Best Michael Jackson Songs: Top 5 Tracks Most Recommended By Fans

Michael Jackson was an icon that really doesn’t need much of an introduction, but we will try our best anyway. Michael Joseph Jackson was a singer, songwriter, and dancer who revolutionized the music industry with his unique style and unparalleled talent. Known as the “King of Pop,” his influence transcended generations, and his contributions to music, dance, and fashion are still celebrated today. Michael Jackson’s impact on popular culture is undeniable, from his groundbreaking albums like “Off the Wall” and “Thriller,” which made up some of the best Michael Jackson songs of all time, to his mesmerizing dance moves. His music videos, just as trailblazing as the artist himself, also set new standards for creativity and storytelling in the industry. Despite controversies and personal struggles, Michael Jackson’s legacy as an entertainer will forever be remembered and cherished by fans worldwide.

Even today, years after the singer’s death, people are still enjoying his art. In fact, even in a recent poll examining music’s role in motivation to work out, the King of Pop’s name appeared. The survey of 2,000 Americans who exercise regularly identified the top 50 songs that respondents use as the soundtrack to their workouts. Respondents named a variety of acts from across the musical world, including ABBA, Britney Spears, RihannaThe Rolling Stones, and, of course, Michael Jackson. 

Humans aren’t the only ones feeling more active when presented with the sounds of music, however. A new study finds people may not be the only ones capable of busting a move when a catchy tune comes on the radio! Researchers at the University of Tokyo have discovered that rats can move their heads to a musical beat as well, debunking the theory that humans are the only species who can dance the night away. And while the main focus for both human and animal participants was a piece by Mozart, they also bopped their heads along to “Beat It” by Michael Jackson for extra measure. The Japanese team adds that their study provides even more insight into the animal mind than they previously had, challenging the notion that music appreciation and synchronization with rhythm are unique to humans. 

Of course, we don’t blame anyone for busting a movie over some good old-fashioned MJ. As always, we have researched across multiple expert sources to bring you today’s ranking of the best Michael Jackson songs of all time. Don’t agree with our list? No worries, we would love to hear from you in the comments down below.

Michael Jackson "Thriller" LP
Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” (Photo by Ralf Liebhold on Shutterstock)

The List: Best Michael Jackson Songs, According to Experts

1. “Billie Jean” (1983)

First up on our list is the iconic “Billie Jean.” The song tells the story of a mysterious woman named Billie Jean, who claims that Jackson is the father of her child and demands financial support. “Jackson was already a superstar after earning three solo Hot 100 No. 1s — including two from ‘Off the Wall,’ his first album for Epic — but ‘Billie Jean’ propelled the singer to a true worldwide sensation. With seven weeks at No. 1, the song perhaps most famously introduced the iconic ‘Thriller’ album to the masses,” says Billboard.

“There’s so much going on in the composition of the song, so much that comes down to not only Jackson as the songwriter but all of the studio musicians and producers who made it possible. Layers of guitar, strings, synth, and more go into the sonic stew, while the mix is textured to the point where the audio tapes should be framed and hung in a museum. ‘Billie Jean’ is a fine example of everything coming together in a way that created magic, a song that will truly live forever,” writes WatchMojo.

“Michael Jackson’s greatest song sums up all the contradictions in his music: youthful exuberance, tortured nerves, pure physical grace. As he told Rolling Stone at the time, ‘Billie Jean’ reflected on his own sexual paranoia as a 24-year-old megastar: ‘Girls in the lobby, coming up the stairway. You hear guards getting them out of elevators. But you stay in your room and write a song. And when you get tired of that, you talk to yourself. Then let it all out onstage,'” adds RollingStone.

2. “Thriller” (1984)

The next spot belongs to “Thriller,” which tells the chilling story of a nightmarish encounter with zombies, creating an iconic song that has become synonymous with Halloween. “English disco pioneer Rod Temperton wrote the title track of the world’s best-selling album and was originally called ‘Starlight.’ The song also features horror icon Vincent Price performing a tongue-in-cheek ‘rap.’ Price recorded it on his second take, after Temperton had written it in the taxi on the way to the studio,” notes SmoothRadio.

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“‘Thriller’ is considered one of Jackson’s signature songs, but only peaked at Number 10 when it was released. The mini-film music video accompanying it was the most expensive of its time, costing $500,000, and Guinness World Records listed it in 2006 as the most successful music video ever, selling over 9 million units,” comments NME.

“‘Thriller’ stands out for its mix of pop, rock, and funk. Plus, its lyrics and Jackson’s vocal range contribute to its lasting popularity. To get the most out of this song, try these tips: Listen with quality headphones to appreciate its production. Analyze its lyrics for a better understanding of its themes. Watch the music video to appreciate Jackson’s dance moves and cinematic skills. By following these ideas, you can immerse yourself in ‘Thriller’s’ brilliance and understand why it’s one of Jackson’s greatest songs,” reports Singer’s Room.

3. “Beat It” (1982)

Third on today’s ranking belongs to “Beat It.” A truly captivating and catchy song. “Jackson’s career as a solo artist was taking off in the 1980s. His 1982 release, ‘Beat It,’ helped establish him not just as a stellar musician in his own right but also as a mesmerizing performer. The music video was one of his first major successes on MTV. Meanwhile, the track itself won two Grammy Awards the following year and is considered one of the most influential songs of modern rock and roll,” explains MusicGrotto.

“‘Beat It’ represents the pinnacle of Michael Jackson’s ability to bridge the gap between musical genres. The song’s fusion of rock and pop, with its blistering guitar solos and infectious chorus, shattered barriers and became a global anthem. Collaborating with renowned guitarist Eddie Van Halen, Jackson achieved a perfect balance of energetic pop and hard rock,” raves The Review Geek.

“Eddie Van Halen was finally drafted in to add the distinctive overdriven guitar solo, but it took a couple of attempts – he initially thought the phone calls from Quincy Jones were pranks. Van Halen ended up recording the part for free,” describes NME.

4. “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” (1979)

“Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” is the next most popular pick. An iconic disco-funk song released in 1979, “Jackson called the opening track on ‘Off the Wall’ my first big chance,’ and he wasn’t kidding. Six minutes of joyous pop-funk that whooshed like a jet stream, ‘Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough’ was both an unstoppable hit and a milestone in Jackson’s creative life. It embodied Jackson’s new, hands-on approach to his music. He not only wrote it but also sang all the multi-layered backing vocals and devised the spoken intro,” writes RollingStone.

“Heading into the recording of his album Off the Wall, young adult Michael Jackson was given strong creative control over his work. He collaborated with producer Quincy Jones to craft this blend of R&B and dance beats that went all the way to #1 on the pop singles chart. It was accompanied by Michael Jackson’s first official music video as a solo artist,” says LiveAbout.

“Quincy Jones paid for himself just with the opening string arrangement; listen to how it amplifies and buttresses the groovy guitar line. But that guitar line, incidentally, was Jackson’s vision, not Jones’s; on an available demo, which Jackson is said to have recorded at home, you hear just about all the song’s power, right down to those clinking bottles. The song was a monster and a No. 1 hit, highly groovy throughout its six minutes. Jackson was proud of Off the Wall and thought it deserved more recognition at the Grammys than it got,” explains Vulture.

5. “Smooth Criminal” (1988)

Last on our list but certainly nowhere close to being least is “Smooth Criminal,” which has left generations asking, “Is Annie okay?” “With its energetic rhythm, its cinematic storytelling, and its unforgettable music video, ‘Smooth Criminal’ remains one of Michael Jackson’s most iconic songs. From the opening notes of the violin to Jackson’s effortless vocals, the track captivates listeners with its irresistible groove and mysterious narrative. The song’s infectious chorus, accompanied by Jackson’s signature ad-libs and impeccable dance moves, creates an irresistible energy that draws listeners in. The music video, featuring Jackson’s gravity-defying lean and the iconic white suit, has become a timeless symbol of his artistic prowess and attention to detail,” comments The Review Geek.

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“‘Smooth Criminal’ was the centerpiece for Jackson’s short film ‘Moonwalker’, featuring Joe Pesci. The effect in the video when Jackson and his dancers lean forward (‘Anti-gravity lean’) was achieved using special harnesses with wires and magnets,” describes NME.

“The legend of Michael Jackson is larger than life and will endure forever, but it seems as if Jackson’s songs themselves even possess this power to transcend themselves. Such is the case of ‘Smooth Criminal’ and its widescreen cinematic greatness. Jackson’s songwriting is impeccable here; the melodies and arrangements elicit goosebumps. What can we say? It’s a perfect storm,” concludes WatchMojo

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.

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About the Author

Jilly Hite

New York raised and Florida-based Jilly Hite studied screenwriting and theatre at The Lee Strasberg Institute before becoming a full time content creator and podcaster. She loves old movies, musical theatre, and her pup Ted.

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