An Ode to MJ

Hey gang,

As we all know, the world lost one of the most brilliant musical minds of our time last week. Michael Jackson was a strong influence on each and every one of us in m-pact. We all have our favorite songs and the stories that accompany them, which brings me to the purpose of this blog. We thought we'd each share our 5 favorite MJ songs and a brief explanation/story as to why. Enjoy! And feel free to share yours with us!

On my 12th birthday I got my first "sony walkman" cassette player, along with my very first cassette - Michael Jackson's Thriller. I wore that album out.
Here are my top five MJ tunes:
Human Nature

Man In The Mirror

Smooth Criminal

Rock With You

5. PYT

I remember going on a mad shoe hunt with other middle school tenors, searching all over the mall for the exact magic pair of shoes slippery enough to let us moon walk like MJ for the junior high talent show. We failed miserably. Cheeky though it may be, I suppose that's when we first learned the hard way that true talent is based on heart, not sole. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)
Today I listed to "You Are Not Alone" and teared up. We'll miss you, Michael.
My favorite MJ tunes, though in no particular order:
Human Nature
Will You Be There
The Way You Make Me Feel
Man In The Mirror
Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'

As a young black lad who always sang really high, I grew up constantly being compared to Michael - and I hated it! I wanted to be my own voice/sound like ME, not like anybody else. When people told me, "wow, you sound like Michael Jackson", I would cringe. As I got older and secretly started listening to his music, I began to understand that the man was truly a genius. As a young kid, his voice was as mature as people two/three times his age. And as he grew into adulthood, his performance abilities and artistry have made me realize that, in my own adult years, I should have been been honored and humbled when people would compare the two of us...they still do...and I am.
My top 5 favorite MJ songs are:
1. PYT - I've always loved this groove, and the concept behind the lyric
2. Burn this disco out - not a hit of his, but one of my favorites: great horn riffs, and I love a good vamp!! (good job Quincy!!)
3. I can't help it - again, not a hit of his, but...he sounds great on this tune, and it's a totally different vibe for him. I'll probably cover this song some day on a solo record (or some OTHER song on "Off the Wall")
4. Remember the time - LOVE THIS TUNE. MJ has always had great BGVs on his records, that he usually sang himself. The video is fantastic too
5. Rock with you - I sing in a cover band that plays this tune a lot, and I use to think it was a cheesy attempt at pop singer trying to do something too "R & B - sounding" for his general style,, what a great tune it is, and Mike sounds great on it - and again - those BGVs!!!!! Can they be any tighter???? I sing a lot of MJ tunes, being in a cover band and all, but...this is my favorite to sing, by far.

1. Working Day and Night
i dare anyone to listen to this one and sit still!! and PLEASE listen to this one again in headphones!!

2. Who's Loving You
(Live version)
studio version is good.... but the live version, though not easy to find, is just amazing... i think he's about 12 yrs old or SO in tune!!

3. Shake Your Body
(Down to the Ground)
this one with "the jacksons" just gets me right from the intro....released just before "off the wall" and gave a hint of what he was about to do on his own!

4. The Way You Make Me Feel

something about the groove and the "swingy-ness" of the shuffle grove and the way he sits in the pocket of this one.... i always forget how much i like this one.. til i hear it again!

5. Thriller
the first time i ever remember just WAITING and WAITING for anything to be shown on TV.... that video/short film was huge... i was WAY into the "other" dancers.... the 4 guys that were "poppin and lockin"...kinda ;) i also remember buying the
cassette tape
like 5 times, since i would just wear it out. another memory of this tune is about 10 years later, playing it for my younger cousins... not realizing it would scare them and make them run from the room crying!!! ol' vincent price sure got 'em!

1. Remember the Time - I remember waiting for the debut of the video immediately following my favorite Sunday evening show of the time - The Simpsons. Him spinning into liquid gold?? Blew my mind. Eddie AND Magic AND Iman?? I now appreciate the song for the amazing groove. I also think it's a perfect example of how great his background vocals were. Velvet groove.

2. Liberian Girl - I just love the performance he gives in this one. What's that chick saying at the beginning? I dunno, "Michael, you sing the #$%* outta this song"? Maybe.... The video is weird, but the song is great.

3. Blame It On The Boogie - Ok it's a Jackson 5 song. But like Trist said earlier, it gives you a taste of what's to come from dear Michael. And it just puts me in a great mood right out the gate. You can't help but smile and at least THINK about shaking your groove thing :)

4. Burn This Disco Out - I'm with Britt on this one. Great lead, great horn hits, great backs. What else is there to say?!

5. Smooth Criminal - This was what I thought cool was supposed to be. The video is just great. Musically, I think the groove and production of the track is amazing. It also helped that they made an arcade game based on the song/video. I would go to the bowling alley by me and burn through quarters playing that game. All the sampled "hee hee"s and "ow!"s. Good times.

Michael Jackson is the first musician I remember being absolutely obsessed with. I had the MJ Trapper Keeper, lunch box, posters…you name it, I probably had it. I begged my parents to get me any People Magazine or other periodical that had articles about MJ. I would listen to the radio for hours just to hear one of the latest hits from “Thriller”. I would even set up my cassette deck to *record* the radio when I was gone just so I wouldn’t miss any MJ plays. And the videos….ohhh the videos. Life would come to a complete halt when an opportunity to watch a Michael Jackson video presented itself (which was rare for me, since we didn’t have MTV!) While Michael was undoubtedly a tortured soul who made some huge mistakes and bad decisions in life, those few magical years - when he was a larger-than-life icon who could do no wrong - are forever etched in my memory. And that’s the MJ that I will always remember.

5 Favorite MJ Songs (in no particular order):

Billie Jean – My favorite video, and also my favorite memory of his ‘live’ TV appearances (Motown’s 25th Anniversary Special)

Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ – The soundtrack to my self-choreographed solo dance number for my 6th grade talent show audition…complete with pelvic thrusts and moonwalks. Thankfully, the teachers had the foresight to save me the humiliation of actually allowing this act to make the cut. But, it wasn’t because of my moonwalk skills, which are still better than any white kid I know!

Workin’ Day and Night – Love the groove, and the horn arrangement and licks are just plain sick!

Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough – Again, the groove is ridiculously tight, and I love the production – the way all the various synth/guitar/percussion parts are revealed in various layers at the end is one of my favorite moments.

I’ll Be There – I just love this song…not sure why. Even the horribly out of tune background vocals make me smile :)


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