A Tribute: The Top Ten Michael Jackson Songs

So in light of his unfortunate passing, NPI got together and decided to rank our favorite Jacko songs. It was a dead heat for the #1 spot, with the top three all falling within one point of each other. In our collective opinion, this is what the list looks like:

10. “Bad”

9. “The Way You Make Me Feel”

8. “ABC” (with the Jackson 5)

7. “Black or White”

6. “I’ll Be There” (with the Jackson 5)

5. “Smooth Criminal”

4. “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough”

3. “Thriller”

2. “Beat It”

1. “Billie Jean”

What John S has to say: This list pleases me. We have the right song at #1 and no completely egregious omissions (except maybe this one). I suppose my biggest complaint about the list is how low “Smooth Criminal” is. That is one great song—the only downside is that the chorus starts to sound like nonsense after a while, like he is spelling out the word, “neiuok.” But between the drums in that song and the bass line in Billie Jean, MJ was a man who knew how to use a rhythm section. I know Tim couldn’t put it higher because he prefers the Alien Ant Farm version—and I’m not even going to criticize him for that, because that video is cool—but “Smooth Criminal” should really be higher than everything but “Billie Jean” and, maybe, “Beat It.”

What Josh has to say: I did my rankings based on song quality as opposed to sustained popular appeal. “Billie Jean” does not deserve a spot in the top three: It gets props for having a fantastic—and arguably revolutionary—music video and introducing the Moonwalk. But, we’re ranking the top Michael Jackson songs and “Billie Jean” just isn’t Jackson’s best song. It doesn’t utilize Jackson’s vocals as much as other songs and I don’t even think it’s his best dance song: “Beat It” or “Don’t Stop…” are better dance numbers.  Speaking of “Don’t Stop…”, that was my controversial number 1. The melody is addicting and it’s a phenomenal dance song. It was the first (and possibly best) use of Jackson’s remarkable falsetto. It is the Jackson song that gets me most excited when I hear it in a club.  I, admittedly, probably ranked “I’ll Be There” too high, but I have a bias towards ballads in pop music and I think it’s a beautiful one. “Black or White” may be sufficiently low but “ABC” should be ahead of it: “ABC” is a great pure pop song and “Black or White” is, frankly, kind of bland.

What Tim has to say: My top two was pretty straightforward. To me, “Billie Jean” and “Thriller” are the two transcendent Michael Jackson songs—the ones that are still prevalent over 25 years after they came out, and likely have another 25 years in them. I can’t think of the last time I wasn’t excited to hear “Billie Jean” on the radio or the iPod. The only conceivable explanations I have for why Josh ranked it so low are a lifelong distaste for tennis legend Billie Jean King or some weird paternity stuff we haven’t heard about. While “Thriller” is better known for its transformative video, it has more than enough credibility as a straight song (and don’t forget how sweet the video to “Billie Jean” is). I can’t believe you guys don’t think “ABC” is the best song by the Jackson 5; that’s as pure a pop song as you’ll ever hear. I’ll admit that my ranking of “The Way You Make Me Feel” may have been swayed by my recent viewing of this performance (and it doesn’t have a lot to do with the King of Pop). And although I enjoy “Smooth Criminal,” I couldn’t in good conscience put it any higher when I probably like Alien Ant Farm’s cover more.

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by John S on June 27, 2009 at 4:13 PM

    NOTE: Some of the videos are not embedding “by request,” but all the links still work if you click “watch on youtube.”


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