Our Ten Best- Episode Seven- Michael Jackson’s Sleeper Hits

Michael_Jackson_1984(2)In recent years, there has been a swirl of controversy around the late “King of Pop,” Michael Jackson.  However, he should not be best remembered for his “strangeness,” but rather, his musical talent.  Anyone who only owns only the “Number Ones” or “The Essential Michael Jackson” album is depriving themselves of the creativity and innovation of this talented singer.  Here are some songs that should not be left to obscurity. Here’s a list of 10 great Jackson tracks you may not have heard, but will be sure to enjoy.

1.      “I Can’t Help It” – Off the Wall

Co-produced by Quincy Jones, “Off the Wall” was Jackson’s foray into the adult contemporary genre of music.  Written by Stevie Wonder, “I Can’t Help It” is the type of song that you can’t get out of your head in a good way.  Its melody is light and airy with touches of the emotions that Jackson would later develop on songs like “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You.”

2.      “Get On the Floor” – Off the Wall
This 1979 disco song, co-written by Jackson does not sound dated.  It’s a great dance record and anyone who lacks rhythm will have no problem bopping their head to this infectious tune.

3.      “The Lady in My Life” – Thriller
If the gasp at the end of “She’s out of My Life” is just too fake-sounding to you, then this tune is the other side of that coin.  Low-key and smooth, “Lady in My Life” is the definition of an R&B standard.  Once again co-produced by Jones, with lyrics like “Lay down in my tenderness,” you forget about the M.J. with the chimp and only think about turning the lights down and the heat up.

4.      “Baby Be Mine” – Thriller
This is a mature Jackson coming into his own as an artist.  The song is straightforward without being vulgar.  There are also no signs of the guttural grunts that invade Jackson’s later songs.

5.      “Keep the Faith” – Dangerous

“The King of Pop” puts his stamp on gospel with this underrated song.  What could have easily fallen into a disorganized array of trite-sounding chaos instead becomes a harmonious call to do as the title says.

6.      “Dangerous” – Dangerous
This song was made for dancers.  So as not to intrude on the rhythmic music, the syncopated beats are brought to the forefront while Jackson’s voice is low and in the background.  He veers from an odd rap-like style into straight singing, nearly effortlessly enabling creativity between the dancer and the dance.

7.      “Stranger in Moscow” – History
When first released this song barely broke into Billboard’s top 100.  However, it’s worth a listen.  The haunting opening sets the scene of a man being chased and driven to do desperate acts.  There is also a sense of musical history in the call and response arrangement of the song.  Immediately after Jackson sings a lyric, a chorus of voices sings the next line – then there is a bridge that joins the lyrics with the chorus that makes it seem as if the song is simultaneously taunting Jackson as he is singing.

8.      “Is it Scary” – Blood on the Dance Floor

Consider this song to be a continuation to 1987’s “Leave Me Alone,” only with a relentless synthesized drum-beating rhythm.  If you don’t stop “dogging me around,” you just might end up under the basement.

9.      “This Time Around” – Blood on the Dance Floor
This song has Jackson literally “taking no sh—“from anyone.  It’s a public declaration, driven by a hyper-synthesized beat –definitely the song to play when you’re getting ready for a job interview or asking your boss for a raise.

10.  “2 Bad (Refugee Camp Mix)” – Blood on the Dance Floor
This is a fun joint.  “2 Bad” is assisted by Wyclef Jean, Pras and Te-Bass and is reminiscent of an all night jam session.  Essentially, the song is about M.J. being challenged by someone who thinks he can best him.  Think of it as a follow-up to the video for “Smooth Criminal.”

About Donna-Lyn Washington 549 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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