Though Michael Jackson died too soon, his musical legacy lives on. Everyone knows “Beat It” and “Billie Jean,” but if you scour his albums, you’ll find a bunch of forgotten gems that are worth another listen. Enough, in fact, to compose a list of the 10 best Michael Jackson songs you’ve never heard.
I’m using two criteria for inclusion on this list: First, the song did not appear on one of Michael’s three blockbuster solo albums, which nearly everyone has heard (Off the Wall, Thriller, Bad). Second, the song was either never released as a single or was released as a single but failed to crack the top 40. Not many Michael Jackson songs fit the latter description, but keep reading and you’ll discover a few that did.
Here are the ten best Michael Jackson songs you’ve never heard presented from ten to one.
The 10 Best Michael Jackson Songs You’ve Never Heard:
10 Blood on the Dance Floor (1997)
The title track from Michael’s under-the-radar 1997 remix album, “Blood on the Dance Floor” deserved a better fate than its #42 peak on the U.S. singles chart. Jackson’s vocals during the chorus are a bit hard to understand, but the driving beat makes it a dance floor favorite. The music video is one of the most stylish Michael made in his later years.
9 One Day in Your Life (1975)
Recorded when he was 15, “One Day in Your Life” was a minor hit from Forever, Michael, the singer’s last album for Motown. The sensitive ballad actually hit #1 in the U.K., becoming the singer’s first chart-topper there. It’s the one song from Jackson’s pre-Off the Wall days that deserves recognition as one of the 10 best Michael Jackson songs you’ve never heard.
8 This Time Around (with Notorious B.I.G.) (1995)
After being investigated for child molestation, an angry Michael Jackson emerged on his album HIStory. That was nowhere more evident than on the Dallas Austin-produced “This Time Around,” when he defiantly sings “I’m taking no sh*t.” Rapper Notorious B.I.G. adds a brilliantly paranoid verse about his phones being tapped that fits the song perfectly.
7 Morphine (1997)
“Morphine” was a total departure for Michael, a hard-hitting rock song with searing guitars and effects that one critic even compared to Nine Inch Nails. The lyrics describe casual drug use, and lines like “There’s no need to dismay/ Close your eyes and drift away” are eerie to listen to now, given the manner of Michael’s death. Though the song was released in 1997, many of the words sound like a conversation Jackson’s real-life doctor may have had with him when he administered the fatal drugs that night in 2009. Creepy, but worthy of being one of the 10 best Michael Jackson songs you’ve never heard.
6 Smile (1995)
This song, composed by Charlie Chaplin in 1936 as an instrumental, was said to be Michael Jackson’s favorite song of all-time. Michael’s recording of it, mostly overlooked until after his death, appeared as the last track on the 1995 album HIStory. His brother Jermaine’s performance of the song was one of the most emotional moments of Michael’s funeral.
5 Don’t Walk Away (2001)
Much of Jackson’s 2001 album Invincible felt like a tired rehash of his earlier material, but the few songs that stood out were the smooth R&B ballads, notably “Speechless,” the top-15 hit “Butterflies” and this sweet song, which Jackson co-wrote with producer Teddy Riley and others. “Don’t Walk Away” finds Jackson rediscovering the soulful vocals that highlighted the best of his early work.
4 Whatzupwitu (with Eddie Murphy) (1993)
In 1993, any musician would’ve killed to work with Michael Jackson, but it was comedian Eddie Murphy who snagged the King of Pop for this track from Murphy’s album Love’s Alright. The song is lightweight lyrically, with lines about flowers growing and rivers flowing and a chorus that merely repeats the song title. But the joyous melody, children’s choir and Jackson’s strong vocals make it a fun listen.
3 Stranger in Moscow (1995)
Another HIStory track, “Stranger in Moscow” conveyed the loneliness Jackson felt while touring in that city during the 1993 child abuse allegations. The lyrics describing his “swift and sudden fall from grace” were some of the most personal Michael had ever written. The haunting ballad was one of the most critically-acclaimed tracks of the second half of Jackson’s career.
2 Hold My Hand (with Akon) (2008)
Jackson continued recording after his last proper album was released in 2001. Many of those songs might be good enough to appear on a list of the 10 best Michael Jackson songs you’ve never heard, but few of those recordings have seen the light of day. One that did surface was this 2008 collaboration with R&B hitmaker Akon. The pleasant, mid-tempo ballad was supposed to appear on an upcoming album by either Jackson or Akon but so far has not been officially released.
1 Give in to Me (1991)
“Give in to Me” was a top ten hit throughout Europe but was never released in America. The track from Dangerous was supposed to be a single here, but after Michael ad-libbed a portion of “Who Is It” during his 1993 interview with Oprah Winfrey, that song was chosen as the single instead. A rock song in the same vein as “Dirty Diana,” “Give in to Me” features a powerful vocal performance from Jackson and a wicked guitar solo from Slash of Guns N Roses, making it the best Michael Jackson song you’ve never heard.
10 Best Michael Jackson Songs You’ve Never Heard: Honorable Mention
2 Bad (Refugee Camp Remix)
Is It Scary
10 Best Michael Jackson Songs You’ve Never Heard: Sources