What’s your favorite song on Thriller? Can you really decide between “Billie Jean”, “Thriller”, “Beat It”, “Human Nature”, “Wanna Be Starting Something”, “P.Y.T.” and “Lady In My Life”? It’s almost impossible to choose but that’s the challenge today. Here’s a countdown of the incredible discography of Michael Jackson with the absolute pick of the litter from each landmark album. We’re starting with 1979’s epic “Off The Wall” but Michael also released four solo albums in the 70s including “Got To Be There” and “Ben”.
1980 – “ROCK WITH YOU” from OFF THE WALL
Name a better 80s R&B Jam! Who can forget Michael in the glitter suit dancing with the lasers behind him. “Off The Wall” set it all in motion. This was the old Michael Jackson everyone loved. Before the plastic surgery, before all of the Pepsi commercials and Neverland Ranch, Michael sounded so pure and natural. The production by Quincy Jones was flawless and the entire album was a timeless collection of MJ’s best. This was the most soulful album in Jackson’s career and rivals “Thriller” as his Michael’s crowning moment. Pick a favorite: “Don’t Stop Till”…. “She’s Out Of My Life”… “Burn This Disco”…. “Working Day and Night”…..as strong of a dance record ever produced.
1983 – “BEAT IT” from Thriller
Michael did a number of rock songs including “Dirty Diana” with Steve Stevens, “Come Together”, and “Give In To Me” with Slash but his collaboration with guitar legend, Eddie Van Halen, will go down as Michael’s greatest rock moment. This video changed MTV and opened the door to epic big budget productions, choreographed dance routines (remember Pat Benatar’s “Love Is A Battlefield”?), and videos that actually played like a mini-motion picture. A favorite memory of this song was seeing five guys doing this at karaoke night, then during the breakdown in the middle, two of their friends sitting down had choreographed a perfect imitation of the knife fight during the video! Amazing!
1986 – “MAN IN THE MIRROR” from Bad
“Make That Change” Michael Jackson’s introspective lyrics and desire to leave his mark on the world was foreshadowed with “We Are The World”. But “Man In The Mirror” was all Michael, a powerful video of human spirit and the undeniable will of the people to “make that change”. This video is still relevant thirty years later and should be required viewing in history classes in school. Seeing heroes like Martin Luther King, Lech Walesa, Gandhi, and John Lennon vs. the ignorance of the KKK, Hitler, and the Ethiopian famine deaths creates life-altering images that show that music videos can be educational while they entertain.
1991 – “IN THE CLOSET” from Dangerous
Fun fact: Madonna was originally going to be in this video and singing on the record. She asked if Michael knew what “in the closet” meant, he naively said he did. Michael thought it simply meant a secret love affair, but the rumors took off. Unfortunate title but Naomi Campbell’s presence in this video makes it one of the sexiest videos of all-time. My biggest complaint, why didn’t he kiss Naomi in the desert!!
1995 – “THEY DON’T CARE ABOUT US” from HIStory
Like “Man In The Mirror”, “They Don’t Care About Us” tackles the issues of injustice, police brutality, hate, and racism in a powerful format. Michael vehemently wants us to not only see the problems but do something productive to better this planet. The creative combination of rhythmic clapping and Brazilian drum beats create a hypnotic and lively chant. Ironically this song about equality was banned as racist for the original Anti-Semitic lyric and Michael was sent back to the studio to re-record it.
2001 – “BREAK OF DAWN” from INVINCIBLE
The 14 minute video for “You Rock My World” with Chris Tucker is incredible but the slow jam, “Break Of Dawn” was the crowning moment of Michael’s last official CD. The song’s slow jam style conjures up reminders of the soft melody of “The Lady In My Life” from Thriller. While the Invincible CD was ripped by the critics and Jackson’s worst selling record, there are some shining moments here including “Whatever Happens” with guest Carlos Santana on guitar.
2011 – “HOLLYWOOD TONIGHT” from MICHAEL
“Hold My Hand” featuring Akon was originally going to be released in 2008 but Michael said it wasn’t ready yet. He wrote in his estate, this was the next song he wanted released. The video with Akon is beautiful and inspiring. But the album’s other highlight was the high energy club record, “Hollywood Tonight” highlighted by the twist on a Flashdance-themed music video.