggest endorsement deal ever. Jackson's flaming coif sparked an explosion of millionaire musicians grabbing corporate cash. Artists like Nelly have lowered themselves to penning songs about specific products ("Air Force Ones") in order to land endorsement contracts. And it's not as if these people need the money. It's dignity, pride, and integrity that they lack.

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