Most of today’s news is covering the events and performances that took places at the MTV Video Music Awards last night, but I feel that it’s important to take time to remember the man who made music videos the creative art form that it is today — Michael Jackson. Off stage he always appeared to be this shy little boy, but if you put a microphone in front of him he transformed into the world’s greatest performer. The legendary singer wowed us with his ground-breaking videos that became short stories with developed plots, interesting characters, and let’s not forget about those incredible dance moves. In honor of what would have been the King of Pop’s 53rd birthday (which fittingly falls right after the VMAs), I wanted to celebrate his musical contributions to the world by providing his top 5 music videos. Of course, we all know that there are several more that could be listed, but these are my particular favorites that never fail to get me off the couch and dancing around my small NYC apartment. Happy Birthday MJ!
5. Beat It
Always trying to make the world a better place, Michael used this song as a way to warn people about the dangers of gang violence. Fighting is never the solution and can lead to dangerous consequences, so just heed Michael’s words because “It doesn’t matter who’s wrong or right, just beat it!” And of course, that iconic red jacket became just one of many popular fashion statements.
4. Smooth Criminal
Always famous for the stories in his videos, Michael decided to tell the story of a girl being “struck down” by an assailant. Strutting around a 1930’s nightclub, dressed in a classic white suit, Jackson pulled out some of his most impressive dance routines. The quick, sharp moves leave you always wondering: how did he do that? And of course let’s not forget about that spectacular gravity lean that had kids (including myself) falling to the floor trying to imitate that truly phenomenal dance move.
3. The Way You Make Me Feel
Every guy can relate to the power a woman can have over him, but not everyone can pull off such impressive dance moves while lamenting about it. As Michael tried to win this girl’s affections, he undoubtedly won ours over and left us wanting more. Even though gyrating and thrusting in front of a woman in a back alley may seem a little, well, creepy, he made the girls go wild and wish he was pursuing them. While MJ was known for inappropriately grabbing himself during many of his videos, audiences couldn’t help but go crazy for it. It was different; it was scandalous; it was fantastic.
2. Billie Jean
Michael knew more than anyone the about ups and downs of being famous. The constant adoration may sound nice, but with it came the lack of privacy, the constant judgment, and the stalkers. This song told the story of a girl who claimed that Michael is the father of her child, which he denied by saying “the kid is not my son.” I remember thinking how cool it was when the floor lit up wherever he stepped. He was always thinking of new, creative ways to attract our eyes to his talented feet. And of course he practically stole the show during the 1983 Motown 25th Anniversary when he debuted his infamous moonwalk for the first time while performing this song. He really made history that night.
A horror story and dance party all rolled into one — this song was (and still is) constantly played at dances, parties, weddings, and everything in between. Everyone knew the dance steps and wanted to become zombies too. Yes, the world fell in love with Michael and his work helped to inspire our current pop artists and make them into the performers they are today including Usher, Chris Brown — the list goes on and on. Artists wanted to be him, fans wanted to know him, and much like his little zombie friends in this video — his memory and impact on the world will never die.