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Michael Jackson's Top 20 Singles: Part Two

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Right, now it's time for the really big tunes. But before we continue, here's a fascinating fact - every one of your top ten is currently inside the UK top 40.


10. You Are Not Alone
Album: HIStory (1995)
UK chart: #1 US chart: #1

Accompanied by a video in which a near-naked Jacko frolicked with his then-wife Lisa Marie Presley, it's not hard to see why some found 'You Are Not Alone' that bit too sickly sweet. But icky or not, this R Kelly-penned slow jam still went on to become a transatlantic No.1 in 1995. [DB]


9. The Way You Make Me Feel
Album: Bad (1987)
UK chart: #3 US chart: #1

The Bad album found Jackson singing about a dogged groupie ('Dirty Diana'), a woman being attacked in her apartment ('Smooth Criminal'), and his plight to make the world a better place ('Man In The Mirror'), but 'The Way You Make Me Feel' showed he could still craft a simple, joyous pop tune. Top notch "tee hee!"s to boot. [NL]


8. Dirty Diana
Album: Bad (1987)
UK chart: #4 US chart: #1

Rumours at the time suggested it was inspired by Jackson's alleged affair with Diana Ross, but the man himself insisted that 'Dirty Diana' was written about a groupie. Whatever its origins, this hard-edged nugget from the Bad album found MJ at his stadium-packing best. [DB]


7. Earth Song
Album: HIStory (1995)
UK chart: #1 US chart: Not released

Probably one of his most polarising moments, 'Earth Song' saw Jackson take on a God-like persona as he preached - with impassioned "oooh"s and "aah"s - for us to embrace humanity and the environment. It may not have convinced Jarvis Cocker, but the million-plus Brits who bought the single over Christmas '95 were certainly sold. [DB]


6. Black Or White
Album: Dangerous (1991)
UK chart: #1 US chart: #1

Thanks to a killer guitar riff from Slash, an amusing video cameo from Macaulay Culkin and a cracking MJ vocal performance, 'Black Or White' became more than just a punchline upon its 1991 release. One of Jackson's most conventional rock singles, it was a highlight of his somewhat patchy Dangerous album. [AF]


5. Smooth Criminal
Album: Bad (1987)
UK chart: #8 US chart: #7

Great pop music is often about mounting tension followed by an ecstatic release - and there's no better example than 'Smooth Criminal'. Jackson sets aside his usual boyish singing range here, opting instead to rap in violent, rasping fashion, before cutting loose on the thrilling, whoop-filled finale. [MN]


4. Beat It
Album: Thriller (1982)
UK chart: #3 US chart: #1

Not only is this a fight song that actually tells you to run away, but it's also a pioneering pop single that rewrote pre-existing definitions of black and white music. Crowned by a squealing guitar solo from an unpaid Eddie Van Halen, 'Beat It' pretty much obliterates everything recorded by the decade's pompous arena rockers. [MN]


3. Thriller
Album: Thriller (1982)
UK chart: #10 US chart: #4

Overshadowed by its groundbreaking and outrageously OTT video, 'Thriller' is often overlooked as a single in its own right. With that classic synth intro, oodles of funky bass and some downright bizarre lyrics about "the thing with 40 eyes", it represents the popstar at his bombastic, restlessly creative best. [AF]


2. Man In The Mirror
Album: Bad (1987)
UK chart: #21 (1988) / #2 (2009) US chart: #1

Falling shy of the top 20 when it was first released in 1988, 'Man In
The Mirror' has since become - thanks in no small part to Diana Vickers and her claw - a reality show staple. Having gained greater poignancy since Jackson's death, it very nearly gave him a posthumous No.1 on Sunday's singles chart. [DB]


1. Billie Jean
Album: Thriller (1982)
UK chart: #1 US chart: #1

Why does 'Billie Jean' still sound so fantastic? Well, there's the iconic 30-second intro, the still-compelling melodrama of the story, the scintillating, detailed production, the astonishing MJ vocal, practically everything about the video... we could go on. Then again, production tricks and song lyrics date, but pop genius doesn't. [NL]




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

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