DAR Music: The 15 Greatest Michael Jackson Singles
Michael Jackson is one of the greatest singers in the history of our culture and music. He has built up a legacy like no other through the years and his music is still special to the world years later. Since his untimely and unfortunate passing in 2009, the legacy of MJ has become even more appreciated by a new generation, and a lot of that has to do with the power and impact of his singles and music videos. Today, we wanted to take a look back at MJ's best singles (not ranked or in order) and list 15 of those. There are many to choose from so this list wasn't as easy to write as you would think. You'll likely see some of your favorites missing from the list, but this is my list and my choices, so here goes nothing. Which singles make the list? Let's get into it.
*Black And White (1991)
-I will be honest, I've never been a big fan of this song. However, it is important to the legacy of MJ and one of the bigger songs in his career. This song is a mix between New Jack Swing and Pop style rock music that MJ balanced, as the drums give the New Jack style, while the frenzied guitar and riffs gave it the rock feel. The video is classic to many (I actually find it to be hilarious), but when thinking of his other singles, I don't think this is better than any of the others on the list, but still one of his biggest and most successful songs.
-If this was ranked in order, I'm not sure where this would land , but if anything, that is a testament to how good the rest of his singles are. This song was an instant hit, like any MJ single, but what makes this song a bit saddening is the fact that it was intended to be the MJ and Prince collab, but didn't work out. Regardless, when you combine this single with the iconic video (the full version with Wesley Snipes and the story), it is one of the best moments of his career. Still, as a single, it is not quite as good as the others in his catalog that I'll get to, but deserves to be on this list without question.
*The Way You Make Me Feel (1987)
-I remember the first time I heard this song, the melody instantly grabbed my attention. The drums were aggressive and the harmony on the chorus was nearly flawless. The video, like all MJ videos adds to the allure of the song, and it works very well. I think this is quite possibly his most underrated single in terms of legacy, and it features some intense moments musically throughout.
*Don't Stop Til You Enough (1979)
-One of my favorite songs from Off The Wall has a legacy that has remained special for nearly 40 years. It is bristling with disco funk as MJ carries it with his falsetto style vocals throughout the song. The production is smooth, his vocals are near perfection, and the song inspires everyone to sing and dance along to it. To me, this was the true arrival single of MJ letting the world know that he would become the biggest star we had ever seen.
-The best song from his 2001 comeback Invincible has to be mentioned for the simple fact that it was almost like an re-introduction to traditional R&B for MJ. After going more pop and rock style during his last few albums and even flirting with New Jack Swing, "Butterflies" was a song that really brought MJ back to urban radio in a way that he hadn't been in decades. Sure, MJ was always killing the charts, and every radio station would play his music, but in the era where Usher, Maxwell, R. Kelly, and others reigned supreme with their smooth R&B, MJ gave a reminder that the King was still able to control the game. I still wish there was a video for this because this song could have went to no. 1 if it had been given a music video.
*Man In The Mirror (1987)
-I have always been a huge fan of this song. I started to rate these in order, but it would be impossible to really rate all of the MJ singles in order, because there are days when I feel like this is the best and most popular and then days when this is barely top 5. That's the mark of a classic catalog, but this single has majestic production and some of the most intense MJ vocals. The message behind the song is what makes it even more special, and the official video for it also drives home the impact that Michael and songs like this have on the world.
*Beat It (1982)
-I think this song is one of the most iconic tracks in his catalog. While it isn't one of the best songs on the Thriller album, it is easily one of the most known tracks and with good reason. With a slight rock guitar riff and bristling drum pattern leading the way, MJ crafts what feels like a rugged anthem, which of course is aided by the excellent video and the accompanying choreography. The beauty of every MJ single is that the song itself was elevated by the video and this is no different.
-While the title track of the biggest album in his career is one of the most infamous videos of his career, it was actually the final single released from the project, which is actually why the album had so much longevity. After all of the classic singles released prior, MJ wanted the album to continue to get bigger and thus, this single and music video/short film was born. Like all MJ singles, the legacy of this song will always be aided by the fact that he had an excellent video to accompany it. Now, as far as the single goes, the song was pretty much Halloween and horror movies personified in a song and while that may seem a bit campy in retrospect, it worked. To perfection.
*Human Nature (1982)
-One of the most majestic sounding songs of all time has to be mentioned as one of MJ's best songs, not just a single. The production is amazing, and it sets the tone for MJ to do what he does best vocally. For me, the song is quite possibly my favorite from MJ, as everything blends together so well, and at the time, I had never heard anything quite like it. Even 35 years later, I can still listen to this song over and over again and never get tired of it. This is definitely a MJ song that I think deserved a video (it was rare that MJ didn't make a video for his singles) and I'm sure that if there was a video, it would have been another legendary moment in his career.
*Remember The Time (1991)
-For me, Remember The Time is one of the greatest New Jack Swing songs ever and as a result, I'm always biased to this song. His 1991 album Dangerous is criminally underrated by many, and this is quite possibly the best song and easily the best single from the album. This was a true R&B single, and the hook is one of the most catchy in his career IMO, which says a lot about how infectious the song is. Once you add in the video, which is a top 3 MJ video of all time easily, the song becomes even more powerful. It's definitely one of the best and most important singles in his career hands down.
*Smooth Criminal (1987)
-Of course, the fact that this song has one of the most memorable videos of all time is probably a huge reason why this song was successful (outside of the fact that it was MJ), but even without one of the greatest videos supporting it, this was a truly special song. With a blitzing production supporting it, along with an easy to sing along to bridge and hook, MJ had stumbled upon pop music perfection with this single, and truth be told, the video brings back memories for me and so many others (Moonwalker, represent yo).
*P.Y.T./Pretty Young Thing (1982)
-One of the more intriguing singles and catchy dance inspiring songs, "P.Y.T." was ahead of its time in a way. Written by the underrated James Ingram, this song is smooth yet upbeat, and yet another song that I wish MJ would have done a video to. One has to wonder just how much bigger Thriller could have been if there had been videos for "P.Y.T." and "Human Nature", or even a song that doesn't make this list but deserved to be a single "Baby Be Mine". Regardless, "P.Y.T." is a favorite for many and definitely a top single for MJ.
*They Don't Care About Us (1995)
-I'll be honest. This is one of the most honest and raw MJ songs ever. When it was first released, I knew instantly that MJ was on a different vibe and I wasn't mad at all. While some of the lyrics here (to me) are a bit off (Roosevelt wouldn't have given a shit), the overall message is powerful and strong, and the music video, as always, drives home just how impactful this track really was. Despite the aggressive content in it and who it was directed towards, the song was hugely successful all over the world, showcasing MJ and his true power as an artist. For that alone, it has to get a mention on the list.
*Rock With You (1979)
-Off The Wall is a classic. While I loved "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough" and "Girlfriend", and of course "I Can't Help It", there is one song from that album that will always reign supreme and that's "Rock With You". It is the biggest and best single of the album, and the video took MJ to another level. Dressed in a sparkling number, MJ danced and sang with a microphone the entire video, and yet, it still is one of the most iconic moments in his career. The production is mellow and smooth, and the song itself teeters on the line of being a disco funk ballad. It's also one of the last true hits of the disco era, which makes this a sure shot for the list of the greatest MJ singles.
*Billie Jean (1982)
-When we talk about the iconic singles in his career, I would think there is nothing bigger than Billie Jean. There is way too much tied into this song beyond just the music that makes this the top choice and a no brainer for me. Yes, these aren't ranked, but if they were, Billie Jean would be no. 1 for sure. With a booming bassline that carries the production and solid drums, along with layered vocals, Michael tells a story of a woman who claims that he is her son's father, and it comes with an extremely catchy chorus as well. However, what makes this single that much more special is the fact that the video is iconic (take a step and the step lights up), and his Motown 25 performance birthed the legacy of MJ and the moonwalk. All of those things were tied into this single and for that alone, I would say Billie Jean is the most important song of his career.