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By Andy Argyrakis
June 26, 2009
With a career that's spanned 750 million worldwide sales and for someone who's shattered virtually all the major music industry records, it's next to impossible to narrow down the top tunes in the late great Michael Jackson's lauded arsenal. Add in his work with The Jackson 5, plus collaborations with other artists (like the all-star project "We Are the World") and the task is practically insurmountable. Nonetheless, here's a stab at his solo years, ranging from early album Off the Wall through international blockbusters like Thriller and Bad, plus even a tune from Dangerous.
1. "Beat It" - Possessing one of the most memorable guitar riffs of all time, alongside the slick dance steps from the video and absolutely electric translation to the concert stage, "Beat It" is an uncontested Michael Jackson classic. The fact that it's been covered by everyone from Fergie to Fall Out Boy suggests it will continue to transcend generations for quite some time to come.
2. "Billie Jean" - The song for which the "Moonwalk" was invented remains a club classic and ultimate proclamation that the tune's main character is not Michael's lover. Regardless of what was or wasn't going on in between the sheets, this bass blaster is the textbook merger of soul and pop.
3. "Man In the Mirror" - A ballad for the ages, "Man In the Mirror" was a frequent concert closer for the King of Pop. The lyrics are amongst the most empowering across Michael's entire history, while the chorus is amongst his most contagious of all time.
4. "Remember the Time" - Proving that Jackson was just as much a force to be reckoned with in the '90s as he was in the '80s, this tune continued to light up the dance floor. And who can forget the famed video starring Eddie Murphy, Iman, Magic Johnson and a disappearing Michael?
5. "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" - Long before Rihanna was sampling it, MJ was laying down the brilliant beats and the ultimate "he-haw" call out line. Two and a half decades later it earns just as much airplay as it did back in the day.
6. "Thriller" - The first ever music video movie was also a stellar song in its own right. Complete with an introduction by fellow late great Vincent Price, it exposed Jackson's love affair with fantasy and imagination.
7. "Rock With You" - A few years before the classic Thriller album, the former Jackson 5 leader was making waves with his first adult solo album Off the Wall. "Rock With You" remains that album's most enduring track and shows the singer maturing from a teen idol to a bona fide R&B star.
8. "Smooth Criminal" - Alien Ant Farm may have re-introduced this '80s staple to the 2000s, but nothing will ever beat the original. Alongside an astounding anti-gravity lean in the video, the track is a red hot throw down laden with action packed storytelling.
9. "Human Nature" - One of the softer songs on Thriller, "Human Nature" has since become a quiet storm staple. It also highlights his pearly pipes at their prime, which are just as astounding on this endeavor as they were pre-puberty in the J5.
10. "Heal the World" - Okay, it may be a bit on the cheesy side, but it's a song that shows Michael cared about being green long before Al Gore. And outside of his sister's nipple exposure on the Super Bowl, it could be the most memorable halftime spectacles to date!