Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Michael Jackson's Best

Q's comments made me realize that maybe not everyone here is as super familiar with Michael Jackson's music, and so I present to you, in my humble opinion, Michael Jackson's bets song ever, again accompanied by a creepy fan montage:

Seriously, how is the end to that not one of the greatest things ever?


Eric said...

Nice. I've been alternating between Off the Wall and Thriller since last Friday fairly steadily. Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' is definitely up there (though I think Billy Jean is ultimately a more perfect song). WBSS is the most "Off the Wall"-esque of the Thriller tracks (the way the bass interacts with the Afro-poppy guitar going through the whole thing especially) and I love it for that. It's also compositionally insane-- so many bridges and pre-choruses and post-choruses and chants (culminating in the out-of-nowhere "mama say mama sa mamakusa" bit at the end), but it's still tight as a drumhead. It's also such an intricate, full arrangement but there's still somehow a ton of space in it so that it doesn't sound busy or cluttered. And his vocal performance is incredible. Though the sort hiccuping "sham-on" thing would descend into self parody by the next album, his vocal performance throughout this record (and especially on this song) is so spot-on. So distinctive and rhythmic in its phrasing. And of course, the whole thing makes you wanna move your ass. I love it.

And D, lest you give all credit to Quincy Jones, this one was written by MJ (so was Billie Jean, btw). If you listen to the demos on the reissues of Thriller and Off the Wall, it's apparent that the arrangements were almost totally worked out by the man himself.

For the hell of it, the Thriller songs in order of best to worst:

1) Billie Jean
2) Wanna Be Startin' Something
3) Beat It
4) PYT
5) Thriller
6) Baby Be Mine
7) Human Nature
8) Lady in My Life
9) The Girl Is Mine

Even The Girl is Mine, which is Paul McCartney at his most embarrassing, totally comes to life during the bridge ("But I love you eeeendlessly").

Eric said...

Another thing I really like on those early songs is how effective it is for a dance song to just throw a handclap on the fourth beat-- check "Thriller" and "Rock With You." Something about that just makes you have to move while you're listening to it. It pulls you. (And I can't/don't dance ever!).

dr. kittybrains said...

Move "Human Nature" to #4, and your list is perfectly accurate.

Eric said...

That's fair. It's certainly the smoothest song on the record. And I love the little wordless refrain after each chorus. Definitely better than Baby Be Mine, but not sure if it's better than Thriller or PYT. Those three are kind of interchangeable on that list.

drischord said...

I'd put Human Nature at 5, below Thriller. Another amazing bass line on the latter.

Also, I'd listen to Girl is Mine over Lady in My Life.

And again, a lot of these tracks-- particularly "Wanna Be Startin' Something" is disco at its finest. MJ's material has a funkier edge than most disco, which is what pushes it over the top.

Eric said...

Yeah-- I feel like typical disco has a bit more of a four-on-the-floor beat. He's got way more going on rhythmically. Also, I'm not sure that "disco" is a particularly well defined genre-- or rather, that its boundaries are well defined. I'd probably put Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' outside disco and in basically a sui generis "Michael Jackson" genre (which, despite the name, includes artists beyond Michael Jackson).