I got into Michael Jackson around the time I was ten years old, back in the mid-1990s. That was in the wake of the first child molestation trial and liking Michael Jackson was definitely not a cool thing to do. Especially if you were ten years old. But I didn’t care. I loved the music, loved the videos, loved the way he moved, the way he sang. I remember getting made fun by my peers when I would sing his songs or imitate his dance moves, but I didn't let it get to me. Jacko was the shit. That simple.
As I grew older I started getting really into rock music and while I continued to listen to some pop music I didn't listen to anybody on the scale I used to listen to Jacko.
Last summer I was heartbroken when I came home from work to see he had died. It was one of those rare news stories that hit me with a hard hard shock. I thought it would be fitting to put on a few songs and listen to some Jacko for the first time in awhile.
So I started listening.
And I kept listening.
And kept on listening after that.
Now, a few weeks later, I’ve sifted through most of Jackson’s solo output...and I’ve fallen hard in love with the tunes all over again.
I was thinking about writing a node going into all the intricate details of what I have to say about his life and death, but instead I think I’m gonna post a list of Five Underrated Michael Jackson Songs that I’ve rediscovered or discovered for the first time over the last few months:
Off Jackson's final album, "Invincible." "Butterflies" has Jacko taking everything good that has ever happened in 90s/early 2000s R&B and putting his own unique spin on it.
Off Jackson's 1997 part-remix/part-new songs album "Blood on the Dance Floor." Sounds like Jacko's version of a NIN song. "Morphine" hits hard, with strange sound effects deep in the mix and that quiet bridge is even more profound given the way he passed.
• "They Don't Care About Us"
Off Jackon's 1995 "HIStory" album. A vague, angry social criticism piece that might be the closest thing to a hardcore hip-hop song Jacko ever did. Jacko’s video was filmed in a part of Rio de Janeiro that made large social strides after the international notability Jacko brought to it.
• "We've Had Enough"
Off "Michael Jackson: The Ultimate Collection," released in 2004. Takes the social anger he had on "They Don't Care About Us" but “We’ve Had Enough” but takes a much more soulful, empathetic approach. Although he might be the highest profile musician to make a song against the Iraq War, "We've Had Enough" was buried on a “best of” collection and relatively ignored.
• “Human Nature”
I guess it’s hard to call a single off the world’s greatest selling album “underrated,” but I still think this one is because people don’t know it as well as “Thriller” or “Billie Jean.” There’s a certain kind of song that hits me a certain type of way. A song that hits me right in the center of the chest and makes me feel real good. I like to call these songs “heartmelters.” “Human Nature” is one of the greatest heartmelters ever.
I could go on and on with some of the great tunes I’ve rediscovered and fallen in love with again (“Jam,” “Dirty Diana,” “P.Y.T.” “Leave Me Alone.” “Wanna Be Startin’ Something,” “Rock With You”) but I thought I’d share those five deeper cuts.
It’s too bad it took his passing to get me to rediscover how incredible these songs are.
Rest in Peace Jacko. And thanks.