The late, great Michael Jackson’s birthday was the 29th and we realized that we would be remiss in letting another day go by without commenting on what is likely one of the most underrated aspects of his discography: the slow jams.
Yes, when most people think of Michael they think of the incredible dancing, the amazing stage presence, his inventive videos, and those songs that just made you want to get on the floor and dance (even when you tried dancing like him and fell flat on your face…thank you, Smooth Criminal). What a lot of people don’t think of, however, is his contribution to setting the right tone for a night with your bae. While Michael didn’t have many all-and-out babymakers, he did have a lot of moodmakers; the songs that add the right amount of love to your sex playlist so you don’t seem like a hit-and-quit artists. So, in honor of The King of Pop and his contribution to the increasing population, we present his ten best slow jams (with a little help from his brothers).
1. Rock With You – Who could have a Michael Jackson playlist of any kind without including Rock With You? You know that the song is strong when the video is simply Michael grooving on a misty stage with a green laser light swirling behind him. While there is debate about whether this song is about sex or just about dancing the night away, there is no doubt that this is a love song that sneaks up on you and makes you love it.
2. Give In To Me – Most people don’t remember that this was actually a single and there was even a video to accompany it. While it isn’t in Michael’s list of chart-toppers, there is something unique about this track. It’s not his first forayer into the land of rock, but it is probably the only song where you will hear him be so commanding of a woman. Whether out exasperation that she keeps yanking his chain or just trying to get her to understand how he feels, this is a side of Michael that is rarely seen.
3. Who’s Loving You – Probably one of the best known Jackson 5 songs out there, this blues-styled song about lost love is probably the best musical weapon in any arsenal if you’re trying to rekindle romance. Admitting your wrongs while wondering if the person you’re missing is with someone else? Sounds like the perfect recipe for a make-up session to me.
4. Loving You – When we reviewed Xscape earlier this year, we mentioned that the deluxe version of the album was the better buy because it included the original versions of the remakes that was on the standard edition. This is one of those tracks that just makes you want to cuddle up on a rainy day and enjoy the person you love.
5. Got To Be There – A lot of people think that this is a Jackson 5 song, but it’s not. This actually appears on one of the solo albums that Michael did as a kid before going solo as an adult. To be fair, it does feature his brothers on background. A song about loving a person so much that you don’t want to miss out on any of the moments of their life is such an under-discussed side of love that it seems odd that young man of about 13 (actual age, not reported age) could muster the proper vocal performance for it…but we are talking about Michael Jackson here.
6. Liberian Girl – Most people would choose I Just Can’t Stop Loving You when picking a slow jam off the Bad album, but we chose this one because of the production and because of the mysterious quality that Michael add to his voice throughout the verses. I know a lot people don’t think of Michael as sexy but…this is sexy.
7. You Are Not Alone – Another song that is hard to leave out of any Michael Jackson playlist. A song written by The King of R&B, Robert Kelly, for The King of Pop could be nothing but a winner.
8. Heaven Can Wait – There are some people that think that his album was a major flop, but it went diamond within the first month of release. Part of one of the reasons why is on the strength of songs like this. Using new producers to expand his sound while maintaining the same vocal and lyrical quality, Michael Jackson has a song about turning down heaven if it means spending a minute without his baby or, even worse, her moving on without him. The perfect amount of selfish and loving, this song yearned for the full single treatment, but charted even without it.
9. I’ll Be There – Sorry, Mariah Carey, your remake of this song was good (and a record-setting charter), but nothing beats the original with the sweet tones of Michael and the older, more experienced tones of Jermaine singing about love that requires nothing more than to be supportive. Topped off with the lush harmonies of the rest of the Jackson brood, it’s no wonder that this song has stood the test of time. It’s also incredibly cute to hear Michael say Just look over your shoulders, honey!
10. Human Nature – I bet you were wondering where this song was, weren’t you? Another song that has a video that very few people remember, this song has been remade and sampled by countless artist since its release. Oddly enough, it’s the only song that I can think of by Michael that is explicitly about a one-night stand. He just makes it sound so good that you can be forgiven for thinking that you were just misinterpreting the lyrics. Incredibly sincere with no hint of anything malicious, Michael Jackson is one of the few people that could pull this off without your lover suspecting something of you.