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Michael Jackson's Top 20 Singles: Part One

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Last week, to commemorate his incredible contribution to pop music, we asked you to select your five favourite Michael Jackson singles. Well, voting is now closed and the votes have been counted. Before we reveal all, here are some titillating titbits about your top 20: they span the years 1969 to 1995; a whopping 14 of them became US No.1 singles, and there's no room for 'They Don't Care About Us' or 'Scream'.


20. Rock With You
Album: Off The Wall (1979)
UK chart: #7 US chart: #1

Fusing classic Motown influences with a seventies disco groove, the effortlessly sensual 'Rock With You' remains a dancefloor favourite to this day. It initially appeared as the follow-up single to 'Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough', a world-class one-two that found Jackson taking his first major steps towards becoming a pop superstar. [DB]


19. Can You Feel It
Album: Triumph (1980)
UK chart: #6 US chart: #77

On which the Jacksons take a kitchen sink approach to disco, chucking horns, cowbells, mock-operatic harmonies, Chic-style guitar licks and pleas for unity ("All the children of the world should be loving each over wholeheartedly") over a bassline that won't take no for an answer. Fair dues, it worked. [NL]


18. Ben
Album: Ben (1972)
UK chart: #7 US chart: #1

Jackson's first US No.1 may be as saccharine as a kilo of Sweet 'N Low, but it manages to be pretty touching with it - no mean feat for a song about a rodent. Fact: the young Michael kept rats as pets until he discovered that the fathers eat their young, an unsurprising U-turn given his own daddy issues. [MN]


17. ABC
Album: ABC (1970)
UK chart: #8 US chart: #1

Little Michael took the lead as the Jackson 5 scored their third US No.1 in a row. His "shake it, shake it baby" breakdown hinted at a more raucous future, but 'ABC' now acts as a timely reminder of simpler, more innocent times for the King Of Pop. [AF]


16. I'll Be There
Album: Third Album (1970)
UK chart: #4 US chart: #1

After the Jackson 5 scored a hat-trick of US No.1s with uptempo pop tunes ('I Want You Back', 'ABC', 'The Love You Save'), Motown bigwig Berry Gordy decided it was time for a ballad. The result? This touching declaration of mutual solidarity, on which Michael's boyish vocals dovetail with the more manly tones of older brother Jermaine. [NL]


15. Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'
Album: Thriller (1982)
UK chart: #8 US chart: #5

There are loads of reasons to love this Thriller album peach: the classic MJ ad libs, the truly bizarre disses ("You're just a buffet, you're a vegetable"), those irrepressible "mama-se-mama-sa-mama-ku-sa"s. Then there's the fact that it's so funky it could get something started anywhere there's feet, a clear space and a means to play music. [NL]


14. Blame It On The Boogie
Album: Destiny (1978)
UK chart: #15 US chart: #54

It's become a fixture at seventies retro bars, hen nights and wedding discos, but 'Boogie' endures as a stone cold disco classic. Though it stalled at #48 in the US upon its original release, it's aged far better than most Jackson family hits. All together now: "Don't blame it on the sunshineā€¦" [AF]


13. I Want You Back
Album: Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5 (1969)
UK chart: #2 US chart: #1

The Jackson 5's Motown debut and the first in a run of four consecutive US No.1s, 'I Want You Back' features an eleven-year-old Michael eclipsing the barbershop harmonies of his brothers and the intricately-layered backing track. The result is one of the most enduring pop singles of the sixties. [MN]


12. Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough
Album: Off The Wall (1979)
UK chart: #3 US chart: #1

After some middling solo singles, Jackson's self-penned debut for Epic exploded like a burst of swirling technicolour in a world of monochrome. Lenny Henry once cheekily joked that ecstasy was "a drug so strong it makes white people think they can dance" - and you could well say the same about 'Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough'. [MN]


11. Bad
Album: Bad (1987)
UK chart: #3 US chart: #1

One of the few moments on Bad to live up to the expectations raised after Thriller, the hit title track combined vintage Quincy Jones funk with Jackson at his most vocally aggressive. Sexier and more dangerous than anything he'd done before, it found the singer breaking new territory yet again. [AF]



> Click here to find out which MJ singles made the top ten

Song commentaries by David Balls, Alex Fletcher, Nick Levine and Mayer Nissim

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