Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Best Of Michael III

5. The Way You Make Me Feel

The rarely shown full version is embedded below. This is one of the coolest songs composed by Michael. In the late 80s when stereo (as opposed to mono) systems was a rare thing, the beginning of the song would knock you out. The first beat would be heard on both speakers and then the quick beats that lead to the base drums would be heard alternatively on the left and right speakers. He apparently composed this song at the request of his mother to to have a "shuffling" kind of song. It become the ultimate woo-the-girl category song with finger snapping becoming a well-imitated mannerism. The 'thumbs up' that the old man does was an impromptu thing, which the crew liked and so kept it.

The (really hot) version with Britney Spears

4. They Don't really care about Us

This is the best song from the HIStory album. The unique drums segment of this song will probably be the most unforgettable aspect of his music. The rhythm of the song is very basic but the sheer force of Michael's singing and the vehemence shown in the lyrics raises the song up a notch. Spike Lee directed 2 videos for the song. This was the first ever time Michael decided to do two videos for a song. The edginess and pace that this song had made both videos look powerful. Strangely the initial lyrics of the song became highly controversial "jew me sew me...kick me, kike me" were considered anti-Semitic by NY Times. The first video was shot in Shantytown, Rio inspite of state authorities trying to stop the production. It used a local band called Olodum who became world famous as a result of the video. The second video was shot in a prison with images of KKK and Nazis. Sadly, this song featured Michael's last ever video image. A rehearsal video of him for the 'This is it' tour shows him dancing to this song.

Official Video shot in Brazil

Banned Video Shot in Prison

Rehearsal video 48 hours before his death

3. Smooth Criminal

This is in many ways the ultimate Jackson song. It is by far the best song in Bad and many would consider to be his best song ever. Most people became hooked as MJ fans because of this song. Every aspect of the song is simply incredible. Originally composed in 1985 as an inspiration from Fred Astaire's "The Girl Hunt Ballet" the song was called 'Al Capone'. Then this last minute addition (can you believe it?) to the Album Bad was renamed Smooth Criminal. It has a fantastic drums rhythm coupled with a mesmerising trademark bass guitar that makes you get up and dance. It talks about a woman called Annie who is attacked by a criminal. The Video and stage performance of this song is creativity beyond imagination. With trademark White Suit, Jackson created a couple of dance steps and went on to patent the more popular of the two dance steps. My personal favorite is the complicated revolution that he does at 7:25 minutes in the video below.

The Anti-gravity Lean: However, what totally captured public imagination was the anti-gravity lean. Choreographed by Jeff Daniel, they performed this seemingly impossible lean (see 7:20 in video below) using wires/magnets and clever camera angles. But the creativity they showed to do it on stage led to US Patent #5,255,452. The stage is built to have pegs protrude from it at the correct time. The dancers have special shoes with holes in the ankles that would slide and lock to those pegs. The dancers would lean forward magically with the support of the peg.

The Video From the Movie MoonWalker.

Contains new lyrics and a different drums arrangement (especially the one when the song starts)

Live Version

2. Who Is it?

Dangerous is Michael's best and creatively the most complete album ever. 'Who is it' is the best song in that album. My god. If I had a buck for every time I listened to this song I'd be a billionaire. The cover of Dangerous is unforgettable to any MJ fan. It shows eyes from inside a armor like helmet with a strand of hair falling out and then a million little details surrounding it. This is such an awesome song that I'd do injustice to it simply by trying to describe it. It is a criminal injustice that this song was not treated with the respect it deserves. It should been among the first two videos MJ did for Dangerous. Instead he does a off-hand acapella of this song in Oprah (Video below) and it becomes so popular that Sony finally gets to see what dumb asses they were to not release this earlier. The way he does those beats with his mouth was simply brilliant. For a while I couldn't even track how his lips were moving while he did this. And he apologizes for that performance to Oprah. Imagine his standards.

The song is about betrayal and pathos. The lyrics are probably the best among MJ's songs. The special curves he does to the voice he does when he sings "i am the agony inside the dying head" are all mighty little things he pours to make this song a great one. Hiccup songs are always special. This one starts with a 'aahh' female choir and then the drums arrangement sort of erupts powerfully. The beginning beat of the song is so deep that you cannot stop noticing te suddenness of it. You want it to last for eternity and then he starts his magical hiccup and "I gave my money..".

And who directs the video - none other than my favorite David Fincher. The video is about Michael's girl friend who also lives a double life as a high class escort call-girl. He sees her visiting card 'Alex' and the tracks all her visits to clients. Until finally he lets her know her game is up. The video is shot in classy lighting seemingly in a city with Gothic buildings. The whole set up is very high-class and Michael is shown to be a billionaire. The way the visiting card rolls up and stands on the hand is very classy. I can go on.. but it just makes me more sad that such a song will never again come out.

Michael sings acapella to Oprah

Official Video Directed by Fincher

1. Beat It

Eddie Van Halen's guitar, MJ's silver voice, super cool lyrics, gangster theme combine to create Thriller's best song. It ranks higher than 'Who is it' purely because its stayed with me for longer. The unqiue phrase "beat it" ( Made Indians wonder what it was) was strange to me when I first listened to it. If you lived in the 80s ad listened to beat it for the first time, you were hooked on to what was referred to in India as "western music". Jackson wanted to do a rock song and called upon Eddie Van Halen to do a guitar solo. Eddie Van Halen did this solo for free of charge. I feel in love with the song purely for the speed at which it was sung. The bell like sounds and the knock you can here when the guitar begins (rumored to be a recording mistake by Van Halen knocking his guitar while playing it) are enduring sounds that you remember from the Panasonic 543 tape recorder/player era. The video used real life gangsters and Broadway performers.

Post Script: I never believed the allegations against him. I still don't. The fact that people who I think are idiots believe otherwise have convinced me even further. The judge said - 'Not Guilty'. That is the verdict and people should just shut up about it. Part of media's negative attitude against MJ was his own fault but a majority of it was a result of pure evil. The idiots who couldn't appreciate his music resorted to what they did best - gossip.

In closing - writing these posts made me relive the childhood days spent listening to his songs. It has been a while since I listened to his songs. I revisited myMJ scrapbook, where for 10 years I had collected clippings of most MJ stories that had appeared in print in India. Brought back memories. Sadly those days, like him, are dead and would never come back. It is a sad reminder of the unrelenting forward march of time where people whom you think will live forever ultimately do die in the strangest of circumstances.


rv said...

Who is it- those acapella beats deserve a surrender!

Great list. I'd have Billie Jean in it though.

Sreekrishnan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sreekrishnan said...

totally agree with the order, but why didnt Heal the world feature? it was like a r r doing vellai pookal all of a sudden !

Beat it was so influenced that Parthiban did something with Beedi Just Beedi ... :)

Also, If you notice Shankar has one song of his in all movies inspired from MJ. either video or music.

felt good reading this .. thank you

I said...

Marina beach le samadhi vechuduvom.

Diwa Narasimhan said...

i agree with rv. I feel Billie jean is one of his best songs..

It was good to read this post. Brought back memories.. I was probably the only person in TN at that time to have seen the video before listening to the songs.. in fact I got introduced to MJ through his videos. A friend of mine had returned to India after a few years in the gulf and he had brought a ton of MJ videos.

MJ said...


graciela. said...

One of my personal faves is P.Y.T. I've put it on almost all of my iTunes playlists and it's definitely on all of my work-out mixes. Too bad there wasn't a music video for it.

And I totally agree with you. I think Michael Jackson holds a lot of memories in our childhoods. I remember seeing his premier for Black and White after The Simpsons and just loving it (especially the morphing people).

I don't believe any of the allegations made against him. There are people who are just opportunists and will do and say anything for a dollar. But I also understand why the public won't let it to. It's just the nature of the allegation. We can forgive murderers but even just the accusation of molestation is enough to ruin a person's life forever. It doesn't matter that they were found not guilty, people will just remember the charge. It's unfortunate for those that are wrongly accused.

Maddy said...

A typical Indian teenager of late 80s was hooked to MJ and Madonna. Somebody tell me why?
My first tryst with MJ was when i was 10. My father rented a POP HITS compiltation video casstete and there was this song which was very catchy with a young guy in a funny voice (didnt know what falsetto was at that age).. the song was Dont' stop till you get enough. I saw it repeatedly until my parents threatened to give it back if i touch the VCR. To this day, that remains my favorite song of MJ.
Next I got a audio cassette Disco 84 in which there was a song "Wanna be starting something" which is etched deep in my mind( I also remember another song in the compilation called STOP THAT TRAIN by Clint Eastwood!!)
With the advent of MTV in India,he soon lost his gloss with the new generation except for his die-hard fans..

Alan Smithee said...

can this post be construed as grakkeyam? Why don't you take a bowl of nallennai and look at your face in it?

I said...

Alan: Indha grekyam pathi naan pona post-le-ye ketuten. Dhonnai kooda kidaikumam LA pakathula.

Babs said...

I loved Beat it too, its the signature song for MJ..
but I'm not sure y u didn't pick "Thriller" really showcases Jackson and made the album the highest selling in the world and nothing can ever beat it ;-)
John Landis did a brilliant video of it, just after American Werewolf in London in 83....he went on directing "Black or White" with Culkin and many other videos of MJ....the laughter in the end of Thriller was friggin awesome man, it used in "Asathe Povathe Yaar" even today.....
Thriller by far is the best of his albums, every song in that is brilliant man....there is no OK song in it..