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8-bit MP3 Michael Jackson Tributes

No better way to close the week than with some 8-bit renditions of hits by suddenly deceased, long troubled pop legend Michael Jackson, who passed away on Thursday at the age of 50. There’s a handful of such covers floating around, and no doubt more will surface in the coming weeks and months. 8bit versions turn anything into a video game, which is to say, in the case of a dead public figure like Michael Jackson, they turn the subject into a video-game character.

This seems particularly fitting for someone who, like Jackson, spent his life in a self-imposed exile from reality and adulthood. 8-bit covers also fit Jackson because the retro technology was state-of-the-art back when Jackson he himself making some of his biggest records; thus, the arcade sounds have a fitting temporal association with him. (Truly diligent computer-music fans can dig out copies of the old Sega game Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker.)

Songs like ShnabubulaEX‘s blippy little take on “Man in the Mirror” (MP3, at 8bdaily.blogspot.com) render the legend in pixelated amber. That same blog page links to an 8-bit “Billie Jean” version, by 486, that layers Jackson’s a cappella over a brittle little video-game rendition of the instrumental track (MP3, at 8bitcollective.com). The contrast between Jackson’s hyper-articulated singing and the antiseptic funk of the backing music is striking, and despite the potential for irony, pretty darn effective.

[audio:http://8bitcollective.com/items/music/mj.mp3|titles=”Man in the Mirror”|artists=ShnabubulaEX] [audio:http://8bitcollective.com/items/music/Michael%20Jackson%20%20-%208-bit%20Billie%20Jean%20%5B%20over%20the%20hill%20mix%20%5D.mp3|titles=”Billie Jean (8-bit)”|artists=486 vs. Michael Jackson]

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • about

  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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  • My book on Aphex Twin's landmark 1994 album, Selected Ambient Works Vol. II, was published as part of the 33 1/3 series, an imprint of Bloomsbury. It has been translated into Japanese (2019) and Spanish (2018).

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