No matter what you listen to these days, there’s no doubt that we all listened to Michael Jackson at some point in our lives. In memory of the man’s music, the writer’s of Biff Bam Pop! share their favourite Michael Jackson tunes.
Ogmios on Thriller:
I’m not entirely sure if my love for “Thriller” came from a love for the music or a love of John Landis’s landmark video. “Thriller” turned the world on its head when it came to video as an art form. It was dark; it was bleak; it was funky. Zombies danced in tandem, and a horror film became both safe and acceptable for public consumption. Even as a child I recognized its difference, its strangeness : revelation revealed in a pair of haunted, diseased, yellow eyes. Jacko was on to something, and it continued for many, many years. Despite our misgivings towards the man’s private life, he helped spawn and herald an expressive form. A form we now take for granted and largely ignore. We can’t ignore its origins, and the man will be missed for this, if nothing else.
Japer on Billie Jean:
It was 1982 and after watching Roland Orzabal’s crazed hand gestures in the video to Mad World, I was transfixed by Jackson’s eccentrically brilliant dance moves in “Billie Jean”. Wearing a striking black, form-fitted suit, every time the man took a step, the floor tile under his foot lit up with a dazzling luminosity. Immediately, it became an iconic visage. Nine years old and lost in a dream-like vista, I tried to comprehend the “girl who claims that I am the one,” understanding only the deep, mysterious groove of the song’s bass, playing as a backdrop to Jackson’s on-screen persona. For a few moments, time stood still and the only things that mattered were image and music, music and image.
Growing up, I was never an avid listener of the musician but for Michael Jackson I realize that those things, music and image and that sense of wonder I had as a child, still matter to me today. Strange, I know, but true.
Scotty G on Beat It:
I must say I was saddened by Michael Jackson’s passing. When it came to music, he was a very talented man. Love him or hate him, he influenced people, and at the end of the day, that is an important thing to achieve. It means your work meant something to someone. I was thinking of what Michael Jackson song is my favourite, and it took some time to answer the question. “Black or White” is up there because the song is just plain catchy. Take away the rap part in the middle of it, and I think it might be his best song. It’s short, it’s upbeat, and I remember it as a song from my time in Junior High School. Then I thought about when I was a kid, and I had the Thriller album on cassette [oh year – cassettes]. I was not a fan of the title track. More to the point, as a kid I was scared of the music video. Transforming into a werewolf does not go over well with young kids with overactive imaginations. But that album did have my favourite Michael Jackson song – “Beat It”.
When I was listening to that cassette, I would lip-sync it, try and sing it, practice my dance moves and my moonwalk. Yes, it’s embarrassing to write this, but no one can deny who great the song “Beat It” is. When you hear the opening part of the song, you get a little excited because you know a song that you can dance too is coming on. When I got older, I heard about Eddie Van Halen’s guitar work on the song, and how it created a rift in Van Halen, and it even caused Fall Out Boy to cover the song much much later. I said at the start that Michael Jackson influenced people, and the song “Beat It” influenced me because at a very young age, I began to appreciate music. When someone makes you want to learn more about a subject, that is always a good thing, and for that simple reason, “Beat It” is my favourite Michael Jackson song. I’m not some big celebrity or pop star, I’m just an average guy, and although I may not have achieved the greatness that Michael did in his life, it does not diminish the fact that his music played a part of me growing up. So I say thanks Michael for making me discover and love music – you will be missed.
Ian Rogers on Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough:
“Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough” was the first Michael Jackson song I ever heard when I was a kid, and to this day it still manages to get me out on the dance floor. I still can’t get enough of it.
Andy B on Wanna Be Startin‘ Somethin‘:
In August 1987 Bad hit stores. I was on a trip with my father and grandfather in Orlando, Florida. We bought the cassette there, and it hardly left the deck for the 7 days we were away. Bad wasn’t as good as Thriller, though. How could it be? It’s hard to choose just one defining Michael Jackson song. The man has one of the most solid hits discs you could ever ask for with HIStory (the single best of disc, not the crappy second disc of new material, though that one did have “Scream”, MJ’s duet with sister Janet.) For me, it has to be a toss up between “Wanna Be Startin‘ Somethin‘” and “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough”. Both of them are such remarkably funky tracks, exciting from the moment they start. There’s not a second wasted in either of them. The little guitar licks in “Don’t Stop…”; that high falsetto that carries the song. Amazing. And then “Wanna Be Startin‘ Something”, the opening shot on the Thriller album. “Mama se mama sa mama coo sa“; it doesn’t matter that I don’t know what it means. It doesn’t matter that he’s singing “you’re a vegetable”. All that matters is the groove. In a career full of amazing musical highlights, “Wanna Be Startin‘ Somethin‘” just might be Michael Jackson’s greatest moment. That and Captain EO.
Pdawg on Billie Jean:
I had the posters on my wall. I had the glove. I had the records (they were actually records back then) and I even had the red and black jacket from the “Thriller” video. In 1984 I was ten years old and there was nobody on the planet bigger than Michael Jackson. He was larger than life. A real-life superhero. He could literally float on air, take on a gang of thugs or raise the dead with his zombie powers and dance moves. Now he’s gone…but truly, he’s been gone for many years. The image on the screen in subsequent years just didn’t look or act the same. Gone were the warm, child-like eyes and kind smile. In their place, a scared, confused and increasingly introverted individual who covered-up his face and only appeared when necessary. Even the performances changed. He was never quite as confident as he was in 1984. Sad lose indeed. But not so much because the man that created some of the best pop music in the last 25 years is gone. It’s sad because we all hoped he would once again rise to the top, return to form and deliver one more magical performance, one more killer groove or just one more breathtaking move.
Favourite song would have to be “Billie Jean”. The groove on that song is undeniable. From the opening snap of the snare drum and the pulsating synthesiser chords that drive the melody, the song was the backbeat and heartbeat of an entire generation. Unfortunately, that heart beats no longer. RIP.