For my first music article, I’ve decided to share my very own Top 25 lesser-known songs by one of my favorite artists and human beings of all times, the King of Pop himself : Michael Jackson.
A mine of wonders
So we all know Thriller, Wanna be startin’ somethin’ and Beat it, Billie Jean and Bad, Remember the time, Man in the mirror, Black or White and Smooth Criminal… but although most of true Michael’s fans know them, a lot of people never heard some amazing Michael songs that simply weren’t released as singles, some that remained unreleased for a long time or some that appeared on albums that were taken down by the press, preventing many people to enjoy beautiful, magical and often powerful songs like only Michael himself knew how to create.
If you discover a new Michael song that you like thanks to my list let me know which one it is! And if you think I forgot a song or if your favorite is not mentioned below, post it in the comments and why not explain why that song is special for you ;)
So here we go! Just click on the links to listen to the songs! I picked the ones with the best sound quality possible ;) If a link is broken, please let me know!
My Top 25 lesser-known Michael Jackson songs
1. For all time (Thriller 25th anniversary album)
Such a beautiful ballad. To me it sounds like a farewell song while at the same time like a promise that he will always be there.
2. Morphine (Blood on the dance floor)
Most controversial song of Michael Jackson. The lyrics are impossible to find and very hard to understand. You can find many different interpretations on the web. It has an industrial/funk feel to it. We definitely can feel the anger through all the song but right in the middle of it there’s a beautiful and soft symphonic part that reminds us of Michael’s classical influences. Many interpretations can be made of the song. Mine is that he’s talking about the stress caused by the allegations that led him to rely on morphine and demerol to find sleep and relief. I also think he is speaking to Dom Sheldon, the DA who led the case against him – as he also did in the song D.S – and the way I hear it, a line makes me think he is also speaking to Debbie, the nurse he was married to.
Here are the lyrics from the more classical part of the song :
“Relax, this won’t hurt you
Before I put it in
Close your eyes and count to ten
Don’t cry, I won’t convert you
There’s no need to dismay
Close your eyes and drift away
Demerol, demerol Oh god, he’s taking demerol
Demerol, demerol Oh god, he’s taking demerol
He’s trying hard to convince her
To give him more of what he had
Today he wants it twice as bad
Don’t cry, I won’t resent you
Yesterday you had distress
Today he’s taking twice as much
Demerol, demerol Oh god, he’s taking demerol
Demerol, demerol Oh my, he’s got his demerol”
3. Fly away (Bad 25)
The imaginary of Michael is vivd in this song. Beautiful love ballad.
4. Whatever happens (Invincible)
That beauuuutiful song featuring the guitarist Santana is about abortion. As the lyricist of the song Gil Cang said : ”The song is about a girl who discovers that she is pregnant. People mistake the first sentence of the song, it’s actually “He gives a nervous smile,” not “He gives another smile.” It always makes me nervous! They had it wrong in the album booklet.” One of the gems from the Invincible album.
5. Is it scary (Blood on the dance floor)
Lots of anger in that song too. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis achieved one of their greatest production work with that one.
6. Carousel (Thriller 25th anniversary album)
Beautiful love ballad initially recorded for the Thriller album but that was finally kicked out by Human Nature. I looooooooove the old fashioned style chorus. :)
7. Do you know where your children are ? (unreleased version)
Song about a runaway girl, abused by her father, who ends up as a prostitute on Hollywood Boulevard. The title was probably inspired by this.
On this version, all the guitars were played by Steve Lukather. I’m still wondering why they didn’t put this version on the Xscape album instead of the demo version and especially instead of that nonsense Martian electronic crap one, moreover when we know this great version was produced while Michael was still alive. In 1998, Michael told Black and White magazine what he thought of remixes : “The least I can say is that I don’t like them. I don’t like it that they come in and change my songs completely. But Sony says that the kids love remixes.”
8. Someone in the dark (E.T.)
The song from the motion picture E.T. Truly holds the spirit of the 80s.
9. Shout (B-side of the Cry single, from the Invincible album)
In this song produced by Teddy Riley, Michael took the chorus of the Isley Brothers song Shout and turned it into an outcry. The lyrics remind us of Scream’s but it’s much more violent. Michael describes a cannibalistic, faithless world, rotten by greed and violence. Note : all these songs holding a very strong message (Morphine, Shout, Tabloid Junkie) are recorded and mixed in a way you simply cannot understand all the lyrics only by listening to the song. You need to want to know what MJ is talking about and to look up for it. The instrumental was used by Teddy Riley before on Guy’s album
10. Much too soon (Michael album, 2010)
From the Thriller era, released on that big fat joke called Michael album. One and only song you should listen to from that… thing. Has a Beatles feel to it.
11. Money (History)
Question : who are “The just few” he’s talking about in that song ? I LOVE the chorus with its great background vocals.
12. Sunset Driver (Ultimate collection)
Strong funky track. Vocals are incredible on this one.
13. Butterflies (Invincible)
Written by Andre Harris & Marsha Ambrosius from Floetry. It was the second single from the Invincible album. Magical and astounding background vocals. Might be the only new soul flavored song by Michael Jackson. It’s also one of the greatest Bruce Swedien’s mixes. You can find the original demo version by Marsha as a bonus track on Floetry’s first album
14. Fall again (demo version, Michael alone, the Ultimate collection)
Not saying that the Glenn Lewis’ version is not nice, but Michael’s demo version just overwhelmed me from the very first time I heard it. So heartbreaking. Written by Walter Afanasieff and Robin Thicke.
15. Threatened (Invincible)
I put this one in the same songs family as Thriller, Ghost, and Is it scary. I can’t help myself thinking that in all those scary songs, somehow, somewhere, Michael is talking to his father. One of the best Rodney Jerkins’ productions.
16. Don’t walk away (Invincible)
Beautiful love ballad.
17. Tabloid Junkie (History)
In this song, Michael Jackson depicts the media as a greedy, immoral and cannibalistic machine. Again in this one the lyrics are hard to understand, but they’re really powerful.
“Speculate to break the one you hate Circulate the lie you confiscate Assassinate and mutilate As the hounding media in hysteria Who’s the next for you to resurrect JFK exposed the CIA Truth be told the grassy knoll As the blackmail story in all your glory”
18. Blue gangsta (Xscape album)
Very cinematographic song with some Ennio Morricone and John Barry’s references. I like that version because Michael is alone, but on the production level I have to say I prefer the remix with Tempamental.
19. Break of dawn (Invincible)
A beautiful love song with groundbreaking background vocals.
20. Little Susie (History)
Very sad and depressing but also very beautiful waltz. The song’s aperture is a classical piece by the french composer Maurice Duruflé : Requiem opus 9. That shows once again Michael’s strong affection for classical music.
21. Get on the floor (Off the wall)
Very funky track. It was composed around Louis Johnson’s bass line. Quincy Jones’ production work is phenomenal here.
22. We’ve had enough (Ultimate collection)
This track was released after the war in Iraq. Produced by Rodney Jerkins.
23. I can’t help it (Off the wall) (that one is quite famous but I had to put it, just in case ONE person missed it ;) )
The only Michael Jackson song composed by Stevie Wonder. They did collaborate many times (Get it (Stevie’s Characters album), Just good friends (Michael Jackson’s Bad album)) but it’s the only time it felt that good. :)
24. Girlfriend (Off the wall)
Nice love ballad written by Paul McCartney. On a side note, Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney were used to collaborating at that time (Say say say, The girl is mine) until one day Paul McCartney advised Michael to buy a music publishing catalog because that’s where the money was. Michael Jackson followed his advice and bought half of the Beatles’. Paul McCartney never forgave him.
25. Beautiful girl (The ultimate collection)
Cute little demo.
I hope you enjoyed the ride ;)
I would also like to thank my consultant The Funkatist, who definitely owns a PhD in funk and music of all kinds, and who helped me look like I totally kick ass here (Who knows things like Teddy Riley used a version of the arrangement of a song on another song on another album at some other time for another group I mean… not me.)