While he was known the world over for his intoxicating dance skills, bizarre behavior, and movie-quality music videos, on the anniversary of the passing of who was quite possibly the most influential entertainer of all time, many people are taking time to reflect on what the King of Pop really gave to us, his music.
With so many songs to choose from, it can be difficult to narrow it down to the top 20, let along the top 10 songs of the late-great MJ. Based on internet opinion, as well as my own, I give you the Top 10 Michael Jackson songs of all time!
So much needs to be taken into consideration when compiling a list like this. Collaborations, awards, sales, public opinion, and more are all included. With such a long, impressive career, even being cut short by his untimely death, there is certainly no lack of quality tunes in the MJ catalog:
10: “I Want You Back” – While this doesn’t technically count as an MJ song since it was performed by the Jackson 5, it should be included on this list. It was the first single off their first Motown release, and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999. Without the success of this song, we would have never had the King of Pop.
9: “Smooth Criminal” – Off his “Bad” album, Smooth Criminal wasn’t one of his best performing songs on the charts when it was released. However, as a personal favorite of MJ’s, it was always included in his live performances and is one of his most recognizable songs. And with a short film featuring the song starring Joe Pesci, how can you not include it?!
8: “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” – A culturally diverse song that has had everyone singing “Mama-se, mama-sa, mama-coo-sa” for decades, everyone has a special place in their heart for this sprawling 6 minute epic.
7: “Thriller” – Some may be surprised to see Thriller lower on the all-time list, but I don’t think it can be argued that part of the allure of the song was its accompanying music video. Still one of the greatest songs of all time, period, Thriller without Thriller just wasn’t one of MJ’s top 5.
6: “I’ll Be There” – Another Jackson 5 number, it needs some recognition for little MJ’s stellar performance. Still regarded as one of his best vocals, this is the song that really launched The Jackson 5 out of the bubblegum pop realm and into mainstream music.
5: “We Are the World” – This song gets major props in the collaboration department. Performed and released by supergroup USA for Africa (and supergroup is a complete understatement), this charity single to bring attention to African hunger managed to raise $63 million for its cause by becoming the fastest selling American pop single ever. It was remade in 2010 to raise money for the Haitian earthquake victims.
4: “Black or White” – My personal favorite MJ song, Black or White was the best selling single of the early 90s, and the video featured a “rapping” Macaulay Culkin for Pete’s sake!
3: “Beat It” – One of MJ’s most acclaimed songs, Beat It won two Grammy Awards, two American Music Awards, and is in the Music Video Producers Hall of Fame. And Eddie Van Halen rockin’ on the guitar is pretty cool too.
2: “Man in the Mirror” – I remember a year ago today driving home and this song suddenly came on the radio. This was the song used to break the news that the King of Pop had passed. It received a Grammy Award nomination for Record of the Year, and is acclaimed as one of his best vocal performances of all time.
1: “Billie Jean” – It’s tough to find a list of MJ songs that doesn’t have this listed at #1. He wrote and composed this song at the ripe age of 24, and it has long been a fan (and critic) favorite that won two Grammy Awards, an American Music Award, and an induction into the Music Video Producers Hall of Fame. It is the song that really solidified his pop-superstardom and made the Thriller album the most successful album…ever!
Of course, these songs are always up for debate. With so many possible honorable mentions, this list could go on forever. But what do you guys think? What are your favorite Michael Jackson songs? Let us know! And enjoy the music video for my personal fav, Black or White, below.