The problem is that people are going to focus on the skills that they DON’T share in common. Like dancing. Michael Jackson sold himself as a dancing machine. His moves are his claim to fame, and IMHO there has yet to be anyone better in this department. But Prince has always been a rockstar. Rockstars may have swagger. They may move their bodies in creative ways while performing on stage. But they are not dancers and don’t pretend to be.
Prince is more of a musician. But it’s not fair to rate MJ against him because he was never billed as a musician. He was a vocalist and consummate performing artist. It’s like comparing a chef with a sculptor. They’re both artists. But they create different things. Their “things” shouldn’t be compared.
So I’ll stick to the things they do have in common: singing, song-writing, and work ethic.
Michael Jackson wins on singing. Prince has a great voice with an great range. And he does amazing things with his voice. But Prince has a voice that is made for rock and roll. Yeah, you gotta be able to sing. But if you’ve got enough soul, you can make even bad notes sound good. However, MJ has a voice that’s more R&B. You sang R&B, you don’t sing it. And MJ could saaaang.
Prince wins on song-writing, IMHO. MJ is credited with some great songs, don’t get me wrong. But I think they were great songs because he performed them. I don’t think anyone but him could have taken “Billie Jean” to the top of the charts. In contrast, Prince’s body of work is much more impressive, IMHO. There are a lot of duds on that list, to be fair. But the lyrics are deeper and more subjective. They cover a broader emotional range. They provide more of a social commentary. Prince has written songs that other artists were able to make popular. Michael Jackson’s songs are entertaining. But I think Prince is a more thoughtful artist when it comes to song-writing.
Work ethic is a tough one, because they are both known for being hard working. But I think Prince edges out over MJ on this metric. The sheer volume of work he’s produced is the most obvious testament to this. But his lack of a “tabloid life” is another indicator. While MJ was busy doing the whole Neverland Ranch thing with Lisa Marie and Debbie Rowe and Blanket and nem, Prince was working in the studio churning out album after album. Both MJ and Prince have a ton of natural talent. But I think Prince has worked very hard at being an artist and constantly refining his craft, which is why his work has changed so much through the years. But MJ’s style didn’t change. He just wanted to give the fans what they wanted. Which is what killed him, ultimately. Poor MJ.
Most people are going to think whomever they like best is more talented. As for myself, I just don’t have a definitive answer. I love both the same. Sometimes I’m in the mood for something deep and sexy, so I’ll listen to Prince. Sometimes I just want to dance and be happy, and I’ll listen to MJ. Talent doesn’t enter into the equation at all.