Michael Jackson was undoubtedly the most disturbed musician of all time. He’s also the greatest R&B performer ever—both as a singer and a dancer—and a top 10 all-time artist, right next to Mozart, The Beatles, and Led Zeppelin. If you’ve forgotten how talented he was in the recording studio or on stage, I encourage you to listen to Thriller, the best-selling album of all time.
With the King of Pop’s
new summer tour announcement recent death, I can’t think of a better time to list his best hits. There are 20 other songs equally worthy of the honor, but in terms of what gets me moving the most, these are the top 10 Michael Jackson songs of awesome:
10. Break of Dawn. I doubt many people have listened to Jackson’s 2001 album Invincible, but there’s no excuse to miss this track. MJ croons over silky bass lines just like days of old. Cliche lyrics aside, it just might be the most groovin’ song of the decade, it’s so good. Too good, in fact.
9. Rock With You. If there’s one pre-80s song to get people on the dance floor, it’s this one. From Off the Wall, Jackson’s first mature album, he urges “Let the rhythm get into you, don’t try to fight it, there’s nothing you can do.” And he’s right. Resistance is futile, the beat is so infectious.
8. Thriller. While the killer video steals the spotlight, the song itself is a choreographer’s dream. Like most of Jackson’s songs, it’s especially difficult to avoid dancing while listening to this one. And the Vincent Price break down, requested by Michael himself, is just brain gravy.
7. One More Chance. Another lesser known favorite from his Number Ones album, One More Chance is filled with Jackson’s signatures “uhs” and “whys,” which never get old. After listening to this one, I’m convinced no one sings as punctual as MJ.
6. Black Or White. Wait! Don’t let the silly intro fool you. Black Or White is most awesome, thanks to the punchy guitar, sliding bass, and of course, Jackson’s “woo!”s of plenty.
5. I Want You Back. Recorded with the Jackson 5 in 1969, I Want You Back features the greatest pop chord progression of all time. It’s also the definitive sound of sunshine, Afros, bell bottoms, and summer love in my book. Good stuff.
4. Human Nature. I love this song. I love its lyrics. I love its ’80s contemporary sound—the kind that reminds me of riding in my mother’s 1984 station wagon, the same year in which Thriller was release. When they ask why, give them the greatest excuse of all time: “Tell ‘em that it’s human nature.”
3. P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing). Oh snap! Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the funkiest Jackson song ever recorded. It’s upbeat, it has freaking robots singing back up vocals, and it features the only bassline Herbie Hancock was known to covet (not true, but it should be). If you don’t move your feet when hearing this, you have no soul.
2. Man In The Mirror. Most singers are lame activists. They generically demand everyone to make love not war. But Jackson cuts to the core and gets candid with this one. “I’m starting with the man in the mirror,” he sings. “I’m asking him to change his ways,” he concedes “And no message could have been any clearer: If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, and then make the change.” Stop waiting for everyone else to change the world. Do it yourself.
1. Billie Jean. Since Jackson is so versatile, picking a single track that best embodies his style is near impossible. But if a hermit were to ask me, “Who is this Michael Jackson you speak of?” I would slide him a copy of Thriller, and play track number 6. This is ultimate Jackson. The anthem of moon walk. And easily one of the top 10 songs of all time.
Honorable mention, and an oh-so close number 11: Leave Me Alone
Originally published Mar 17, 2009