Entertainer Michael Jackson sings at half-time during the Super Bowl X XVII game between the Buffalo Bills and the Dallas Cowboys at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. The Cowboys won 52-17. (Photo: Rick Stewart /Allsport)
“Ain’t No Sunshine”
Got To Be There
Somehow at age 11, Michael Jackson was able to channel just as much soul and emotion as Bill Withers in this cover of the heartbreaking classic.
“You Can’t Win”
Michael’s one solo song from the 1978 film version of the Broadway musical was written especially for him and produced by his future mentor Quincy Jones. In the song’s closing fans were treated to a rare glimpse at MJ’s impressive lower register.
“I Can’t Help It”
Off the Wall
Composed by Stevie Wonder, “I Can’t Help It” is one of Michael’s coolest, most soulful songs. It’s also a favorite source for samples for artists like De La Soul and Mary J. Blige.
“Burn This Disco Out”
Off the Wall
One of Michael’s best and most enjoyable dance songs is “Burn This Disco Out”. Why it was never released as a single we’ll never know.
“Baby Be Mine”
This second track off of Thriller is probably the least well-known of the blockbuster album’s mere nine songs. But its bouncy beat and infectious vocals should have made it a classic single.
“The Lady In My Life”
MJ was never particularly famous for overtly sexual songs, but this ballad could easily go toe-to-toe with the best of Al Green and Marvin Gaye.
“Say, Say, Say” with Paul McCartney
Pipes of Peace
Although a number one hit in 1983 for six weeks, this collaboration between the King of Pop and the former Beatle is often overshadowed by their classic Thriller duet “The Girl Is Mine”.
“State of Shock” with Mick Jagger
Originally conceived and recorded as a duet with his close friend and Queen front man Freddie Mercury, this overlooked top 10 hit was one of two MJ contributions to his brief but successful Jacksons reunion album and tour, Victory.
“Another Part of Me”
Featured in his elaborate 3-D Disney film Captain EO, this fast-paced funky track failed to crack the top 10, but has since gone on to become a cult classic.
“Leave Me Alone”
Michael cleverly poked fun at his eccentric tabloid persona while at the same time pleading for privacy in this final track off his wildly successful Bad album. The song’s video (pictured above) uses innovative illustration to capture the circus that surrounded MJ for most of his adult life.
“Who Is It?”
One could argue that the whole Dangerous album qualifies as underrated, but we digress. This single, with it’s haunting, dread filled lyrics and delivery is worthy of rediscovery.
“They Don’t Care About Us”
HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I
Quite possibly the most controversial song Michael ever composed (lyrics accused of being anti-Semitic were excised in later versions) was an attack on all prejudice and featured a hard-hitting music video (pictured) directed by Spike Lee.
“Blood On the Dance Floor”
Blood On the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix
A favorite on MJ aficionados, this late 90s-jam has all the hallmarks of Michael’s best dance songs and yet it’s not played remotely as often as his better known hits.
Michael’s last top 20 single was a lovely throwback ballad that showed off his still incredible vocals. Sadly, it would be one of the last official solo songs released in his lifetime.
“Whatever Happens” with Carlos Santana
This collaboration with the legendary guitarist puts many others to shame. Michael’s vocals are impeccable on this unjustly overlooked gem from his last album.
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It’s hard to believe that 5 years ago today, we lost the King of Pop, Michael Jackson.
Even the most casual music fan is familiar with classic MJ songs like “Beat It,” “Billie Jean” and “Thriller.”
Since he is arguably the biggest act in pop music history, you’d think it’d be hard for any part of his music catalog to go by relatively unnoticed — but you’d be wrong.
Some of MJ’s greatest songs have remained unsung for decades. TheGrio has compiled a list of our favorite MJ tracks that have managed to float under the radar for years.
You can check out Kyle’s musical coverage on theGrio music page and follow Kyle on Twitter @HarveyWins.