Arguably, the most popular male pop singer of the '80s was Michael Jackson, someone who grew into legendary status as the King of Pop. He started out his career as a child music star with his brothers before becoming the most famous Jackson sibling to move on to a singles career. His personal life was mired in controversy but his music genius cannot be denied.
Over his career, Jackson released 10 studio albums, including Thriller, which became the bestselling album of all time. He released 59 singles over his career and had a Top 10 single in four different decades, 13 of them reaching number one. Check out our list of Michael Jackson’s top 10 tracks and see where your favorites rank.
10. Human Nature
Released in 1983, “Human Nature” was the fifth single from Michael Jackson’s record-breaking hit album Thriller. The song was a ballad and was Jackson’s fifth straight Top 10 hit from Thriller, reaching seventh on the Hot 100 charts.
Heading way back into Jackson’s past, “Rock With You” was released in 1979 and was the second single off the Jackson album Off the Wall. This song was during Jackson’s disco era and was a huge hit, reaching the top spot on the Billboard pop and R&B charts.
Moving forward to the later stages of Jackson’s career, “Black or White” was from the Dangerous album, released as the first single in 1991. The song was harder than some of Jackson’s earlier music and was hugely successful. It reached the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in just three weeks, giving Jackson a number one hit in three different decades.
The follow up to the very successful Thriller album came in 1987 with Bad and the title track helped Jackson elevate his career even more. The song hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and the video was directed by legendary film director Martin Scorsese and included a then-unknown Wesley Snipes.
Another track from Bad that really helped Jackson move on from his Thriller says was the rocker “Smooth Criminal.” The song is about a woman by Annie who was attacked by a smooth criminal and peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. A fantastic cover of the song was later recorded by Alien Ant Farm.
Also from Bad was the song “The Way You Make Me Feel,” which was the third song from the album to hit the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. The song was meant to show Jackson in a lighter tone, more as a flirt than as a lover.
4. Beat It
From the Thriller album, “Beat It” was a rocking song that is known for the contributions of Eddie Van Halen on guitar. The song won a Grammy Award for Record of the Year and Best Male Rock Vocal Performance and hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 charts.
3. Billy Jean
Another major hit from the Thriller album was “Billy Jean,” the second single released from the album and is one of the bestselling singles of all time. It was two Grammy Awards and was really the song that helped Michael Jackson become the biggest pop artist in the world at the time. According to Jackson, the song is based on his view of groupies, and not actually based on a real event.
Moving back to Bad, “Man in the Mirror” was yet another number one song for Jackson as the fourth single from the album. When it comes to lyrics, this might be one of the best songs in Jackson’s career, although he didn’t personally write it. The song asks the listener to change the world by looking at what they need to fix themselves first.
It is impossible to separate the song “Thriller” from the video of the song. Directed by horror icon John Landis, the video is basically a mini horror movie where Michael Jackson and his girl are at the movies and she leaves because it is too scary. However, on the way home, he turns into a werewolf under the full moon and starts after her. It turns out to be a movie, but then when they leave, Michael turns into a zombie and the entire Thriller zombie dance starts. It is simply brilliant.