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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.


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.

So as you may or may not be aware, I throw a now yearly event called “Michael Jackson is Still Alive” at U Street Music Hall. That being said, it’s safe to assume that my love of Michael Jackson runs pretty deep. At the age of four, Thriller was both my first 12″ full album and my first cassette. As I’ve matured, Michael’s songs have always been there for comfort and solace. In college, I learned as a DJ that Off the Wall is three million times superior to Thriller on a production level, “Off the Wall” and “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” providing me advice that got me through four frigid Providence College winters. But my favorite Michael song? Easy. His last major R & B hit, “Butterflies,” from 2002’s Invincible. It’s outstanding. It’s co-written by Marsha Ambrosius, a R & B singer/songwriter par excellence and, after having met her in person at a Record Pool party at U Hall, one of the most beautiful women in the world, inside and out. Michael gives her song (which reflects the same universal beauty of the songwriter) the vocal respect it deserves. It’s a plaintive two-stepper about the tumult of love at first sight, and the radiant glow that it causes someone to have. At a time when people earnestly believed that Michael Jackson had lost his magic as a performer, he conveys with one in a million precision the most exquisite of emotional connections. In the clutch, the greats always deliver.
  • JULIAN VU (BYT Photog)
I Wanna Be Where You Are — MJ’s reach was truly universal. I was traveling through Vietnam at the time that “This is it” came out in theaters. I saw it in a Vietnamese theater, and even 5,000 miles around the world from the states, there was this genuine outpouring of love from all the moviegoers in the form of singing along from every person in that theater, as well as a downright sadness toward the end of the film. If I could pick any song MJ put his hands on, it’d be Jackson 5’s “Dancing Machine”, though I get the feeling that has more to do with the sick bassline than anything else. There really are so many gems in the MJ canon that choosing one song really isn’t fair, but if anything sums up his legacy, it’d be “I wanna be where you are.” Something about the line ‘please don’t close the door to our future’ really resounds within me, perhaps hinting that his legacy not only live in his music, but beyond the grave.  You really gotta give it to the guy for where his presence is felt; not just in music but in video games and REVITALIZED Epcot Center attraction too!
  • DEB GREENSPAN (Resident BYLadyGay)
Thriller — Duh. For no mere mortal can resist the evil of the thriller. That and when I was an aspiring tap dancer at age 7 or 8, all the oldest dancers in my dance school got to put on Spanish moss and lurch around the stage to it. I thought it was pretty much the coolest thing I had ever seen.
  • MICHAEL ANDREW HARRIS (of Laughing Man)
Just A Little Bit of You — My favorite mj song is a tune called “just a little bit of you”. It’s from the album forever, michael. I love the song cause it captures him in that mid point vocally btwn the child star and the king of pop. It’s definitely a bubble gum song but Michael’s energy is so infectious. It sounds like him at his happiest time.
  • KAITLIN MURRAY (1/2 of the BROS formerly known as BROADS)
Can You Feel It — Even though he was still in The Jacksons, I have to pick “Can You Feel It” as one of my absolute favorite Michael Jackson songs.  The disco-funk-pop back beat (I see you, Madonna), the hopelessly-optimistic-about-humanity lyrics (which he co-wrote with Jackie Jackson), the way MJ wails on the chorus, the ridiculous but PERFECT big budget music video – “Can You Feel It” is all things MJ and encapsulates his transition from Jacksons group member to future King of Pop.
Thriller — My most tangible recent memory of MJ is the night he died. I was sitting on the back porch of Josh Read’s house (The Deadmen/Revival) with his wife Laura and our friend Betsy Wright (Fire Tapes, Child Ballads). We were talking about our favorite Thriller songs, trying to convince each other which one was the best, and i pulled out my iphone and started playing them. Josh left at that point, and the 3 women were left- laughing, telling stories of our MJ school girl crushes. When ‘Billie Jean’ came on, one of us jumped up and started dancing. Eventually the three of us were standing there, shaking our bodies on a hot summer night to “Thriller”