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Michael Jackson’s songs Ranks from the worst to the best

This is a ranking of all 147 of Michael Jackson’s songs, from the worst to the best.

Michael Jackson possessed an indescribable quality all his own. He was so likable. He had one of the most charismatic and endearing personas we’d ever seen, especially when he was at the height of his charm. You cheered him on and were pleased for him whenever he succeeded. Jackson was the most spectacular performer of his era and had everything else to boot. He was the complete package.

It was so simple to get engulfed in his high pop art due to the fact that his voice, his image, and his dancing were all so captivating. Off the Wall, his first adult solo album, displayed an extraordinary young man with astonishing moves, and Thriller, well, Thriller was about something more than marketing; it was the work of a pop auteur of unparalleled gifts, both as a composer and (importantly) a celebrity as well. Off the Wall was Michael Jackson’s first album released under his own name as an adult.

The list that follows contains information on every song that Michael Jackson has released under his own name as a solo artist. At the age of 13, he launched a solo career, releasing four more albums on Motown. This came after he had enjoyed success with his brothers in the Jackson 5 for a year or two. There were a total of seven adult solo albums, beginning with Off the Wall and concluding with Invincible. In addition, there were two more releases, History and Blood on the Dance Floor, that contained additional new songs on each album. Since Michael Jackson’s departure from this mortal coil in June 2009, two albums including previously unreleased music have been published.

SEE: Lists Of Michael Jackson Songs

The two biographies of him that I’ve read that are the most compelling are J. The books Michael Jackson: The Magic, the Madness, and the Whole Story by Randy Taraborrelli, Untouchable by Randall Sullivan, and Steve Knopper’s forthcoming MJ: The Genius of Michael Jackson are all good places to start. There is a great deal of video content available today. Living With Michael Jackson, the Martin Bashir documentary that aired on ABC, should still not be missed. In addition, Life of an Icon, David Gest’s book, is now available to buy on Amazon. It is nearly entirely composed of interviews with people who were physically there at the events being discussed, and as a result, it offers many insights into Jackson’s life that cannot be found anywhere else.

However, just like everything else in Jackson’s life, in the end it doesn’t really make sense why things happened the way they did. He was a man-child who lived in a lavish cloak all by himself. Even though he had a gentle voice, he persisted on singing songs that had harsh words and phrases such as “awful,” “hazardous,” “suffering,” and “scream.”

It’s simple to make fun of the situation, but who among us can honestly say that we could have walked a mile in his shoes?

SEE: Lists Of Michael Jackson Songs

147. “Heal the World,” from the 1991 album Dangerous: No one has begged for this. No one asked for Jackson’s breathy voice, the overbearing vocalizings, the formless orchestration, or this simple syrup for the soul. No one asked for the opening speech by the little tyke who spouting un-tyke-like words like, “For our children, and our children’s children.” No one asked for Jackson’s breathy voice, the overbearing vocalizings, or the formless orchestration. Nobody asked for the unending, almost sociopathically motivated key changes that were played. A watered-down version of “We Are the World” was something that no one, in particular, had requested.

146. I don’t understand why Michael Jackson felt the need to record a song about a prostitute called “Streetwalker” (1983) in the first place. If you take a good look at the lyrics, it is not at all evident that he is talking about a prostitute; rather, it seems to be about someone… going down a street. Chugs along okay, I guess, and the chorus has a ring to it, but it’s too similar to “The Way You Make Me Feel.” Released on a Bad 25, an anniversary version of the record, the song was criticized for being too similar to “The Way You Make Me Feel.”

145. Even by the standards of late Michael Jackson, “Best of Joy” by Michael (2010) features the lyrics “I am forever / We are forever.” It’s possible that he recorded this song to be his final one before passing away. Makes his previous standard for incomprehensible treacle, “Speechless,” sound like it was recorded by Metallica.

144. Another bonus track on the 25th anniversary edition of Bad, “Fly Away” (1987) is a light and forgettable bit of overly sweet pop confectionery. It was released to celebrate the album’s 25th anniversary. It is credited solely to Jackson’s writing efforts.

143. “Childhood,” from the album History (1995): If you believe Michael Jackson was a predator who preyed on young children, this song will blow your mind. What’s that you say? He wrote a song that starts out with the line “Have you seen my childhood? “The person who was responsible for ruining the childhoods of other children? And to think that it was the score for the movie called Free Willy?!?

142. “Wings of My Love,” from the album “Got to Be There” (1972): The Jackson 5 had a career that took off like a rocket, with six singles reaching number one or two on the charts in a span of less than a year. The issue of Michael receiving an excessive amount of attention was a constant source of contention in the family. Michael’s parents carefully managed his abilities — and, let’s be honest, his ability to earn money — for the sake of the well-being of the whole family.

(They were never sneaky about it; that was always his parents’ attitude.) However, as time went on, both he and his older brother Jermaine were eventually given permission to pursue individual careers. Michael Jackson made his debut as a solo artist with this song. (It turned out that some of the other Jackson siblings couldn’t, ah, sing that well.) He was only 14 years old when he broke out with two hit songs, but at the time, the accompanying albums of even the most successful Motown artists were not particularly noteworthy. He went on to have a successful career. The chorus of this unremarkable song has a catchy rhythm, but despite the song’s name, it never really gets going. In addition, the string track has been blended to a level that is excessively high.

SEE: Lists Of Michael Jackson Songs

141. “Speechless,” from the album Invincible (2001): Michael Jackson has stated in the past that this is one of his favorite recordings of his. Jesus. The more he pursued his own interests, the less perspective and nuance there was in his work. This is quite delicious. It’s a kind of sucrose.

140. This is a song written by Michael Jackson during the sessions for the album Bad, and it was later included on the album Bad 25 under the title “Price of Fame.” Why on earth would anyone be interested in listening to Michael Jackson’s uninspiring and dishonest ideas on the subject matter of the title? “Get a taste of my blues,” he says. “Get a taste of my blues.”

Uh, okay. In addition, the music is unremarkable. I have no doubt that his friends are telling the truth when they claim that Jackson was a kind person despite the fact that he suffered through a difficult childhood. However, it is important to note that he was also a forerunner of a particular president who denies the truth of the situation. Michael Jackson was not the King of Pop; rather, he was the Donald Trump of Pop.

He wasted all his money yet claimed he was a savvy businessman, and he fell from one public relations disaster to the next, all the while stubbornly refusing to accept the reality that was in front of him and moaning that the media and his (unspecified) adversaries were being unfair to him.

SEE: Lists Of Michael Jackson Songs

139. “Monster,” Michael (2010): This record, the first of two posthumous releases by Jackson’s estate that allowed a slew of big-name producers to rework unreleased Jackson tracks, was more disappointing the further you got into it. It was the first of two posthumous releases by Jackson’s estate that allowed big-name producers to rework unreleased Jackson tracks. It is difficult to think that these were the highlights of Jackson’s archive. It all has to do with the paparazzi! 50 Cent comes in with a solid rhyme, but even he includes some stuff about how awesome Michael Jackson was. The song’s lyrics read, “Monster / Monster / He’s a beast.” People still felt obligated to pay their respects to Jackson even after he had passed away and was laid to rest.

138. One of Michael Jackson’s most bizarre tracks ever, “Morphine” can be found on his album Blood on the Dance Floor (1997). The formula is as follows: it should start with a humorous tone. Oh my, this is very space age! Then, a rhythm begins to play, and we are led to believe that it is establishing an ominous atmosphere. After then comes the actual speech. Oh my goodness, it’s about illegal narcotics! There is a cry from Jackson that says, “You’re doing morphine!”

As if it actually signifies something important. This tune could easily have been released on one of Mick Jagger’s solo albums in the 1980s. Then we enter a really strange region, which is characterized by a verse that is full of beauty and light in the midst of Jackson’s weeping, “Demerol / Demerol / Oh God, he’s taking Demerol! ” like a deleted scene from a low-budget version of Rent.

Jackson’s scalp was severely burned in the infamous pyrotechnic accident that occurred on the set of a Pepsi commercial, and he had to suffer a number of excruciating surgical procedures as a result. (I don’t want to make light of his injuries, which were extremely serious, but I will point out that the conflagration could have been God punishing him for selling “Billie Jean” for use in a soft-drink commercial.) In the end, he became addicted to painkillers. (I don’t want to make light of his injuries, which were extremely serious.) One of the more disappointing aspects about him is the fact that his art never got confessional or personal in any way other than the most surface-level and, to some extent, dishonest one.

137. After two years had passed, and Michael Jackson’s fourth solo album had left him feeling somewhat desolate, the song “We’re Almost There” was included on his 1975 album Forever, Michael. This is a song by the Holland Brothers, who were signed to Motown, and you can hear them attempting to add some Barry White-like complexity to the strings, but it does not succeed.

SEE: Lists Of Michael Jackson Songs

You might already be aware of the fact that Michael Jackson was one of nine children in his family. The Jackson 5 consisted of the five Jackson brothers: Jackie, Jermaine, Marlon, Tito, and Michael, listed in order of their age from oldest to youngest. Rebbie was the name given to the family’s eldest child; her younger sister LaToya is older than her brother Michael. Randy, his younger brother, was also a member of the family. The future star of the group, Sister Janet, was the youngest member of the family.

She was so young that she had not even reached the age of a toddler when the group’s career began to take off. They spent their childhood in a home with two bedrooms in Gary, Indiana, which is located on the southeastern shore of Lake Michigan, south of Chicago. Their father was employed in the steel mills and often reminisced about the band he had in the past called the Falcons. His mother, who went by the name Katherine or Kate, was raised in a Baptist household but witnessed her parents’ divorce when she was a child. She eventually became a Jehovah’s Witness, during which time she unquestionably gave birth to nine children while watching her husband abuse them in a helpless or passive manner.

Because there was such a high level of discipline in the home, Joe did not want to hear about the children’s musical ability. However, once it was brought to his attention, he took over and ordered that they begin training after school each and every day. This was a hard experience, and the children have stated that Joseph’s first method of influence was physical punishment, including beatings and even attacks. But Joseph was also adamant about keeping his children off the streets and away from trouble in Gary’s rough neighborhood, and many who were present agree that he was successful in doing both of those things.

136. “Hollywood Tonight,” Michael (2010): This is reportedly from the sessions for Invincible, which were included on the first posthumous album released by Jackson. Another example of the situation in which it is quite unlikely that there will be any jewels to be found among the outtakes if the actual album contains material that is of a poor quality. Miserable.

135. “Maria (You Were the Only One),” from the album Got to Be There (1972): A lot of people spent a lot of time writing and producing a song whose lyrics seem to have only eight or nine words, including “come,” “back,” “to,” “me,” “girl,” “Maria,” and “lonely.” It’s all hard to follow, but it seems that old Maria really got her hooks into him. In the outro, there are a lot of notes, but no music; it sounds like an outtake by the Four Tops.

Over the course of the subsequent several years, the father and the boys became well-known figures in the entertainment community by participating in and winning various local talent shows. To bring the boys and a couple of pals who they used as backing musicians to concerts more and further away, from talent shows to strip clubs around the Midwest, Joseph would sometimes drive for hours after school — and hours back in the middle of the night.

It is difficult to argue that the ordeal was not worthwhile; however, for the record, Michael, who was probably 10 years old at the time, came of age in a world that was somewhat chaotic; this does not even take into account the groupies and showgirls his older brothers and rowdy father were engaged with while they were traveling. On a night that would forever change their lives, they performed at the spectacular New Regal Theater in Chicago, which was also hosting a Motown act by the name of Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers.

Soon after, Taylor, who was considered to be one of the greatest vocalists of the era as well as a wild man in his own right, fell enamored with the young Michael, and he quickly maneuvered a way for the trio to open for him at New York’s Apollo Theater. According to others who were there, the family “torn the place up.” Back in Detroit, Berry Gordy, the owner of Motown, was cautious since he already had a kid on the label, and he was finding that kids who made money garnered a lot of scrutiny from a lot of areas. (The youngster’s name was Stevie Wonder.) However, the Jackson 5 were eventually granted permission to audition and were signed afterward. The entire family was required to go to Gordy in Los Angeles, which is where he had established his business.

134. You have to give respect to the Motown production team for allowing some songwriting royalties slide through their fingers on “You’ve Got a Friend,” which was featured on the 1972 album Got to Be There. This is a song written by Carole King, but James Taylor is the one who made it famous. Still, there is nothing noteworthy to see around here, guys. Move on with the conversation.

The Motown story is still rather remarkable: Working out of what was essentially a couple of bungalows in Detroit, Berry Gordy discovered and recorded a startling number of the era’s most outstanding performers and composers. In the top 25 of Billboard’s ranking of the most successful performers of the 1960s, for example, there are five Motown acts: Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, and Marvin Gaye.

All of these artists came out of the Motown label. (The Jackson 5, whose chart-topping career came in the first 18 months of the following decade, were one of the top-five acts of the 1970s; and Stevie Wonder was, of course, one of the top ten acts of the 1970s as well.) In Billboard’s wrap-up of the modern industry at the end of the 20th century, Motown had an incredible seven of the top 60 pop acts on the singles charts. Those who have invested the effort to research this topic believe that Berry Gordy may have sold one billion records (including albums and singles) out of the city of Detroit.

Even by the exploitative standards of the era, Gordy paid his songwriters and performers meager amounts of money, and he refused to allow Motown to be audited for the purpose of certifying gold recordings. The music business is a shady one, and I’m sure Berry was taken advantage of on more than one occasion. Despite this, it appears that Berry Gordy ran Motown as a sole proprietorship.

Berry was able to personally pocket the earnings from a leading corporation in a major American industry for 25 years, as well as from a publishing (i.e., songwriting) firm that was extremely profitable. Between the years 1984 and 2004, he made a profit of almost $400 million from the sale of the record label and the publishing that went along with it (not adjusted for inflation). When it comes to things like lists of the wealthy, Gordy has deftly avoided being brought to people’s attention whenever possible. It is possible that he is one of the wealthiest people in the entire history of the entertainment industry.

133. Meanderings of a third-tier Michael Jacksonian variety, “Keep Your Head Up” by Michael, from his first posthumous album, was released in 2010. Some of the songs on Michael became the subject of debate because it was claimed that some of them, which were recorded at the homes of Jackson’s pals, were not actually performed by Jackson at all! To my ears, it definitely sounds like him, albeit with a bit more of a laid-back vibe, which is something that could have been achieved by working in a different studio. In any event, it’s unlikely that Sony will release any material that wasn’t created by Michael Jackson, as the producers who were involved say it was Jackson’s work. The irony is that if it wasn’t Jackson, then what does it say about morons in general that they could make content that might be mistaken for an outtake?

132. Ben (1972): “Greatest Show on Earth”: It begins off sounding like a potentially amazing Supremes song, then it starts sounding even more like it after Jackson starts singing, doing his best Diana Ross impression. This song was written by Ben. Unfortunately, the song never develops into much more than Jackson hitting the same (very high) notes over and over again.

The Jacksons were first introduced to the Motown family when they gave a performance at a birthday party held at Berry Gordy’s palatial house in Los Angeles. The party was in honor of Ross. It was a really large audience, and it’s very possible that the people who were there collectively had 100 or more top-ten songs between them. Bobby Taylor would be the first of the professional performers of the day to marvel at Jackson. Others would follow in his footsteps. (Another was Martha Reeves, of Martha and the Vandellas. She claimed that Jackson looked like James Brown, if James Brown was a wind-up toy.) Taylor worked with the group for the recording of their first album, but in the end, Gordy was dissatisfied with the results and took control of the recording.

131. “With a Child’s Heart,” from Michael Jackson’s 1973 album Music & Me, is one of the cheesiest, most laborious, and most intolerable tracks on Jackson’s least engaging childhood album. However, you can appreciate how he is extending his voice. It is interesting to note how there appeared to be internal confusion regarding whether Jackson should have been playing up his maturity… or, as in this case, his immaturity. At this point, he was 15 years old.

130. “Speed Demon,” from the 1987 album Bad: “Oh, quick fast fast.” The track with the lowest quality among all three of his classic albums.

129. “You Are There,” from Michael Jackson’s album Forever (1975): The beginning of this song is already so cheesily adorable that you think it simply cannot get much worse. But it does! The words begin with “You are there / Like laughing from a child,” but the instrumentation is overbearing and nasty. Around the middle of the 1970s, it appeared as though the Motown label as a whole had become disoriented. You would think that Michael Jackson would identify such sickly sweet material with the lack of artistic control he had before he reached the age of majority; nonetheless, he appeared to have had the unshakable conviction that it had to be a part of his output throughout the rest of his life.

SEE: Lists Of Michael Jackson Songs

Back to our story: Berry Gordy formed a songwriting team with three of his staffers and dubbed it “the Corporation.” The story goes that Gordy wanted to keep the names anonymous in order to dampen the fame of the writers. Leaving aside the Commodores and Lionel Richie, which I’m happy to, the Jackson 5 was Gordy’s last first-rank act — and he and his team owned it, writing three No. 1 hits in a row And even by the standards of Motown, which is to say, even by the standards of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “Dancin’ in the Streets,” and so on and so forth, “I Want You Back” was a striking song. It was a concussive, exuberantly conceived and produced pop masterpiece that somehow allowed tiny Michael, who was 11 or 12 at the time, to squeal and croon (If you find yourself with nothing better to do on a certain day, spend some time simply listening to the bass line!)

128. Michael’s (2010) “(I Like) the Way You Love Me” features more outtakes of a subpar quality. After Michael Jackson’s passing, the estate of Jackson had a lot riding on the success of the first album they released. Were there any absolutely great tunes in the back catalog? No.

127. It amazes me that his estate and someone like Timbaland would be so tone-deaf as to release a song with this title given the credible claims of child sexual abuse against Michael Jackson. The song in question was performed by Xscape in 2014 and was titled “Do You Know Where Your Children Are?” The plot revolves around a young girl who, at the age of 12, runs away from her abusive stepfather and finds up living on the dangerous streets of a large and dangerous metropolis. It’s hard to listen to this and maintain an objective stance. There are also some Jacksonian ululations mixed in with the synth noises.

126. “Cry,” from the 2001 album Invincible by R. Song by Kelly, which wanders about without ever really going somewhere. It is all about what you can do to make a difference in the world. Kelly allegedly filmed himself peeing on a young girl as he was working on this song with Michael Jackson around the same time. The girl was just 13 years old at the time.

125. “Euphoria,” from the album Music & Me (1973): The lyric goes, “Euphoria / Euphoria / Euphoria / Euphoria / E-U-P-H-O-R-I-A / That’s the new word for today.” You really get the impression in Jackson’s last two child solo albums that the record label was just letting people give Jackson anything to sing, to see if it would work. We all went through rough patches as teenagers, but Jackson seemed to revel in making his mistakes public.

Following the success of those rockin’ singles at the top of the charts, the band’s fourth song, a nostalgic and enduring ballad titled “I’ll Be There,” also reached the top spot. All of this took occurred over the course of approximately 18 months, and the subsequent singles “Mama’s Pearl” and “Never Can Say Goodbye” both reached the number two spot on the charts. After then, though, the band’s output of hit records slowed down significantly. Michael invariably became the center of attention, and in the end, the record label issued four solo efforts credited to Michael: Got to Be There, Ben, Music & Me, and Love, Michael. (In addition, Jermaine released a couple albums under his own name and managed to score a bonafide solo hit in the top ten with “Daddy’s Home.”)

Jermaine ended up marrying Gordy’s daughter Hazel; he remained with the label when his brothers departed for Epic, which was a sister label to Columbia and was controlled by CBS, and then Sony. The middle of the 1970s were a difficult time for the brothers. They found out that Gordy was the one who held the name of the group. They changed their name to the Jacksons and enjoyed some success in the middle of the 1970s, including classics such as “Enjoy Yourself” and “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)” (the latter of which was co-written by Michael Jackson and his younger brother, Randy).

124. “D.S.,” by History (1995): This has had to be one of the most ridiculous songs that a famous artist has ever performed. The connection to Tom Sneddon, the district attorney for Santa Barbara, can be deduced from the initials “D.S.” “Don Sheldon is a heartless individual! ” runs the chorus, and the verses contain a great deal of raving about the CIA and the KKK. Slash is called upon to obediently record some pounding guitars for the track.

After a child reported that Jackson had blotches on his genitalia, Sneddon, who was the District Attorney for Santa Barbara County, was given the unpleasant task of serving a search warrant on Jackson so that he could check his genitalia. The investigation into the crime started in Los Angeles (although it has never been proven whether or not the description was accurate). in the early 1990s and featured a family whose name I will not bother to mention here. Jackson met the youngster, who was 13 at the time, by coincidence and weaseled his way into the mom’s household, eventually spending dozens of nights in the kid’s bedroom. The parents were split. Jackson showered the mother with glitz and gifts while playing the birth father off against her. The birth father naturally became more and more suspicious, as one would when hearing that a man in his 30s was sharing a bedroom with his young son. Jackson played the mother off against the birth father. Given that we are in L.A. In the 1990s, there is also some activity that may be interpreted as proof that the family was driven by the possibility to extract money from a wealthy individual. This behavior dates back to the era. In any event, the son eventually disclosed to a therapist that he had, in point of fact, been the victim of sexual assault after a great lot of maneuvering that took place behind the scenes. Because of this, a criminal inquiry was initiated.

Jackson, like other sexual predators, targeted children who came from dysfunctional households or who were vulnerable in some other way. He engaged in clandestine activities with them, such as showing them pornographic material and distracting their parents with expensive gifts. And, much like Harvey Weinstein, he recruited private investigators with a “scorched earth” policy to harass his accusers and muddy the waters of the investigation. (And like Donald Trump, instead of meeting with the media to clarify his position, he created a film that looked bizarre and proclaimed his innocence.)

Jackson subsequently paid the family an astounding sum, which according to various sources was either $10 million, $17 million, or $30 million. (The amount of $30 million could be a total figure, including all of the payments to the various branches of the family as well as legal fees.) The young man was harassed for years by Jackson fans who repeatedly exposed his address and images online. The situation was even worse for the boy’s father, who, as time went on, drifted more and further away from his family. A few months after Jackson passed away, the man, who was suffering from an extremely uncommon and excruciating illness, shot himself in the head. He was so isolated that the hospital eventually decided to have his body cremated rather than bury it.

123. “One Day in Your Life,” from Michael Jackson’s album Forever (1975), is a formless and overdone assemblage that features strings and backing singers that have been orchestrated to within an inch of their lives.

122. Ben’s “We’ve Got a Good Thing Going” (1972) was a slow, almost tepid, mediocre Motown production that was a failure on the part of the Corporation.

121. “Cinderella Stay Awhile,” from Michael Forever’s album Forever (1975): After a while, all of the songs on this record start to sound the same.

Jackson recorded two albums at Epic with his brothers under the aegis of Leon Gamble and Kenny Huff, the graceful pop auteurs behind Philadelphia International Records and acts like Billy Paul, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, and the O’Jays. * Oddly enough, the relationship did not turn the brothers into successful adult solo artists. The brothers were adamant that they should be permitted to record and produce their own album. Still, Michael, who was turning 20 at the time, was irritated by the situation. Epic finally gave in, and to their credit, Destiny became a smash on a couple of big songs, “Blame It on the Boogie” and “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground).” Because of his role in the movie The Wiz, he became acquainted with the musician Quincy Jones. Jones became friends with the young Michael Jackson and eventually decided to produce the first adult solo record Jackson would ever release.

120. Another Strong Proclamation, “Earth Song” from History (1995). There are still four minutes left, which include four minutes of overcompressed drum shots, pregnant pauses, ever more lugubrious ululations, the requisite key changes, and then, wait for it, the crying children’s chorus. Michael Jackson begins to choke up with an utterly false emotion in the second verse, which is two and a half minutes into the song.

119. More anonymous filler for Jackson’s second album, “Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool,” from Ben (1971). You have to keep in mind that no one anticipated these albums to contain good songs filling out the track listing. It’s a little bit interesting to hear Jackson recite these worn-out lines from the song:

You could be forgiven for thinking that Quincy Jones is something of a pop hack; he seemed to be ubiquitous after Thriller, and a schlocky big-star-ridden album he did unaccountably won Album of the Year at the 1991 Grammys. It is beautiful to watch love begin, but oh so sad when it ends.

As you got through life remember this rule: everybody’s somebody’s fool. So many years on, you could be forgiven for thinking that Quincy Jones (To be fair to Jones, his distinguished rivals included Mariah Carey, Phil Collins, MC Hammer, and Wilson Phillips.) In reality, Jones is one of the most interesting persons who have ever lived. As a young man, he was acquainted with Ray Charles. Before he was 20, he lived in New York and worked as an arranger for Lionel Hampton. During that time, he was a part of a crowd that also included Sarah Vaughan, Charlie Parker, Dizzy, and Miles Davis. Over the course of his career, he has held positions as a leading jazz musician, a trailblazing black record industry executive, a high-end arranger (on par with Sinatra’s level of high-end), film scorer (winning an Oscar for his work on In the Heat of the Night), and record producer. He topped it off by producing the record that has gone on to become the best-selling album of all time, and no one can argue that he did not play an important role in the record’s success.

118. It turns out that it is possible to record a watered-down version of this Smokey Robinson classic, as demonstrated by Ben’s “My Girl” from 1972.

117. Ben’s “What Goes Around Comes Around” was released in 1972 and is considered to be an average song. It was introduced to Motown by a group known as the Four Corners.

116. “In Our Small Way,” by Ben, released in 1972: This is a fantastic track. Reduced by forty or fifty points due to the fact that, as far as I can tell, this excellent track was previously released on Jackson’s album titled Got to Be There.

115. This song is sometimes listed alongside another song called “Pie Jesu,” in which a piece of the Requiem Mass is adapted to music by several people. “Little Susie,” History (1995): This song is sometimes listed with another song called “Pie Jesu.” (The title translates literally to “pious Jesus” in the vocative case of the Latin language.) The rest of this mess is a gruesome tale about a little girl who is killed, screaming, and left in a heap “with blood on her hair.” The story is told with muffled sobs. Jackson does not even come close to having the adult perspective necessary to approach a topic like this one with any degree of nuance or insight. Another ordeal lasting more than six minutes.

114. This song was written by Stevie Wonder, Henry Cosby, and Sylvia Moy, the same three that created “My Cherie Amour.” “Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day” by Ben (1972) is one of the few early Jackson tunes that his age doesn’t really seem to be a fit for.

113. Another late Jackson song that just tries too hard is “Butterflies,” which can be found on the album Invincible (2001). Everyone hopes that the word “butterflies” would have a pretty sound to it. Over all else, Jackson sings. The problem with Jackson’s singing in his later years is that he seemed intent on making his voice do bizarre or unexpected things, which is not the same as being a good singer.

112. One of the Corporation’s heavy hitters, Freddie Perren, was responsible for writing this forgettable piece, which was featured on the 1973 album Music & Me. Jackson appears to be playing an acoustic guitar while posing for the album cover, but this is not the case.

111. On his fourth solo album, “Dapper-Dan,” Michael Jackson displays forced funkiness and forced pretension. The album was released in 1975. Even more perplexing to me is the presence of the hyphen in this sentence.

110. “Johnny Raven,” from the 1973 film Music & Me: Jackson had to mature in front of the public, which is neither fun nor fair. As a young child, he was able to get away with making love plaints, but as he became older, they lost some of their impact. This is a song about a “ramblin’ dude,” and it’s not very sophisticated:

By the way, my name is Johnny Raven, and I’m going to leave your nest female in order to explore another nest.

109. “Music and Me,” from the 1973 film Music & Me: The 1970s. Sigh. This tune reminds me of one performed by Olivia Newton-John.

108. Another woman is lying to him, but he doesn’t care because he’s the blue gangsta, whatever that means, according to the song “Blue Gangsta” from Xscape (2014). The song was passed around Jacksonland for a number of years before finally being reworked by Timbaland for the Xscape album, which was Michael Jackson’s second posthumous release.

107. There is nothing wrong with second-tier Motown material, but this is third-tier. “Just a Little Bit of You,” from the album Forever, Michael (1975): The Hollands made an effort, but it was clear that the label was unable to advance with Jackson, who was now 17 years old. He and his brothers would migrate to CBS and try their hands at writing some tunes there. A few years later, he would go on to record “Off the Wall,” which would go on to become one of the most successful albums of the 1970s.

106. This is a letter to Michael Jackson that begins, “Michael, I close my eyes and sing along / Dreaming you’re singing to me.” The punch line is that Michael writes back! “Dear Michael,” from Forever, Michael (1975): This is a letter to Michael Jackson that begins, “Michael, I close my eyes and sing along / Dreaming you’re singing to me.” It was a challenging journey. “Hurry, hurry, mister postman / Take my letter, tell her I love her.”

105. Another mediocre attempt at composing, “I’ll Come Home to You” from Michael Jackson’s Forever (1975) features a spoken introduction. Jackson would never record another song for Motown after completing this one.

104. “Don’t Walk Away,” from the 2001 film Invincible: labored. The melody is reminiscent of far too many other Jackson tracks, and the producer Teddy Riley doesn’t bring anything to the party other than an overly loud wood block.

103. Jackson’s bold assertions carried less weight with each passing year, as documented in “History” and “History” (1995): This one, which clocks in at an epic six minutes and fifty seconds, meanders between a crooning upbeat chorus and verses where Jackson gets to sound all tough… and then lurches back into weepy protestations, complete with lots of very historical sounding news and speech clips. Ugh. Do we know if Jackson was a history buff on his own? It’s hard to believe. In Sullivan’s book, I believe, it is stated that Michael Jackson had a library containing 10,000 books, “most of which he read.” If we take “most” to mean “6,000,” then this would imply that Michael Jackson read approximately four books per week throughout his adult life. This would mean that he read 200 books per year during his adult life. It is possible that he was a covert reader, but I am not aware of any public comment made by Jackson that suggests that he read even four novels every year.

102. Right up until the end, Michael Jackson was going back to the well of writing songs about how people insisted on writing all this crazy stuff about him. One such song is titled “Breaking News” and was released in 2010. Sad!

101. Another trite and unconvincing song about children, “The Lost Children” from Invincible (2001) is sung by him in his supersweet voice. Sometimes it seems as though he is picking at a scab. The melody doesn’t go anywhere. In addition, the chorus is dreary.

100. After being beaten about the head and shoulders by “Will You Be There,” we get this similarly platitudinous slow workout, which follows it on Dangerous (1991). “Keep the Faith” is the title track of the album that was released in 1991. One of the many things about Jackson that makes him such a letdown is the fact that the majority of his ministerial acts are empty:

Raise your head high and demonstrate to the world that you have pride. Strive to achieve your goals, and don’t let anyone stand in your way.

SEE: Lists Of Michael Jackson Songs

Andrae Crouch and the Disciples appear on the track to shriek in a gospel style. The song was written by the same duo that was responsible for “Man in the Mirror.”

99. “Privacy,” from Invincible (2001): The beginning of this track is somewhat reminiscent of John Lennon’s “I Found Out.” After that, it transitions into another another song by Michael Jackson on how unkind the media has been to him. After that, song starts to go pretty slow, then Slash comes in to add some ripping guitar noises to it.

98. In the 1970s, a band called Heatwave scored a couple of enormous dance successes, including “Always and Forever” and “Boogie Nights.” One of the principals of Heatwave was a white Brit named Rod Temperton. “Burn This Disco Out,” from Off the Wall (1979): When Jones began working with Jackson, he brought him on as a client and made him a member of his production team. He was responsible for providing passable dance fare like this and a few other significant Jackson songs.

97. “Gone Too Soon,” from Dangerous (1991): The second half of Dangerous contains a great deal of material that is considered to be of low artistic quality. If you were unaware, the song is about a young man named Ryan White, who became infected with AIDS after receiving blood from a donor and subsequently passed away. It was he who left a little too quickly. Even though it has been so many years, it still makes your blood boil a little bit to think about how celebrities like Michael Jackson and Elton John went into overdrive about a kid like Michael White when gay men were literally dying unsung by the thousands, sometimes on the streets.

It was certainly a tragedy, but even so, it still makes your blood boil a little bit. When I hear this song, I can’t help but think of the magazine Wigwag, which was started by a few people who were let go from their jobs at The New Yorker. Each issue of the magazine began with an essay, and one particular month’s essay was titled “White.” The piece simply summarized a frenetic description of White’s final days that was published in People magazine. The article, as far as I can recall, focused the most of its attention on a hyperaware, moment-by-moment account of the movements of Elton John. This was the last sentence in the essay, and it stated that “You’d have to be a monster not to laugh.”

96. “Will You Be There,” from the album Dangerous (1991): Refuse to be uplifted at your own peril by this tedious, almost maniacally manipulative epic, coming on the second side of Dangerous and clocking in at nearly eight minutes, complete with an extended intro, and what seems to be an outro, by the same robotically programmed chorus. This song comes on Dangerous and clocks in at nearly eight minutes. After that, however, you realize that the lingering outro is really just a setup for Jackson to deliver a lugubrious spoken-word recitation, which, upon closer scrutiny, has very little in common with the rest of the song. Did I mention this was the tune to Free Willy?

95. “Happy (Love Theme From Lady Sings the Blues),” from the 1973 film Music & Me: This is a serious Michel Legrand song, and the music for it was written for the Billie Holiday biopic that Berry Gordy produced for Diana Ross, who was his girlfriend at the time. It’s possible that Ross playing Billie Holiday won’t be to your taste. Only the melody was featured in the movie; Smokey Robinson was the one who put it together for Michael Jackson and wrote the lyrics. I’m not sure if even the youthful Michael Jackson was prepared for its subtleties. However, it is a very beautiful song.

94. “It’s the Falling in Love,” from the album Off the Wall (1979), is one of the songs on the album that is the least memorable. Jones, who was presumably experimenting with the various things Jackson could try, enlisted the help of schlockmeister Carole Bayer Sager for the production of this song about nothing. Crossover, which is effectively a shorthand for “black artists making nice to sell music to white folks,” was one of the most difficult aspects of Michael Jackson’s recording career. By bringing in experts like Rod Temperton and Sager, Quincy Jones was being incredibly astute.

The results in Off the Wall and Thriller are of course evident and arguably inarguable. However, it should not be overlooked that the method in question is unethical. Are you an artist? Or are you more of a craftsperson, paying close attention to what it is that the clients want? When do you reach the point when you no longer recognize who you are? (You can also check out George and Nelson’s book titled “The Death of Rhythm and Blues.”)

93. Another track from Rod Temperton, “Baby Be Mine” can be found on the album Thriller (1982). It is likely the most overlooked song on the album. Etiam aliquando bonus dormitat homerus.

92. On “The Lady in My Life,” from Thriller (1982), I believe that Temperton let down the rest of the Thriller production team with his performance. The only interesting part is when Michael Jackson ululates at the end of the song. Why was Michael Jackson singing these sappy love songs in such a formal tone?

SEE: Lists Of Michael Jackson Songs

91. “Take Me Back,” from Michael’s 1975 album Forever: “Not awful; not a first-tier Motown song, but that’s not necessarily a slam when you’re dealing about this songwriting powerhouse.” “Take Me Back” is from the album Forever. Doesn’t really connect, but it’s possible that a more experienced presence, like Diana Ross, or a titanic force, like Levi Stubbs, may have made it into something. The early Jackson 5 singles, along with those of many other Motown acts, sprang off the radio, but this one doesn’t.

90. “Superfly Sister,” from the album Blood on the Dance Floor (1997): None of us believe that Jackson is aware of what he is discussing in these songs. Simply put, he has taken elements from various films and combined them with his childish (not childlike) imagination. Susie’s back (cf. “Blood on the Dance Floor”) but in a considerably less intriguing song.

89. There aren’t any first-rate outtakes, despite the fact that people like Quincy Jones sometimes talk about the difficult choices that had to be made regarding which songs made it onto Thriller or Bad, with the implication being that they had a massive amount of high-quality material to choose from. “I’m So Blue,” an outtake from Bad (1987) is the only exception to this rule. This song, which was included on the album Bad 25, is interesting in that it is based on a concept that was only partially realized. During the chorus, Michael Jackson, as was his custom, sings nonsense syllables when he does not yet have words.

88. “Liberian Girl,” from 1987’s Bad, is a film that is extremely lushly produced but ultimately meaningless. This is easily one of Jackson’s most grating music videos to ever exist. On this massive film set, nearly everyone, including Whoopi Goldberg and Steve Guttenberg, is a well-known actor or actress. The conclusion is very direct and forceful. (It turns out that Michael Jackson is the director!) Here he is singing about, as the title suggests, a Liberian Girl, but I don’t remember seeing one in the video. (It turns out that Michael Jackson is the director!) The topic of Jackson and race is one of the most peculiar ones that come to mind. Because he suffered from a disorder known as vitiligo, which caused him to have lighter areas of skin, he bleached the rest of his skin to make it look like the lighter spots. In spite of this, it is very clear that other impulses were at play, particularly when considering the fact that he was also trying to eliminate all obvious traces of darkness from his face. As he got older, he continued to give trite lectures about racial issues, which further complicated the situation.

87. “Just Good Friends,” from the 1987 album Bad, is likely the album’s most unsuccessful track. This is meant to be a duet with Stevie Wonder; I have to confess after listening to Bad for decades I still get slightly startled when I read that Wonder is on the track. He doesn’t show up until about halfway through the song, and his entrance doesn’t really give off the impression that “Wow, that’s Stevie Wonder!” The songwriting team behind it are pros (they wrote “What’s Love Got to Do With It”), but to me it doesn’t gel; the backing (all those silly sounds, for example) seems plastic even by the standards of the 1980s. ” (Compare that to how McCartney’s unmistakably fluty voice comes in on “The Girl Is Mine,” 45 seconds in.)

86. “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You,” from the album Bad (1987): It’s difficult to find fault with this lush ballad, which Jones once again produced to a high standard. The first single to be released from Bad; its purpose was to prepare the general public for the subsequent assault.

85. “Who Is It,” from the 1991 film Dangerous: More chilling moments from Dangerous. At this point in the album, the edge of the beats had lost some of its initial enchantment for the listener. In the 1980s, Michael Jackson provided backup vocals on a song called “Somebody’s Watching Me” that was performed by one of Berry Gordy’s kids. This appears to be a rehashing of it, with the notable exception that the chorus in this version is not as strong. Still it’s another of the Dangerous tracks that remains in your mind.

There are some rumors floating around that say Dangerous or Invincible is the record with the highest price tag of all time. How does that happen? According to an article that appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone in 1991 and was written by Michael Goldberg, it was reported that Michael Jackson had reserved a recording studio in Miami at the rate of $4,000 a day for two years, and he also had another one going for nine months. (That’s $4 million right there.) Each, keep in mind, also had one or two expensive production teams working, overseen by some of the most successful (and costly) producers of the day, and often put up in places like New York’s Palace Hotel. (That’s $4 million right there.) After that, Jackson would hop throughout the country, in between travels out of the country, searching for good beats to include on his record. I don’t want to diminish Michael Jackson’s genius because he had one, but I do believe that if they had access to the same tools, a lot of different people could put together a really solid album in this manner. And the problem was that, in the end, Dangerous sounded like what it actually was, which was the end result of a laborious and pricey process that was ultimately not very human.

84. “In the Closet,” from the 1991 film Dangerous, has a wonderful tune and is sung in an emotional manner. It’s not a terrible music, but you have to look past the name before you can truly appreciate it. Again like Trump, here’s Jackson picking at a scab. He’s using a word that alludes at homosexuality but trying to use it in a song presumably about a relationship with a woman, which works, I guess, until you come to this lyric:

Just promise me that whatever we say or do to each other from this point forward, we will make a pact to tuck it away and forget about it.

He never gave off much of an impression of having much of a preference for what we would today term trolling. And this was before any of his scandals showed itself to the public. But it’s still an unsettling passage from someone who we know, even if he didn’t molest youngsters, took liberties he should not have. Did he write from the depths of his subconscious? Getting better at reciting his lines? We will never know the answer. Outside the charges of those kids (all boys), which is something, there’s no evidence I know of that Jackson was gay besides some unverified tabloid stories. For what it’s worth, the raids on Jackson’s Neverland estate by cops produced a lot of hetero pornography. (Some of the boys testified that he would show them porn.) The track has some breathy words contributed by Princess Stéphanie of Monaco, who had some success as a pop star in Europe.

83. Not an awful song: “Whatever happens / Don’t let go of my hand” is a clear and sorrowful image. “Whatever Happens,” from the album Invincible (2001), was released in 2001. Carlos Santana whistles and plays throughout the entirety of the track. A corny conclusion with Jackson and Santana expressing their gratitude to one another.

82. Jackson was addicted to placing small auditory fanfares at the opening of his songs, as heard on the song “Can’t Let Her Get Away” from the album Dangerous (1991). You’ll find one of those here, followed by another collection of the finest beats and melodies that money at the moment could buy. You cannot deny the validity of his claims. This is one of the least-interesting non-ballads on Dangerous, and it’s still a really clear and professional production. This is all thanks to Teddy Riley’s generosity. He had his beginnings in an R&B band called Guy, a band whose aggressively dazzling production and crisp edges was a forerunner to a light 1990s genre known as New Jack Swing. I believe that Jackson puts him in an even more difficult situation than usual here.

81. A showcase for Jackson’s piercing and ever-expanding vocal abilities; the backing track is too heavily orchestrated, but once again, here’s a 15-year-old doing justice to a Kern-Hammerstein Broadway tune. “All the Things You Are,” Music & Me (1973): This song is a showcase for Jackson’s vocal abilities.

80. “Give In to Me,” Dangerous (1991): Jackson is all upset yet again. On the album with the hilariously titled Bad, I get the impression that Quincy Jones was aware that it was all posturing, and he produced the album accordingly. On the other hand, I get the impression that Michael Jackson was browbeating his producers to make him seem more, you know, dangerous. If you listen to Jackson’s music without preconceptions, he was a fantastic singer, and his work can be seen as valid. But en masse it everything seems poised and melodramatic. As is common on the album, he veers here between an exaggerated defiance and a sad choke in his voice. Slash comes back into the room and plays an overwhelming amount of notes to emphasize how helpless the singer is feeling. However, just so you know, this particular solo of his for Jackson is probably the one that makes the most sense, not to mention that it’s blisteringly fast.

79. “Heartbreaker,” from Jackson’s final solo album, Invincible (2001): Jackson worked on the album for more than three years and spent unfathomable millions of dollars on it. It is estimated that 2.5 million copies have been sold in the United States, which is between six and seven percent of Thriller’s total sales. The song “Heartbreaker” is monotonous because Michael Jackson repeatedly states his thesis throughout the song.

78. Outtake from Michael Jackson’s Thriller album, “For All Time,” released in 1982: It seems like it tries to be a wonderful song, but there’s just no magic there, and the song was left off of Thriller.

77. “Someone in the Dark,” from The E.T. Storybook (1982): While they were supposed to be finishing up Thriller, Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones began working with Steven Spielberg on an audiobook LP to make a little more money in the wake of the incredible success of Spielberg’s film. The E.T. Storybook was released in 1982. Because of this, a distracting legal struggle ensued when MCA released this album and even attempted to release a single to accompany it exactly around the same time that Thriller was being released. This was the single, and it was already irritating before E.T. came out. comes in.

SEE: Lists Of Michael Jackson Songs

76. “(I Can’t Make It) Another Day,” Michael (2010): Another Invincible outtake, this one a composition of one Lenny Kravitz. At this point in time, Kravitz had long since passed whatever low creative peak he had ever hit; the likelihood that he would all of a sudden be writing hot material for Michael Jackson was unlikely, and a quick listen to the song confirms that this was the correct assumption.

75. “Heaven Can Wait,” Invincible (2001): If you thought Meat Loaf had given us the definitively overdone performance of a song named “Heaven Can Wait,” think again. Another indication of Jackson’s deterioration is the song’s content, which consists of incomprehensible pop-song nonsense delivered over ’90s R&B want tobe-isms. This overly lengthy and verbose mess was the product of the combined efforts of more than a half dozen people.

74. Lots of bird noises may be heard in the beginning of “Break of Dawn,” from Invincible (2001), however they come across as harsh and artificial. The whole song tries to be all New Jack Swing-y, but just wait till you hear Jackson try to pull off the line, “Gotta make love to the crack of dawn.” Hence the birds, I guess. Jackson composed this alongside Dr. Freeze, the genius behind “I Wanna Sex You Up.” (Also Bell Biv DeVoe’s considerably better “Poison.”)

73. “They Don’t Care About Us,” from the album History (1995), is an example of one of those later Michael Jackson songs that is good but has some problems. The backing track is undeniably effective, and the chorus most definitely has a hook that sticks in your head. History, whose official title was, wait for it, HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I, which was inconsistent on so many levels, was half greatest-hits set and half new work, and it was a perfect example of how Jackson and his record company were unable to maintain a coherent marketing strategy for him amid the controversies over the molestation charges. History was released in 1983.

Jackson spent untold millions on the new album, and then blew punishing amounts of money commissioning gigantic statues of himself in a Stalinist-style and sending them all over the world. (Why not do a greatest-hits set for one holiday season, and a studio album for the next?) Jackson’s music career has been defined by his ability to reinvent himself musically. His battles with the record label degenerated into a vicious name-calling feud with Tommy Mottola, the chief executive officer of Sony at the time. Producers have informed Knopper that the backing track of “They Don’t Care About Us” features more than 20 individual percussion tracks. But despite the amount of time and money spent, as well as the involvement of producers, no one read through Jackson’s lyrics! One of them read, “Jew me / Sue me / Everybody do me / Kick me / Kike me / Don’t you black and white me.” This is one of those delightful instances in which poor art backfires on the person who created it. The defense of the lines is that Jackson was saying, “Go ahead and call me a Jew, call me a kike.”

Outside of being presumptuous, the problem is that the term “Jew me” has a plainly anti-Semitic meaning, which he was not successful in displacing with his own lyric. In addition to this, he is equating the use of the slur “kike” with the use of the word “Jew,” which is not a slur in and of itself. In his several utterances regarding the topic Jackson showed he was incapable of marshaling a rational case in his defense. It was a huge public relations disaster, and it was just another stride along Wacko Road. It is important to point out that in spite of this, the song has a peculiar vibe to it. The first part of the chorus is sluggish (“All I wanna say is that…”) and the second half (“They don’t actually care about us”) is precisely the sort of thing a predator might say to a toddler to alienate him from his parents.

72. “The Girl Is Mine,” Thriller (1982): Thriller’s selling binge began with this affable, just-this-side-of-novelty track starring the two most popular and innocuous males in the world sharing aw-shuckses with each other. However, in terms of star duets, this is the gold standard; two charming personalities, and their vocals are very distinguishable from one another. To set the record straight, “the doggone girl is mine” is an awful line from a song’s lyrics. Thriller was released one month prior to Christmas in 1982. This was considered to be late for that Christmas season by to industry standards; however, Jackson, Jones, and Sony weren’t looking at the Christmas market at all. They were looking at 1983, a year in which the record may have been unrivaled in its dominance of the music industry. After priming the market with “The Girl Is Mine,” which gave Jackson the imprimatur of Paul McCartney, the hits just kept on coming after that. “The Girl Is Mine” was the song that gave Jackson the imprimatur. They had seven songs that peaked in the top ten, including “Billie Jean,” “Beat It,” “Wanna Be Starting Something,” and so on and so forth. Jackson’s face, which had been matured, sculpted, and (not least of all) deracinated by facial surgery, came across to Middle America on the record’s cover as fun and sensual, a master of aural charms if not physical charms.

This was due to the fact that cosmetic surgery had been performed on Jackson. Soon after, we found out that the picture of his body was actually a pop-song cycle that included an undeniable amount of force and pleasure. After hearing the second single, everything was brought into focus. When the insistent bass line, jittery strings and surprising self-definition (“I am the one,” he sang, “Whocoulddance onthefloor intheround“) of “Billie Jean” pulsed into our collective consciousness; when, the day after Jackson delivered his famous performance of that song on a Motown TV special, at a time when there was no Facebook or YouTube, and when VCRs had not yet penetrated American life, we went into school or work the next day to exclaim, “Did. You. See. That? ” – there was, beside the obvious pop delights given, something exquisite, historically fulfilling in watching a black singer towering, titan-like, astride the planet.

71. Another Jackson solo hit from the first album, “Rockin’ Robin” was a cover of an R&B novelty song and was released in 1972 under the title Got to Be There. Boy, this is rough going, but you have to credit his professionalism and manic devotion, right up to the rockabilly vocal tricks.

Here is the first version, which I prefer because I think it has more nuance:

70. “Threatened,” Invincible (2001):The standout track on Invincible, perhaps the best of Jackson’s monster songs; the chorus is one of the most subtle of his late period, and the snatches of the lyrics you can catch keep the song abstract, without the self-aggrandizement he toys with in so many of his later songs.

69. “Xscape,” from the album Xscape (2014): Attempts to generate some excitement; am I the only one who thinks the horns seem a little bit dated? The breakdown is, to say the least, weak. Jackson’s low, guttural voice has never before sounded so monotonous and uninteresting in any of his performances. Another song in which our Michael is the victim, this time of a woman who lies and is greedy, of the media, or of the pressures of business. A significant number of individuals fell for this nonsensical argument. In the wake of his death, particularly at his funeral, you heard a lot of talk about Michael the victim, Michael who was so tormented by all these unfair things. No one specified what those trials were exactly. Jackson sought his popularity, fueled it in the most ludicrous ways, and, setting aside whatever childhood trauma we don’t know or comprehend, brought his troubles on himself.

Think about the people in both his personal and professional circle. Spending some time with Sullivan’s in-depth exploration of Unbreakable is similar to attending a cast party for Twin Peaks. Has-been celebrities; sleazy record-industry personnel; cultural punch lines; lawyers, plastic surgeons, and spiritual advisers to the stars; blowsy actresses; gullible foreigners and opportunistic politicians; arrant frauds, assorted poltroons, and the author of Kosher Sex appear, disappear and reemerge as if on a tabloid merry-go-round.

Jackson’s various managers and top advisers include a one-time Sony promotions man named Frank DiLeo, who is invariably described as looking the part of the cigar-chomping former bookie he was; Jackson’s younger brother, Randy; someone named Trudy Green; a pair of Germans; a Korean lawyer; a Palm Beach billionaire who is said to have been an associate of Meyer Lansky; another adviser who has to leave Jackson’s employ after it is revealed that he has Because some members of this crew did not ensure that Jackson filed tax returns, and others of this crew found up in court seeking to recover back money that they advanced to Jackson, it is difficult to feel sorry for the majority of these people. When members of the Nation of Islam show present, it marks a point that can be considered a low point. It would appear that Dr. Tohme Tohme was possibly the most trustworthy individual, as well as Jackson’s final and best opportunity for survival. However, he, too, is eventually replaced by a revitalized DiLeo and is left in a pretty desolate position. However, we are never told the field in which he specialized as a doctor.

68. “Bad,” Bad (1987): While everyone enjoyed Thriller, of course, Bad was always a bit absurd from the start. Sure there were some nice tracks, but it’s hard to respect a guy who spends the opening four minutes of his Big Next Statement wailing “I’m horrible, I’m bad, I’m really really bad,” particularly while posing in his Cutest Little Biker in Encino getup. According to Jackson and Jones’ bios, Prince met with them to discuss the possibility of their performing this song as a duet. My guess is that Prince, who was well aware of the consequences of his actions, could not have taken the suggestion seriously given his background. Martin Scorsese is the director of the video, perhaps I should say “the short film,” and Richard Price, a novelist, is the writer. Richard Price offers up some delicious urban patois in the movie. ( “Hunt’s up, homeboy! We’ve got victims out there waiting for us!” ) It’s a fascinating video to watch today. It’s big-budget and exceedingly ludicrous, with an increasing cast of Village People rejects working as dancers and a touch more “Be Cool” West Side Story dancing than is really necessary. For what it’s worth, though, he is now a lovely wet spring of a man. Jackson’s post Jheri-curled hair is at its most luscious; even his slightly forced sneers can’t ruin that attractive face; and his leonine mien millions considered very fuckable, at least in their dreams. But it makes you sad, too, in retrospect. Later in life, his upper lip appeared to be permanently curled down over his upper teeth, which is one of the things that you notice he did to get rid of that wide smile that could make you feel transported.

67. Great groove on “This Time Around,” which was released by History in 1995; there had better be, given the amount of top-tier producers that were involved in its creation. Rap that isn’t very good from Biggie Smalls. The topic matter is another indignant rant. “They wrongfully accused me.” Did I mention the excellent groove?

66. “Money,” History (1995): In History Jackson had free reign to work out his fears and write about subjects that were on his mind. The difficulty is that they all weren’t that intriguing. In this passage, he accuses other people of being concerned with money, specifically (his) money. In the end, didn’t it fall under his responsibility to populate his life with more upstanding individuals? However, that really is a sweet chorus to listen to.

65. The rock version of “Come Together,” which was released by History in 1995, had previously been recorded by Aerosmith. It was Michael Jackson who first utilized this technique in the 1980s for his offbeat film Moonwalker.

64. “Slave to the Rhythm,” Xscape (2014): An unnotable midtempo jam with a cluttered, overproduced backing track, and a dramatic entrance at odds with the subject of the song itself. The song itself isn’t horrible, just another rather gloomy example of the non-A things Jackson had supposedly experimented with throughout his lifetime chosen over by vast groups of producers after his death.

63. “You Are Not Alone,” from the album History (1995): This ballad is monotonous and unpleasant, but it became Jackson’s final number one hit, thanks to the songwriter R. Kelly, who, among other things, Jackson and I both had a soft spot for children who were not yet of age. (At the time Jackson recorded this, R. Kelly had already illegally married the 15-year-old Aaliyah, but he had not yet been exposed as the child predator and sexual deviant he is known to be today.) The video, which is another of Jackson’s bizarre public presentations, is notable in that it showed Jackson full face, with a porcelain visage — a key moment when his face began to look beyond unnatural. There’s also a photo of Lisa Marie Presley in which she can be seen nudistically frolicking with Michael Jackson in front of a Maxfield Parrish–inspired backdrop while desperately attempting to avoid becoming a part of the major freak show that was about to begin.

Then came another molestation charge. This time, Jackson had befriended a young cancer sufferer. Once more, his lavish lifestyle entangled the family in its web of dependency. Life of an Icon, the film directed by David Gest, is unabashedly on Michael Jackson’s side when it comes to telling this story; however, it is beneficial in the sense that it provides insightful defenses of Michael from everyone involved in his camp. But there’s still an aura of Trumpian ridiculousness. For example, one of Jackson’s assistants says he was there when Jackson went to bed with the boy and a friend, and tells an elaborate story of how Jackson made sure the boys slept in the bed while he and the assistant slept on the floor. Hey — here’s an idea. What do you say we let the kids spend the night with their respective families, and the two of you adults go to bed in your own fucking bedrooms? There is at least one other boy, who was then a 13-year-old in England and is featured in both of Sullivan and Knopper’s books, who claims Jackson crossed sexual lines with him over the phone and hasn’t used it for any financial gain, so it’s doubtful that there is no truth to any of the Jackson molestation charges in their most extreme versions. In addition to the two public molestation charges, there is at least one other boy who says Jackson crossed sexual lines with him over the phone (It’s patently true that he did things with children adults shouldn’t do, and that he compromised families in the process, and it’s certainly possible he paid off other victims secretly.)

62. This was thirty years before the era of fake news, and actually, most of the stuff you did read back then was factual. Jackson goes back to the “Leave Me Alone” well for another rant against the media: “Just because you read it in a magazine or see it on a TV screen / Don’t mean it’s factual.” “Tabloid Junkie,” History (1995): Jackson goes back to the “Leave Me Alone” well for another rant against the There’s even a muttered line “They claim he’s homosexual! ” The nature of Jackson’s sexuality has escaped his biographers. It’s really none of our concern, but since he brought it up we can dutifully note that there’s really little on the record about his having had a routine relationship, heterosexual or homosexual. It is Sullivan’s opinion that Jackson might have died a virgin, heterosexually speaking. (Jackson himself said that one night when Tatum O’Neal tried to seduce him he covered his face with his hands until she went away.) In the second edition of Tarborelli’s book, Lisa Marie Presley suddenly goes out of her way to attest that the pair had a sex life, but it still sounds a little awkward. Not exactly “Yes, yes, we did the sex! “— but not quite convincing either, like the kiss that the couple shared at the 1996 MTV Video Music Awards.

61. More Jackson bravado in the Trumpian mold, “2 Bad” from History (1995): Prince font, Prince harmonies, Minneapolis producers, all to create an atmosphere for the sort of complaining Prince himself, regally, shunned. Jackson is once again whining, this time with resentment, about how he is being assaulted on all sides, with another celebrity being hired to add some rawness to the mix in the form of rap. (In this instance, it’s the naughty lad Shaquille O’Neal.) However, it lacks something that so many Prince songs have, which is fun and mischievousness; the thick mix of authors and producers here would seem to make it difficult to achieve.

60. This song was originally recorded by Nat King Cole in the 1950s, but Donny Osmond made it famous in the 1970s by covering it on his album Music & Me (1973). You may be forgiven for wondering why Motown would have Jackson record it once more. However, it is not nearly as awful as you may imagine since he makes it into a real barnburner.

59. “Loving You,” by Xscape (2014), is a very light and airy midtempo pop song. The backing by Timbaland is oddly retro, and it’s not subtle at all.

When reading the biographies of Jackson, it becomes immediately apparent that he did not have many lifelong friends. Someone I know went as part of a couple to Jackson’s house for dinner one night back in the day. Jackson’s own date for the evening was Frank DiLeo, that cigar-chomping manager. Conversation at dinner was halting; during a house tour the individual I know said they observed Jackson making a cut-off signal to his manager in a mirror. After Jackson had left the room, DiLeo led them out the door. Jackson was nowhere to be found.

That doesn’t exactly sound like the kind of life where you have a lot of friends, does it? Reading about Jackson’s life is like going on an amusement park ride through a hall of random and not-all-that-celebrated celebrities, including cultural blips like Tatum O’Neal (introduced in a hot tub at a Hollywood party), Emmanuel Lewis (on Jackson’s lap on a date with Madonna), and Rodney Allen Rippy (look him up). After Michael Jackson was initially accused of sexually abusing a kid, he traveled to Florida to collaborate with Lou Pearlman, the promoter who was responsible for the success of the Backstreet Boys. Jackson decides to go away as it is revealed that Pearlman is a con artist who may or may not have a thing for young boys himself. (Pearlman is still incarcerated.) Dick Gregory and Al Sharpton, as well as Donald Trump himself, make random appearances in Jackson’s life throughout the course of the story. Here’s Mark Lester, the star of Oliver! ; there is Chris Tucker, star of Rush Hour.

I wish I could have spent more time with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach (that’s the self-promoter who wrote Kosher Sex), an oh-so-close friend of Jackson’s who competed with the likes of Deepak Chopra and Uri Geller to be Jackson’s number-one bestest spiritual adviser. “The hardest rocking oil sheik in the Middle East” funds various Jackson dreams for a period of time, until, $7 million later, Jackson and his entourage vanish from his domain. A lawsuit follows here, too. Who am I forgetting? Oh, yes: Grace Rwaramba, who has been called “the most powerful nanny in the universe” by Time magazine; Anton Glanzelius, who is considered to be “the best-known child actor in all of Scandinavia;” and Tony Buzan, who is considered to be “the inventor of mind mapping.”

SEE: Lists Of Michael Jackson Songs

58. “You Can Cry on My Shoulder,” Ben (1971): One of the more reckless tracks of his first four albums. I believe it sounds muffled yet there’s something unique going on in the chorus and Jackson really delivers on the high notes. Solo writing credit to Berry Gordy.

57. “Girlfriend,” Off the Wall (1979): One of the amazing things about Off the Wall is that Paul McCartney gave Jackson a not-bad song, and it’s one of the lesser tunes on the record. There was never any animosity between McCartney and Jackson, despite the fact that Jackson ended up owning the Beatles’ song collection, and McCartney was always nice to Jackson. This theory doesn’t hold up to investigation, though. Back in the 1960s, The Beatles had the opportunity to purchase their entire back catalog, but John Lennon botched the deal. McCartney had both the time and money in the years after that to do something about the situation. In 1985, after the release of Thriller, Jackson astutely purchased the company, but he subsequently foolishly mortgaged it to pay his extravagant lifestyle. If he had lived, there is a good chance that he would have blown the entire opportunity. Jackson’s estate later sold most of the rest of his shares back to Sony.

56. Charlie Chaplin was the original songwriter behind the song “Smile,” which was released by History in 1995. What could have been a beautiful, analog trip becomes virtually unlistenable due to the weight of the strings and obtrusive percussion, not to mention Jackson’s unnuanced delivery. Chaplin composed the music; the lyrics, which were added later, say, “Smile / If your heart is hurting” etc. etc. There’s a wonderful touch of what could have been towards the conclusion, when a solo piano comes in. Barbra Streisand could listen to this and say, “Ugh, have some taste.” There’s a beautiful touch of what could have been at the end.

55. “Unbreakable” and “Invincible” (2001) both have a rhythm that isn’t horrible and is rather unique. Really doesn’t sound like Jackson singing through most of it, however. Biggie Smalls is the artist behind the rap. Take note that this is another another song about having problems and being troubled.

54. “I Wanna Be Where You Are,” from the album Got to Be There (1972), is an average soul ballad. Michael Jackson’s voice is pitched almost unnaturally high throughout the song, but he manages to make it work. There is a lot going on in the string arrangement. Jackson had a moderate amount of success with this track. A great deal of assistance was provided by the songwriter Leon Ware, who would later work with Marvin Gaye during an important transitional period in the latter’s career.

53. “This Is It,” from the album titled “This Is It” (2009): “This Is It” was the only original song included on the greatest hits compilation album titled “This Is It.” It makes an attempt to be an upbeat “Man in the Mirror”–style thing, and honestly, you can hear Jackson trying to pull it off, but it doesn’t stick with you. Worse than that, it has a dated ring to it because it is another song that he wrote with Paul Anka in the 1980s. (Anka has stated that the music originated from a cassette that Jackson had stolen from him and had been put on the album without his permission.) “This Is It” became the title of what was meant to be a comeback series of gigs at the O2 arena in London. Because Jackson was such a disaster throughout the rehearsals, it was obvious that he was not going to have the stamina to do anywhere near 50 gigs.

In retrospect, this was obvious. However, he was losing money at an alarming rate, and Dr. Tohme had finally succeeded in convincing him that, because the exorbitant costs and low sales had stifled his recording career, he had no choice but to step back out on stage and perform. The Jacksonian grandiosity kicked in, and instead of doing something low-impact, he allowed himself to be dragged into an endeavor that was plainly overambitious. After his passing, a number of Jackson’s promoters and advisers, in addition to the singer’s doctor, found themselves embroiled in a protracted and contentious court dispute; this unfortunate turn of events could not have transpired with a more pleasant collection of individuals.

52. “Doggin’ Around,” Music & Me (1973): One of the more charming early Jackson deep cuts. It’s kind of a blues tune, annoyingly arranged, but it’s fun to hear the then-15-year-old Jackson hit all his marks and generally work it on out.

51. “You Rock My World,” Invincible (2001): This is a half-irresistible Jackson track with a good, unrelenting melody, a strong beat, and a groovy chorus. A lengthy and embarrassing introduction between him and the actor Chris Tucker, during which they both boasted about how lucky they are going to get, or something like that, marred the performance.

50. “Workin’ Day and Night,” Off the Wall (1979): A piece of fluff, but energetic and solid. Written by Jackson.

49. “You Are My Life,” from the album Invincible (2001): I spent a minute trying to figure out what prior Jackson song this reminds me of, but it’s just one of his saccharine and unconvincing compositions. This song was written by the unholy trinity of Michael Jackson, Babyface, and Carole Bayer Sager.

Nearly every member of Jackson’s family, with Janet being the most notable exception and Randy having something resembling an independent career, tried to get back into his orbit after their relationship with Jackson had broken down. This left Jackson’s family in a state of frustrated purgatory. The process of devolution started within the last ten years of his life, when it became clear that his alienation was permanent.

SEE: Lists Of Michael Jackson Songs

It’s hard to be cruel to a family that has brought us so much joy over the years, but the combination of numerous screws being loose plus the residual ramifications from the Thriller period jeopardized practically everyone and drove several brothers and even their parents into bankruptcy. (Joseph and Katherine extracted an extravagant fee from some determined South Koreans by promising to get Michael to play concerts there, which of course never happened; they were eventually found in judgment for some $13 million.) And this isn’t to mention all the other nonsense, like Jermaine’s wife running him over at a drive-in movie theater after she caught him with Paula Abdul.

The description of the bedlam that existed at Havenhurst, the family’s home in Encino in the 21st century, is the section of Sullivan’s novel that I enjoy reading the most. Katherine, Michael’s mother, reigns over a veritable human circus consisting of her children, grandkids, hangers-on, and employees. (It is not made clear why so many grandchildren live with Katherine; their grandfather Joseph had been banished to Las Vegas a long time before.) The group also includes a woman who, according to Sullivan’s account, few wanted in the house but who happened to be the mother of no fewer than four Jackson grandchildren after being involved with both Jermaine and Randy; a young man named Donte, whose parentage is unknown but who was suspected to be a child of Joseph’s perhaps via a Katherine, who was on the verge of turning 80 at the time of Michael’s death, was left with custody of his three children. Since the children came with that no-nonsense supernanny, new levels of turmoil ensued.

48. “Why You Wanna Trip on Me,” Dangerous (1991): A heavily clichéd piece of guitar shredding starts this out, about as bad as most Jackson heavy-metal lagniappes. This is a good song otherwise. Mike is still frustrated by the situation, and more specifically, he doesn’t understand why people are criticizing him when, as you probably know, infants are going hungry.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and can think of very few problems Jackson had that weren’t of his own making. Once we get into the realm of Dangerous and beyond, Jackson’s behavior curdles. From the mid-’90s on, it’s apparent his face had been tortured beyond repair. He developed a bizarre habit of wearing a weird tiny mask in public. In the garish memorial event conducted at MSG, you can see him, seemingly instinctively, continually holding his hand up to protect his face. (The film of the event has obviously been edited to exclude any close-ups.) In 1995, he appeared on a Diane Sawyer interview to try to talk his way out of the charges of sleeping with young boys. To anyone who has seen Melania Trump in public, Lisa Marie Presley’s facial expression, which she wears while sitting next to her husband and listening to him, will look very familiar.

47. “Carousel,” Thriller outtake (1982): “I lost my heart on a carousel / To a circus girl who went away.” Just another Michael Jackson boy-meets-carny, boy-loses-carny song. A two-minute snippet.

We might as well discuss Jackson’s biological father now. It has not been given the attention it deserves as the best film about Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson: Life of an Icon is the title of this documentary. It was made by David Gest, who is best known for being the odd-looking man who married Liza Minnelli, with Jackson and Liz Taylor standing up for the pair, and then divorced her 18 months later, citing physical abuse. This is another one of the celebrity-footnote absurdities that occurred in Jackson’s life. Liz Taylor and Jackson stood up for the pair. Who knew that Gest had been close to the Jackson family since their arrival in Los Angeles, and could call on virtually all the people who actually knew and worked with Jackson over his career? The movie has insights no other Jackson movie does.

One potent example: In Gest’s movie a family friend from Gary details Joseph Jackson’s anger — but also has this to say about Michael Jackson’s stern father: “I seen the steel mill. I’m-a tell you, it’s like working for Satan. So his vision, I respect.” None of that excuses Joseph Jackson’s violence toward his kids, stories of which have come from every family source. (“The man was evil,” Bobby Taylor said — and claims he once pulled a gun on the elder Jackson to get him out of the studio.) Were they just the beatings that any father of the time might have delivered, as Joseph says they were? Or something a little too violent, like the stories Michael has told? There are worse allegations, too: The TV tabloid reporter Diane Dimond asserts in her book on the Michael Jackson molestation trial (ominously titled Be Careful Who You Love) that Rebbie Jackson, the clan’s oldest child, filed a sexual-assault charge against her father at age 16.

But Dimond doesn’t source the charge and says the record was “erased,” whatever that means. Later, both LaToya Jackson, Michael’s other older sister, and Jermaine Jackson alleged sexual abuse of his daughters on the elder Jackson’s part. In any case, Joseph ultimately alienated his family with his extramarital affairs … and extramarital children, too. (Sullivan says there maybe a half-dozen or more.) He has lived in exile in Las Vegas for decades.

It’s a penumbral life. His personal website is a gate to a louche netherworld of not-quite luxury products. (An announcement I noticed a few years ago: “Joe Jackson today signed a marketing agreement with Manuela Koschker and Don Stardy of UD Group International for the Global Production of Joe Jackson: Champagne, Ice Cream, Jellys, Lollys, Cosmetique, Jewelry and Fashion, Children and Adult Clothing.” There seems to be no further public record of this auspicious endeavor.) Joseph is separated from his family except in high-profile occasions when his presence is required, and even then he embarrasses himself searchingly, as in the immediate aftermath of his son’s death when he began promoting his new record label whenever he got in front of a news camera. Sullivan says that custody rules worked out between Debbie Rowe and Katherine Jackson after Jackson’s death prohibit unsupervised contact between Joseph and his grandchildren.

SEE: Lists Of Michael Jackson Songs

46. “Ghosts,” Blood on the Dance Floor (1997): Here at least we have a metaphor, though the first half of this song could fool you. It’s the “ghost of jealousy” — that’s Jackson’s contention of what was driving his supposed foes. The song did however provide fodder for one of Jackson’s best later videos, set in a big haunted house with lots of CGI and great choreography — and Jackson dressed up as a portly white guy.