We run this every August 29, Michael Jackson’s birthday. Celebrate the 5th annual MJ Day tonight at 9:30 Club. -ed.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY MICHAEL JACKSON! Regardless of your opinion on how he lived the tail-end of his life, there is no denying he was one of the greatest performers of his time — possibly even all time. So we at BYT set forth and asked musicians, critics, fans and friends to pick out their favorite MJ song and perhaps just write a few sentences on why it’s a favorite, or maybe reminisce on the first (or best) time they had heard it. Some, of course, didn’t follow directions but the point is clear: WE ALL LOVE MICHAEL. Don’t forget to share your moment and memory in the comments too. R.I.P.
- SEAN PEOPLES (The Fatback-iest of them ALL)
The Way You Make Me Feel — I’m 7 or 8. I’m decked out in only my undies. I pop my BAD cassette in the stereo. I would usually fast forward through the title track since the video scared the shit out of me. “The Way You Make Me Feel” starts. I think I get a broom or something because it feels right to have some sort of imaginary guitar. I lip-sing the entire song, but added in a “WOOO” or “SHESEEEEEE” when it felt right. I had my back to the door in my room the entire time. I’m an undulating little kid trying to emulate MJ. It must look ridiculous. The song ends, my mom starts cracking up. She shuts the door. I put the broom down.
- RYAN HOLLADAY (of BLUEBRAIN)
Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough — This track seemed to be the final word on disco while simultaneously pointing to what was coming next in pop music. I use the word disco lovingly. But it was almost as if MJ was driving a nail in the coffin by making the best song to ever come out of that genre. It’s still one of my all time favorites of his or of any artist.
- ANDREW BUCKET.ANDREW BUCKET (a.k.a. the Shenandoah Pixie)
Liberian Girl — I’d like to remember Michael for his video Liberian Girl. Do you know that person in your circle of friends who has a birthday party and literally everyone and their ex-wife comes and it becomes a social event (cough randy price)…. well Liberian Girl is by comparison the most boring single he had, but virtually every major celebrity is in the video, and they are just friends of his that he called, and the premise of the video is simply that these retardedly famous people are hanging out at the same place. Pretty smart.
- JOHN FOSTER (eminence gris of “BAD PEOPLE GOOD THINGS”, and very, very good at it)
Man In The Mirror — By pure chance, I happened to be at Ben’s when they announced Michael Jackson had died. The staff instantly blasted a barrage of hits and from the first note, everyone sang along. Not in somber, mournful tones – but at the top of their lungs, spinning in their seats. Every “whoo” a celebration. Every “whee” a declaration. I even sang along to “Man in the Mirror.” None of us would ever be the same.
- CALE (duh, no tagline needed)
How about some random magical MJ memories instead? — 1. Renting Thriller from Erols video in that giant red box with gray foam inserts. 2. Sitting down as a family to watch the network television premier of the Black or White video, including the weird ending, and going crazy over the morph technology special effect. 3. Driving around town the day he died hearing everyone blasting songs from their car with the windows down. 4. Snagging tickets to the MJ tribute band show before it sold out, they just happened to be playing 9:30 Club the day after he died. They weren’t even that great, but the vibe in the room was solid. 5. That weird simpsons episode where he did the voice for an MJ impersonator but then had an actual impersonator do the singing parts because he wanted to “play a joke on his brothers”. Pretty funny MJ! 6. Captain EO at Epcot – which is now back!
- PHILIPPE CHETRIT (the White Michael Jackson of DC)
Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ — This is the first track off of Thriller which is the album that changed my life, the album that had me in a white glove for a year, the album that made me invite MJ to my birthday party only to have my parents hire an impostor. I knew the difference but I didn’t care. This song has been in my regular rotation at Fatback recently – cause it feels good and is about causing trouble.
- SHONA FENNER (BYT Music Critic/Tough Girl on Campus)
P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing) — This song was on heavy rotation during my college days simply because putting your laundry away/making easy mac/taking shots of Burnett’s/colour coding your flashcards while listening makes the urge to impersonate the Prince of Pop impossible to fight. Although… my love is considerably tarnished by the memories of American Idol Season 1’s Justin Guarini trying to win hearts singing P.Y.T in a muscle tank. Let’s all keep it real and allow MJ to “take it to the max” for you hotties.
- ALAN ZILBERMAN (BYT Film Editor)
Lisa It’s Your Birthday! — In The Simpsons episode “Stark Raving Dad,” Homer gets committed and befriends a large bald man, Leon Kompowsky, who thinks he’s Michael Jackson. At the end of the episode, Leon helps Bart write a birthday song for Lisa. Like most MJ songs, “Lisa It’s Your Birthday” is infectious and effortlessly happy. The appeal of the song is twofold: this marks the beginning of my fascination with the songwriting process, and MJ’s “John Jay Smith” pseudonym let me to fool myself into liking his music.
- SVETLANA LEGETIC (BYT’s Coach Taylor)
In the Closet AND You Rock My World. I mean, I love the early, amazing MJ stuff as much as everyone else does, but these two are my favorites to dance to (and, lets face it, picking a favorite to dance to does not come as a logical decision, it comes as a gut reaction). In general I think “In the Closet” is the most under-rated Michael song with full use of Michael’s disco falsetto and killer euro-trashy sounding Eastern-ized backing vocals, plus a chance to hear him whisper (mind you, non-creepily back in 1991) things like “If it’s achy…you gotta rub it” and it is easy to see how this was initially conceived as a duet with Madonna. Plus, Naomi’s in the video, so this may as well be his “Freedom”. As far as “You Rock my World” goes, it just came at a wrong time for people to be truly ready to love it, but it marks what should have been a return to form for Michael. Just do yourself a favor and listen to it again.
- JOHN MARBLE (Marie Antoinette of the BYGAYS)
Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough — Off the Wall is a seminal pop album, and “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” was the break-out hit that moved Jackson out of the Jackson 5 and into a solo career. It’s versatility makes it one of the best songs to dance to. If you want to dance well, learn how to dance to this song. Dancing by yourself, its melody and beat makes it an easy companion to glide to, spin with, add dramatic stops-and-starts, and generally groove with ease. Dancing with a partner, the song instantly creates a sexy and flirtatious vibe. On the day of Michael Jackson’s death, I happened to be in a hold room with a few members of the Secret Service who had just finished their shift. We were talking about his death when one remarked that he had always wanted to learn how to moonwalk. So, I turned the speaker up on my iPod and played “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” as I showed the agent how.
- KELI ANAYA (BYGays Creative Director)
Thriller — Living Dead Glitter Top and… SNAP. ‘nuf said.
- MARCUS DOWLING
- JULIAN VU (BYT Photog)
- DEB GREENSPAN (Resident BYLadyGay)
- MICHAEL ANDREW HARRIS (of Laughing Man)
- KAITLIN MURRAY (1/2 of the BROS formerly known as BROADS)
- CAROLE WAGNER GREENWOOD (of ORANGE ARROW and THE BEATIN’S)