Sat 27 Jun 2009
I’ve been thinking about Michael Jackson’s lasting legacy, his music, and which songs will live on best personally for me.
He was not the most prolific of artists - some like to release an album every couple of years but Jacko was never like that. His usual release schedule even in his early solo career was more like one album every four or five years.
Of course this means that there’s less of a back catalogue to draw on - although despite his recent spate of greatest hits collections, no doubt more will be appearing from now on.
With a relatively small collection of songs to pick from, choosing a few favourites shouldn’t be that hard but in all honesty the songs he picked to be on his albums were pretty much all candidates to be released as singles and are therefore all top quality.
The first album I owned of Michael Jackson’s was Bad and the standout track from it for me - taking everything into consideration, the song and the video etc has to be Smooth Criminal
The title track itself also had a pretty impressive video to accompany it, a trademark of Jacko release and was backed up by several other top class singles.
Going back to Thriller, obviously we have to make mention of the mammoth short film which accompanied the title track of that album but it faces stiff competition in Beat It and of course Billie Jean for the best song on the album.
Off the Wall was a bit before my time and is an album I’ve only relatively recently found myself listening to. The songs on it are perhaps a bit different to his later stuff but within the first few seconds of a song starting, everyone finds them instantly recognisable.
Dangerous was where I really became a fan. Bad was already out and in the shops when I latched onto it, but I was there for the full lead-up to the album being released. I remember watching Top of the Pops in my bedroom one night as the promised first showing of the lead single Black or White was unveiled in front of me for the first time.
I loved it and that song will stay with me for a long time. The video does go on a bit to be honest, but as usual he was out there pushing the boundaries.
Other songs on there will also remain firm favourites - from In the Closet, Jam, Who Is It? and Remember the Time to Heal the World and Give in to Me.
This was also the time when I saw him live for the first, and now to be only, time so that album was listened to a lot back then!
Moving forward a few years, we were presented with the first of his greatest hits packages - but also rewarded with a second disc of new material.
The subject matter of some of this was very personal to him and told a bit of the story regarding the first claims of child molestation made against him.
Stranger in Moscow is a powerful and emotion-filled song, as is They Don’t Care About Us, but arguably the best song on the album is the first track, Scream.
This featured a duet with his sister Janet and I think it’s probably still correct to say it was accompanied by the most expensive music video ever. Again, I remember awaiting the first play of the song - this time on the Chris Evans breakfast show in Radio 1. The song was duly recorded and played on a loop until the single came out on proper release!
His final studio album arrived without much fanfare in 2001. Invincible was largely criticised for only receiving the sort of sales figures which mere mortals would kill to achieve. Having an album like Thriller or even Bad early in your career really means you have no chance of beating them as far as the raw sales figures go, so this was to be expected.
I’ve not listened to this album much it has to be said, but there are some really good tracks on there. Butterflies and Cry are perhaps the standouts for me.
In between these two albums, we were treated to Blood on the Dancefloor which was an album of mainly remixes from the History album coupled with a select few new tracks. None of the new songs, apart from the title track, were especially good but they returned to a theme from his Thriller days with titles like Ghosts and Is It Scary?
I mention this only because Michael also made a short film, involving people like Stan Winston and Stephen King, which had only a very limited release despite it being really very good. Okay the acting isn’t the best, but he does poke a bit of fun at himself and the dancing is ace.
For me though, the best combination of song and video has to go to Earth Song. I really like the song itself and the video compliments it perfectly - despite news that he by this time he was washed up and that his fans had deserted him, it’s also his best selling single in the UK.
Perhaps it’s inevitable that two of his best known songs were not written by him at all. A long standing favourite of most fans has to be Man in the Mirror and a more recent big seller was You Are Not Alone.
Both will live long in the memory, as will the man himself.