If any single song signaled that Michael Jackson's legacy as one of the top pop artists of all time would be secure, it was "Billie Jean." The song remains a pop milestone and masterpiece. It was written by Michael Jackson and produced by Quincy Jones. Inspired by a real life experience in which Jackson was accused of fathering a baby of one of his fans, the slight sense of paranoia, instantly memorable bass line, and Michale Jackson's trademark vocal yelps and hiccups combined to make "Billie Jean," the second single from Thriller, a keystone in Michael Jackson's career. It spent seven weeks at the top of the pop singles chart in 1983.
It had been four years since the album Bad generated five consecutive #1 singles and some in the music industry wondered if Michael Jackson would maintain his commercial clout when Dangerous was released in 1991. All of those questions were soon answered as the lead single "Black Or White" became the second biggest hit single of Michael Jackson's career staying at #1 or seven weeks. All stops were out on celebrity participation with Guns 'n Roses' Slash contributing a guitar solo and Home Alone's Macaulay Culkin starring in the accompanying video. The song itself is a powerful plea for racial unity.
The first time Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney teamed up on "The Girl Is Mine" in 1982 it was a smash success hitting #2 on the pop singles chart. The pair went back to the studio with Beatles producer George Martin for "Say Say Say" and the result was an even bigger hit staying at #1 for six weeks.
The album Thriller, was already a smash hit, and "Billie Jean" was an acknowledged classic. Then the third single from the album, "Beat It!," tore down any remaining walls for Michael Jackson as a recording artist. Featuring a blistering guitar solo from rocker Eddie Van Halen and accompanied by a video that tore down barriers for black recording artists at MTV, "Beat It!" was an instant hit.
7. "Bad" - 1987
The title song from Michael Jackson's Bad was the second consecutive #1 hit from the album. It was originally conceived as a duet with Prince. "Bad" was accompanied by an 18 minute short film as its music video. It only took the song six weeks to hit the top of the charts.
Michael Jackson's group with his brothers, the Jackson 5, was one of the most successful family acts of all time. They first hit the pop charts in 1969 when Michael Jackson was 11. By 1979, Jackson was a young adult, and he had not released a major solo hit in seven years. He collaborated with Quincy Jones to blend disco and contemporary R&B with vocals featuring one of the most arresting falsetto voices in pop music. "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" hit the top of the charts, and Michael Jackson's adult recording career had begun.
Singer R. Kelly wrote this song in response to his own personal difficulties. When a demo reached Michael Jackson he decided to record "You Are Not Alone" as part of his greatest hits collection HIStory. Co-produced by Kelly, the song debuted at the top of the pop singles chart, the first hit to do so in the history of the Billboard Hot 100.
"The Way You Make Me Feel" was the third #1 hit from the album Bad. Reportedly, Michael Jackson recorded the song in response to a request from his mother Katherine to record a song with a shuffling rhythm. Michael Jackson performed the song live at the 1988 Grammy Awards.