Today, 29 August, marks what would have been Michael Jackson’s 52 birthday. Initially we wanted to do 52 videos, however, copyright permissions on YouTube mean that we can’t use his back catalogue of videos. Instead, here are a selection of Michael Jackson music videos with the best and most influential moves, moments and dance routines…
Note: Because YouTube does not allow embedding of some official videos we’ve used videos from other sources – apologies if sponsored messages interrupt your viewing.
Heavily influenced by the Sharks vs Jets fight in A West Side Story, Beat It didn’t just draw attention to gang violence, it used genuine gang members as backing dancers.
Why does it get the first mention in this list? Because unlike Thriller (coming up), Beat It‘s opening bars, syncopated snare rhythm and guitar solo from Eddie Van Halen makes it fast paced, upbeat and exciting. Next time you hear it in public, expect something like this to ensue…
Thriller was, and is, the video that started it all for features length music videos, especially for Michael Jackson. At 14 minutes it wasn’t just a music video but a short screenplay. The iconic group sequence was choreographed by Michael Peters, who choreographed Beat It, but what doesn’t make it ‘as good’ in our opinion is Quincey Jones’ downbeat bassline isn’t so good for the dance floor.
The influence of the Thriller dance has become part of popular culture (zombie arms, argh!) replicated by many, usually badly, like in wedding videos or Bo Selecta’s interpretation, although the viral internet video of an entire Philipino correctional facility dancing Thriller appears to be one of a few to get people’s sentiments spot on…
It’s hard luck the Bad video used in Moonwalker isn’t officially available on YouTube otherwise you’d see some real bad (not ‘bad’ meaning bad, but ‘bad’ meaning good) young dancers and a young Wesley Snipes making an appearance. In the kiddy version, Jermaine Jackson Jr. was one of the dancers.
There’s only one way to start a 1930s jukebox at a speakeasy: flick your dime into it from across the room!
Subject to patents being filed to produce those shoes (click here to see the US Patent), Smooth Criminal was another video that was part of the Moonwalker film with the debut of the gravity defying lean. Four versions of the Smooth Criminal video exist, but the full version from the film is the complete and best – the lean, the “Annie are you OK?” interlude and an additional two lines of verse.
Remember the Time
Since his stand up comedy attacks directed at Michael Jackson its confusing to see a role from Eddie Murphy in this video, nevertheless, Michael gets revenge, so to speak, by stealing his queen.
Remember the Time featured an ensemble of dancers doing Egyptian style dancing with some lite tutting, gold satin costumes, and a handful of cameos, including Magic Johnson. Cameos were to become a staple of Michael Jackson’s videos in the future.
It doesn’t go without saying there are a lot of videos missing from this list. However, as explained above, due to distribution rights not all videos can be included. Although the list has focuses on group dance routines, here’s what else we would have put:
Billy Jean: The Moonwalk (the backslide) makes a debut. Enough said!
Ghosts: Like a 1990s Thriller, the video for Ghosts featured a moonwalking Michael Jackson skeleton. At 39 minutes long, no video service will stream a video that long to your computer!
Scream: Is it an MJ song? Is it not? Scream was a banging swing song about stress with brother and sister hooking up and a visually amazing and equally expensive video.
What else do you think should have made the list? You can leave a comment in the box below.