Michael Jackson Covers: Successes & Flops

Michael_Jackson_1984(2)Who would be arrogant or brave enough to cover a Michael Jackson song? Even before his death many of his songs, particularly the ones early on in his career have become standards. Jackson’s voice was distinct and it is difficult to remember a rendition sung from another artist. There are those who have tried and have found levels of success and failure with each version. Here are a few hits and misses from several courageous or foolish men and women.

Here they are, in no particular order:

Human Nature – Miles Davis

If Michael Jackson was the King of Pop, then Miles Davis was the King of Cool. Like Jackson, there will never be another of his kind. Davis’ jazz rendition almost makes you forget its originator- a mighty feat considering that this song reached number seven on the billboard charts in the early ’80s.

Human Nature – Boyz II Men

There is no doubt that these gentlemen can harmonize. When in tune and singing songs appropriate to their voices, they bring R&B to dazzling heights. But this cover of Human Nature by them is undeserving of their talent. They need several more years of seasoning before they should tackle this song again.

I’ll Be There – Mariah Carey

Released as a single after she sang it on MTV, Carey did a solid job covering this song. It became a number one hit for her, but it will never erase the original sung by Jackson with his brother Jermaine singing the bridge.

Bad – Sammy Davis Jr.

Yes, unfortunately Davis Jr. embarrassed himself with his rendition of this song. He got nearly every lyric wrong except the word bad. Whether he did it for laughs or took himself too seriously is hard to tell.

Thriller – Henry Mancini

It is difficult to imagine this song without Vincent Price’s eerie-like rap, but on the album ‘Mancini Rocks the Pops’ this instrumental actually works. It moves from a pop hit and is given the treatment of a movie score. It sounds grand and opulent with a hint of the scary factor that was full blown in the original.

Thriller – Toxic Audio

Apparently, Thriller has been covered by artists from different facets of the music industry. Toxic Audio is not only a band, they are a performance troupe. With an intriguing mix of musical instruments and be-bopping, this group does an interesting take on the classic.

Who’s Loving You – Shaheen Jafargholi

This newcomer from Britain’s Got Talent was going to be featured on Jackson’s upcoming tour. With this song Shaheen made it to the semi-finals of the show. “Who’s Loving You” is difficult to cover since there is no way to hide hitting a bad note. Artists who choose to sing it acappella deserve much respect.

Who’s Loving You (Hold On) – En Vogue

Originally sung by Smokey Robinson, but made famous by Jackson, these ladies gave this song a new twist. On their first single, Tracey Ellis sings this acappella as an intro. It’s a highly-emotional charged rendition that always gives the listener goose bumps.

Beat It – Gloria Gaynor, Thelma Houston, Kelly Marie, Tina Charles

Remember ‘I Will Survive’ – the tune that made Gaynor a superstar, or Thelma Houston of ‘Don’t Leave Me this Way’ fame? These were iconic songs of the 70s and there is no doubt that these ladies can sing. However, why would they cover a song that is ill-suited to their singing styles? On top of that they sing it as a quartet. Big mistake – just because you can sing doesn’t mean you can sing anything. Please ladies know your limits.

PYT (Pretty Young Thing) – The Urban Jazz Project

This jazz rendition of PYT reminds the listener of Jackson’s collaboration with Quincy Jones. Together they made magic with ‘Thriller.’ What The Urban Jazz Project does is give us a glimpse of what the unfinished version of this song would be without Jackson’s smooth vocals. The result is worth a listen, even if the original outshines it.

About Donna-Lyn Washington 614 Articles
Donna-lyn Washington has a M.A. in English from Brooklyn College. She is currently teaching at Kingsborough Community College where her love of comics and pop culture play key parts in helping her students move forward in their academic careers. As a senior writer for ReviewFix she has been able to explore a variety of worlds through comics, film and television and has met some interesting writers and artists along the way. Donna-lyn does a weekly podcast reviewing indie comics and has also contributed entries to the 'Encyclopedia of Black Comics,’ the academic anthology ‘Critical Insights: Frank Yerby’ and is the editor for the upcoming book, ‘Conversations With: John Jennings.’


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