The undisputed “King of Pop” has contributed immensely to Music & Dance. A “Global Icon” for over 4 decades, Michael Jackson earned the title of “Style Icon” in the very beginning of his career [in 1971] as a solo artist and became a dominant figure in the World of Music by the early 80s. He had a smooth voice with a remarkable range; he provided vocal hiccups and gulped his breath to promote a certain emotion- [his own trademark]. The music videos of his songs brought a revolution which elevated TV video channels, like MTV, to new heights. His innovative & original dance style [robotics, moon-walking, break-dance] has inspired many Dance forms. A recipient of multiple Grammy awards & Guinness Records, he is the “Most awarded recording artist in the history of Pop”. Despite a controversial personal life, he retains the title of “Solo God” of Modern Popular Music. Thriller is till date “The Best Selling Album of All Times”.
- Billie Jean: [Jan 1983]
Billie Jean was an instant Chart-buster and ranks among “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Times”. It is given the Credit for breaking MTVs “Racial Barriers” as it was repeatedly aired after it was released. With its distinctive vocals [Hiccups] and “The Moonwalk” [which MJ executed during its performance] & promotion through Pepsi Commercials, it launched Michael Jackson in the “Hall Of Fame”. MJ wrote this song with his female fans in mind. Contrary to the rumours, “There never was a real Billie jean. The girl in the song is a composite of people my brothers have been plagued with over the years.”– Michael quoted. With the tagline “She says I’m the one, but the kid is not my son” it was believed to be Autobiographical. A perfect blend of Pop & Dance, its beats have inspired & have been copied by many composers all over the globe.
2. Beat It: [Feb 1983]
It was a Platinum hit within a few days of its launch. It gained the second title of “The Top 500 Songs of All Times” for a single from Thriller & is “One of the most Successful, Celebrated song in the History of Pop”. MJ wanted to record a song which he wanted children of all ages to enjoy. The song was promoted with a short film where he brought members of rival gangs together with the power of Music & Dance. Its lyrics are basically about real Courage & Defeat. “Don’t be a macho man” was the line he highlighted to express his dislike for violence. The music video launched him as a dance icon as well. He brought around 80 genuine gang members, professional & break-dancers. The video begins with the singer noticing a Gang War as he dances towards them; he breaks the fight and all participate in a dance routine.
3.Thriller: [Nov 1983]
With multiple sound effects like creaking door, thunder, howling dogs- it has a scary theme & frightening lyrics. Its video is the “Most Successful Video of All Times”. Adapted from “American Werewolf in London”, it’s a 14 min video where MJ leads other dancers dressed as Zombies & Monsters. A bit violent [visually], with groovy, funky beats & “Disco Funk” choreography, this song looks straight out of a child – fantasy Horror Book. The video ends with Mj looking into the camera with his Yellow- Werewolf eyes & Haunting Laugh. It was criticized for being terrorizing but is frequently watched by music lovers of all ages even today.
4.Remember the Time: [Jan 1992]
It’s a single from the Album “Dangerous” by Mj. The lyrics are about remembering the time you are in love with somebody. The video was marketed as a short film set in Ancient Egypt. It’s an Extravaganza with path breaking Visual Effects. It features Eddie Murphy, Magic Johnson & Iman. It was rumoured to be about his relationship with Debbie Rose but he cleared them by saying that he dedicated it to Singer Dianna Ross. “Do you remember when we fell in love, we were young & innocent then” are its beginning lines which recall a youthful Love Affair. It topped the Billboard charts all over the world.
5.Who is It: [Aug 1992]
It was severely compared with Billie Jean. Its lyrics refer to the pain over being left by someone you deeply love & betrayal. The singer wants to know over whom she cheated him. The video has MJ singing to himself in a Hotel room with a silver card, with “Alex” written on it. To him it implies that it’s the name of another guy for whom his lover has left him but it is further revealed that it’s one of the many names she keeps for her job as a call-girl. He leaves in despair and she returns to an empty room with a briefcase full of silver name cards. This video is ranked among “Top 10 Sad Love-songs” of all Times.
6.Smooth Criminal: [Oct 1988]
A song about a woman named Annie– who has been attacked by a Smooth Assailant violently. “Annie are you Ok?” phrase used in this song is in fact the name of a Mannequin, commonly used in CPR training. He asks the same to an unconscious woman. He recorded the video in a typical Gangster Style of the 30s with Mobsters & Machine Guns. He attempted a seemingly impossible “Forward lean” in this song which became his favourite act for his stage performances. In 2009, “Shakira” paid tribute to him by attempting the same for her song “She Wolf”.
7.Black or White: [Nov 1991]
In UK, it was the First song sung by an American singer to go into the singles chart at no. 1 position, after Elvis Presley. The video starts with Macaulay Culkin in a room, rebelling against his parents. It immediately shifts to an African Hunter dancing with MJ following her moves; Native Americans, Thai, Russians, a woman from India following later. He declares “I ain’t scared of no sheets, I ain’t scared of nobody”. The video shows him dancing atop Lady Liberty’s torch with famous world edifices like Taj Mahal, The Giza Sphinx, Pyramids, Golden Gate Bridge, Eiffel Tower. It ends with different people of different nationalities/races morphing into each other. It is a unique masterpiece which has been viewed maximum no. of times by people worldwide.
Very few know that the last 4 minutes of the video were censored, where he transforms into himself after walking out of a studio as a Black Panther. It contained sexually suggestive moves which he said were an interpretation of animal behaviour in men. It is the most controversial video of all times; Seen only at selected times in US and a few countries.
8.Bad: [Sep 87]
This song was an instant hit “Globally”. The video featured a group of Dancers performing dance routines at a subway station [it featured Wesley Snipes in his early days]. This song was inspired by the cool dance, street scenes of West Side Story. It’s the story of a child & his old neighbourhood. MJ revealed that he based it on a true story; a guy who went to a private school & planned to leave his friends behind to pursue his dreams but is killed by them in jealousy. The video was directed by Martin Scorsese with a street gang dancing in Urban settings. MJ plays the teenager who has completed schooling term at an expensive school.
9.The Way You Make Me Feel: [Nov 1987]
In this song he is seen pursuing and dancing for a woman. He wanted to perform a song where he could be seen flirting [in addition to his image as a lover]. A Rhythm & Blues song, it begins with “Hey pretty baby with the high heels on”. We see MJ being told by an old man to be himself. He encounters a woman walking down the lane ignoring him. He tries to woo her attention by singing to her. He wore a blue shirt, black pants, white t-shirt & a white belt; its signature outfit.
10.They don’t care About Us; [Mar 1996]
A controversial composition- it was censored for its anti- Semitic lyrics. He gave multiple apologies and altered the lyrics of the song. Its filming was marred with controversy as well. Shot in Brazil, the song begins with a child singing “Enough is enough of this garbage” & the chorus begins “All I wanna say is that they don’t really care about us”. With haunting clapping, police in the background- it had the state of Rio de Janeiro fearing that the portrayal of poverty might affect tourism and chances of hosting Olympics. The ban was overturned later & the people of Brazil surrounded him in enthusiasm for the making of the video [Though he was heavily guarded by the local guards]. He took permission from the local drug lords to film in their shanty town as well. The song has heavy Samba beats and also exposed the cultural group “Olodum”. For the first time he recorded a second video for the same song- filmed in a prison with cellmates; he is seen handcuffed.