My Top 10 80s Songs of All Time #5
On May 16, 1983, as I approached my 10th birthday, I saw something on live TV that I was convinced wasn’t real. I was absolutely sure that it was some kind of weird science fiction TV magic, and it blew my nearly 10 year old mind like it had never been blown before. But more on that later.
#5 on my list is from an artist that, maybe more than any other artist on my list, is universally recognized as one of the most talented artists of the last 50 years. If I had to guess, I’d say that we’d all agree that an 80s top ten list without this artist on it just doesn’t count.
Michael Jackson was born on August 29, 1958. He was the seventh of the Jackson family and actually began his entertainment career as part of the Jackson 5 in 1964. But it was the success of his 1982 album Thriller that cemented him as a bonafide superstar and confirmed him in my mind as an 80s phenomenon.
Trying to decide which of Michael Jackson’s songs to include on my list was quite a daunting task. Frankly, I could do an entire top 10 of his songs alone. I can clearly remember listening to this album over and over again. Nearly every song was a totally different experience. In Beat It, he somehow blended unmistakable pop with a Hard Rock guitar lick – something that at that time was unheard of. Human Nature highlighted Jackson’s vocals with an amazingly smooth and steady tune. It may be his voice at it’s best. I’m pretty sure P.Y.T. was the first time I ever heard that cool synth-robot-voice thingy. And Thriller – I don’t think anyone’s ever understood the art of, or spent the money on, making a video like MJ did. I mean, c’mon – Flash Mobs are doing that dance 30 years later.
But my choice for #5 is Billie Jean. The thing is, it’s probably not even my favorite song off the album. That’s another post. But considering all my criteria, the choice was easy. You see, on May 16, 1983, Michael Jackson appeared on the Motown 25th anniversary special to perform his new hit Billie Jean, and that night, he unleashed the Moonwalk on planet Earth for the first time. What I clearly remember about this is that I stood up, looked around to make sure I wasn’t the only one seeing this. I was alone in my room, so yes – I was. What I remember next was trying for the rest of the night to imitate Jackson’s Moonwalk. 29 years later, I still can’t.
Jackson was a flawed man. He lived his short life in a way that I can’t understand. His issues were too numerous to count. But there’s no doubt about his genius. Thriller was the first in a long line of hit albums. But for me, it stands alone. There aren’t many albums I consider “Go To” in the sense that they are solid front-to-back, track-to-track. This one is in it’s own special way, just like MJ was. I’ve included that legendary performance, and I think it’s still MJ at his raw and amazing best. Be watching at 3:38. And yeah, I remember it lasting longer too. I’ve also linked the official music video. Enjoy.