11 of the biggest musical numbers by Michael Jackson in Thriller Live
A legendary music icon of the 20th and 21st centuries, the music of Michael Jackson is immortalised in Thriller Live, a concert revue that’s jam-packed with his greatest hits.
Ever since the performer passed away in 2009, audiences have flocked to the Lyric Theatre to see his greatest hits brought to life on a West End stage in this celebratory show that’s full of energy, fun and a zest for life. Initially scheduled to run for a few months, the show’s continual run is a testament to Michael Jackson’s songs reaching out to generations and with an ever-growing fanbase, it’s unlikely to close any time soon! So, sit back and listen to some of the best songs that feature in the musical and see just how successful Michael Jackson really is.
Songs by Michael Jackson
I Want You Back
Performed alongside his brothers, “I Want You Back” was the group’s first single to be released across America and has sold over six million copies to dates. Released on 7th October 1969, Michael Jackson got his first number one single when he was just 11 years old, singing lead vocals on this Jackson 5 hit. Eventually going on to become the first chart-topping record for the Motown record label, the success of future recording artists included Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson as well as Michael’s career owes a great deal to this song.
Blame It on the Boogie
A cover version of the 1978 track coincidentally released by Mick Jackson, the Jackson 5’s rendition of “Blame It on the Boogie” went on to chart across the world from the United States to New Zealand. One of Michael Jackson’s poppier tunes, the combination of easy to perform dance moves as well as its uptempo beat made for a song that was destined to go down in the history books. Since the Jackson 5’s cover, other artists have gone on to put their own spin on the song including Westlife as well as a solo performance by Michael’s brother, Jermaine.
Released on 3rd July 1983, the inspiration for “Human Nature” came from Steve Porcaro, a keyboard player who worked closely with Michael Jackson on some of his earliest hits as a solo performer. A swinging, soulful ballad, the song stands out in the King of Pop’s repertoire as a heartfelt ballad. The song’s chord progressions are sampled on later tracks, notably “Right Here (Human Nature Remix” by SWV in 1992 that went on to the number 2 position in the charts.
Rock with You
One of Michael Jackson’s disco tracks, “Rock With You” got to number one on charts in the United States and Spain. Initially, the song was offered as a solo track for Karen Carpenter of The Carpenters fame, however the song was finally given to the male performer, who was able to put his own poppy flair to the number. With a music video full of sequins and lasers, it’s no wonder that this song stands out and gets everyone up on their feet.
P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)
Recorded with James Ingram who quoted that working with Jackson was like being with The Wizard of Oz, “P.Y.T” is one of the quickest songs in Jackson’s repertoire, with a pulsating rhythm of 126 beats per minute. Released on 19th September 1983, it was one of many songs released as a single from the album Thriller, which also featured “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin”. Although the record was never performed live by Michael Jackson, it gained notoriety as one of his successful hits, with artists including Kanye West sampling this track for their own records.
A dance-rock track, “Beat It” won Michael Jackson two Grammy Awards for record of the year and best male rock vocal performance. In the music video, gangsters are brought together through the mediums of song and dance, in a catchy and compelling number that you can’t help but listen to on repeat. Wearing one of his iconic red jackets, “Beat It” catapulted Jackson into superstardom, allowing him to pursue a versatile musical career where he could do as he wished in the performing world. Reaching the number one spot in music charts over six countries, it’s no surprise that this song has caught the attention of many, with groups such as Fall Out Boy covering the track.
One of the most iconic tracks by the King of Pop, everyone has listened to “Smooth Criminal” at least once in their life. With an equally iconic music video to boot, sporting Jackson in an all white suit or supposedly leaning against gravity, it’s no surprise that this song has hailed as one of the most visionary, striking musical performances by him. Reaching number one in 4 countries, the song features the memorable line “Annie, are you OK?” as the song is about a woman who has been attacked in her apartment by a supposedly smooth criminal. Yet, with jazzy undertones and an alluring sound, “Smooth Criminal” has reached platinum status selling over 2 million records, and went on to win best music video at the 1989 Brit Awards.
Man in the Mirror
A gentle, gospel number, “Man in the Mirror” encourages listeners to make a change and do the right thing, asking people to do good towards each other and themselves. Throughout the music video, you’ll be able to see clips of inspiring people throughout recent history including Martin Luther King and Mother Teresa as he sings in this inspiring number, yet does not feature in the music video himself to take the impetus away from him and onto doing good deeds in society. Peaking at number 1 in the United States, “Man in the Mirror” received a Grammy award nomination for record of the year, but was beaten to the title by Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”.
They Don’t Care About Us
One of Michael Jackson’s most controversial songs, “They Don’t Care About Us” was released in 1996 and directly tackles societal gaps and abusing human rights. With music videos recorded across poorer regions of Brazil, the song illuminated how people have been treated in previous regimes, with a music video shot in a prison highlighting flaws in the judicial system. There are issues that the lyrics in this song are anti-semitic, yet Jackson rebutted this claims saying that his language was not derogatory. Listen to the song and decide for yourself!
Nearly called “Not My Lover”, the world first saw the one white-gloved Michael Jackson perform his signature moonwalk dance move when he sung “Billie Jean” live on television. One of the six singles released to promote the 1982 Thriller album, the success of “Billie Jean” helped the album to become the bestselling album (beating The Eagles greatest hits album by over six million copies) and indeed the bestselling single of the 20th century. Reaching number 1 in 11 countries, the song is hailed as one of the greatest records of all times and was covered by Kanye West in 2008.
From that legendary dance to the zombies that creep throughout the music video, compiling a list of Michael Jackson’s greatest hits wouldn’t be complete without “Thriller”. The song won 3 MTV music awards with its stunning ability to draw audiences in, as the horror-themed performance set the song apart from the rest. Hailed as a groovy, funky song, the music video has influenced the way popstars present their music through cinematography, with the MTV Video Vanguard Award renamed to the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award as a testament to his creative flair.