Following up from our previous run-down of the best Prince songs to rock a party with, let’s move on to the King of Pop, the late and great Michael Jackson. Besides Madonna, has there ever been another solo artist who has a seemingly endless amount of great songs that never cease to get people going? While you can never really go wrong playing “Billy Jean” or “Beat It,” perhaps the most wonderful thing about MJ is the fact that he recorded hit after hit for forty of his fifty years. So this week, we’re taking a look at those songs of his that people always seem to know, and are almost happier to hear than the more obvious standards.
“Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough”
Talk about a way to kick off a solo career. Starting off smoothly with some funky but quiet bass and soft vocal coaxing, within seconds you’ve got a disco monster that will tear up literally any dance floor. As joyous of a song as there is, the tight and unbelievably catchy instrumentation provides the perfect bedrock for a young Jackson to run wild without going overboard. This is a number that truly will melt any anti-disco fanatic’s heart in no time.
“Wanna Be Startin’ Something”
There’s a reason you always seem to hear this song blasting out of cars summer after summer. One of those rare 80s jams that truly seem to get better with age, everything, it’s those stuttering shakers that always manage to move one’s behind. Though this registers as one of the more restrained vocal takes of a truly outstanding talent, this has just one of those instrumentals that can’t be ignored. And with the choir shouting “yeah, yeah” throughout, well, it just doesn’t more groovy than this song.
Probably the best thing to ever come out of Jackson’s infamous Moonwalker movie, this is one of those overlooked anthems that took a band like Alien Ant Farm to reignite public interest. But whether or not you get images of the death-defying choreography that accompanied this song’s video, its smooth-as-funk bass line is always impossible to deny the track’s ability to get people moving all over the place. And if you can get a whole room doing the dance to this song, all the better.
“P.Y.T” (Pretty Young Thing)”
One of the few deep cuts from Thriller, the 80s disco vibes on this track are just too infectious to deny. And while it might be the bass line that gets people moving, as soon as Michael works his way to belting out the chorus, it’s always guaranteed that people will be singing along in no time.
Now for the slow jam portion to round out our program. While it’s hard to call any song off of Thriller “overlooked,” this is arguably one of Jackson’s best ballads as he coos and harmonizes over a backing track that is as heavy as it is light and heavenly. Always a great wedding song and a choice jam to play whenever you want to get people in a certain mood.