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)
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.