Back when making music videos was an art form and a must for anyone hoping for chart-topping releases, Michael Jackson took it to another level. VH1 celebrated him with a full weekend of retrospective videos and provided viewers the chance to post thoughts and memories at vh1.com. It was really worth setting the TiVO for this retrospective. I suspect there will be a rush to buy Michael’s video albums, all of which can be found on Amazon.com.
Working with directors such as John Landis and Michael Scorcese, and co-stars like Eddie Murphy, Iman, Magic Johnson, McCauley Culkin, and Bart and Homer Simpson, many of Jackson’s videos were actually like mini-movies. Here’s my top 10 list of Michael Jackson’s most inspiring videos, with the disclaimer that my top picks aren’t necessarily his most famous ones. [Note: Click on the links below to watch most of the music videos on YouTube.]
9. “Liberian Girl” (Album: Bad). This is a beautiful song which most have never heard of, with cameos by everyone from John Travolta to Olivia Newton-John, Steven Spielberg to Quincy Jones, Dan Akyroyd to Steve Guttenberg, Whoopie Goldberg to Carl Weathers, Billy Dee Williams to Paula Abdul, and that’s just the beginning of the list.
7. “Dirty Diana” (Album: Bad). One of the very, very rare pieces of Michael Jackson live concert footage (or at least simulated live concert footage!)
5. “Earth Song” (Album: HIStory, Past Present and Future, Book 1). One of his latest music projects with substance, if you can call 1995 the latest!
4. Tie between “Jam” and “Who is It” (Album: Dangerous). The former is a pristine video where Michael is at the absolute height of his dance moves–and he’s also shooting hoop with Michael Jordan and looking pretty natural doing it! The latter is sort of a greatest hits compilation of Jackson’s best moves on film, an inspiration for all who rooted for Michael through all his challenges.
3. “Leave Me Alone” (Album: Bad). Perhaps the most honest and autobiographical song Michael ever made, essentially a child-like request from the schoolyard boy to the paparazzi bullies on the playground, with a great tribute to Elizabeth Taylor in the middle of it.
2. “Smooth Criminal, Version 2” (Album: Bad). Great song and greater video, a classy, colorful and sophisticated flick with near flawless choreography and some of the more amazing moves ever seen on TV. There are those who’ve said Michael was more comfortable playing strong and masculine versions of a “Bad” guy, a monster and a criminal in his most notable films. He is at his best and most believable in this one.
1. “We Are The World” (for USA for Africa). The sheer magnitude of this project, the all-star cast of stars from the 70s and 80s, and the cause make this his #1. His charitable work didn’t stop there though, as “Heal the World” (Album: Dangerous) helped to launch his charitable foundation.
- “Black or White“ (Album: Dangerous) with the controversial (at the time) panther dance.
- “You Are Not Alone” (Album: HIStory, Book 1) with Lisa Marie Presley, the first song to ever debut at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
- “The Way You Make Me Feel” (Album: Bad), especially the nine and a half minute long version. – “Say, Say Say” with Sir Paul McCartney and “They Don’t Really Care About Us” (Album: HIStory, Pt. 2), a Spike Lee joint.
- “You Rock My World” (Album: “Invincible”) with Marlon Brando, Chris Tucker, and Michael Madsen, a really good mini-film and a nice song, but, unfortunately, this fell during the time when controversies in Michael’s icon-hood overshadowed his 10th studio album.
What are your favorite Michael Jackson music videos? What would your top 10 list be?