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50 best Michael Jackson songs of all time

  • Best Michael Jackson songs of all time
    1/ Phil Walter // Getty Images

    Best Michael Jackson songs of all time

    An influence to many of today’s artists whose legacy persists nearly a decade after his death, Michael Jackson will probably go down in history as one of the most iconic artists of all time. The facts speak for themselves: The “King of Pop” won a jaw-dropping 13 Grammy Awards and 23 American Music Awards. He wrote more than 150 songs and recorded hundreds more. “Thriller” is the best-selling album of all time, worldwide. You can’t argue with a discography like that.

    To get a sense of how impactful Jackson’s 40-year career really was, Stacker ranked his 50 best songs using data from Billboard. Rankings are sorted first by peak position on the chart, then by weeks on the chart, and then from oldest to newest.

    Read on to find out where your favorite Michael Jackson or Jackson 5 song lands on the list and discover a few lesser-known tracks that you might want to add to your next playlist.

    ALSO: Best-selling album from the year you graduated high school

  • #50. Lookin' Through The Windows
    2/ Youtube

    #50. Lookin' Through The Windows

    Artist: The Jackson 5

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 16

    Peak Date: Aug. 26, 1972

    Weeks On Chart: 10

    Though peeping in the windows of your loved one’s home might not be received well, the Jackson 5 turns the idea of “lookin’ through the windows” into a sweet sentiment in this song. Even when it feels like the “rain is gonna start,” the Jackson 5 pledges “don't you worry 'cause I'm gonna stay / Right by your side.”

  • #49. Torture
    3/ Getty Images

    #49. Torture

    Artist: The Jacksons

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 28

    Peak Date: Oct. 6, 1973

    Weeks On Chart: 13

    After the Jackson 5 stopped recording music with Motown, they released an album with CBS under the name The Jacksons. This song about the dark side of a love story was one of their big hits.

  • #48. Get It Together
    4/ Getty Images

    #48. Get It Together

    Artist: The Jackson 5

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 28

    Peak Date: Oct. 6, 1973

    Weeks On Chart: 13

    Michael and Jermaine Jackson sing alternate verses of this sassy song, which is all about telling off a date who is taking you for granted. The group croons that you better “get up off your high horse girl” or “leave it alone.”

  • #47. You Rock My World
    5/ Getty Images

    #47. You Rock My World

    Artist: Michael Jackson

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 10

    Peak Date: Sept. 22, 2001

    Weeks On Chart: 20

    This sexy song from the early 2000s has the same R&B sound as many of its contemporaries. Lyrics like “you rocked my world / you know you did” make it the perfect song for cuddling up to someone cute in the club.

  • #46. Heartbreak Hotel
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    #46. Heartbreak Hotel

    Artist: The Jacksons

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 22

    Peak Date: Feb. 14, 1981

    Weeks On Chart: 16

    The Jacksons turn heartbreak into something straight out of a horror film in this ‘80s hit. After a bad breakup, Michael walks into a room only to find every girl he’s ever loved staring back at him—definitely nightmare material.

  • #45. Corner Of The Sky
    7/ Getty Images

    #45. Corner Of The Sky

    Artist: The Jackson 5

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 18

    Peak Date: Dec. 16, 1972

    Weeks On Chart: 12

    This inspirational tune uses a metaphor after metaphor to reinforce the idea of following your dreams no matter what. If “rivers belong where they can ramble” and “eagles belong where they can fly,” where will the Jackson clan find their purpose?

  • #44. Little Bitty Pretty One
    8/ Getty Images

    #44. Little Bitty Pretty One

    Artist: The Jackson 5

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 13

    Peak Date: May 27, 1972

    Weeks On Chart: 9

    The structure of this song is fairly simple—the verse and the chorus both repeat twice—but that doesn’t stop it from resonating with listeners. The sweet love song feels especially adorable coming from the family-friendly voices of the Jackson 5.

  • #43. I Want To Be Where You Are
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    #43. I Want To Be Where You Are

    Artist: Michael Jackson

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 16

    Peak Date: July 15, 1972

    Weeks On Chart: 11

    Michael employs his stunning falsetto in this soulful love song. Like many Jackson 5 songs, the lyrics are rather simple, but its meaning is still powerful.

  • #42. Butterflies
    10/ Getty Images

    #42. Butterflies

    Artist: Michael Jackson

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 14

    Peak Date: Jan. 26, 2002

    Weeks On Chart: 20

    The hallmarks of early 2000s R&B—steady percussion, electronic synth, and breathy singing—appear in “Butterflies.” The sensual song would be right at home in a dimly lit dance club.

     

  • #41. I Am Love (Parts I & II)
    11/ Getty Images

    #41. I Am Love (Parts I & II)

    Artist: The Jackson 5

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 15

    Peak Date: March 22, 1975

    Weeks On Chart: 14

    It takes more than seven minutes to listen to the whole track of “I Am Love (Parts I & II).” That didn’t stop this slow, sensual love song from playing well with fans.

  • #40. Lovely One
    12/ Getty Images

    #40. Lovely One

    Artist: The Jacksons

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 12

    Peak Date: Nov. 15, 1980

    Weeks On Chart: 18

    Though “Lovely One” is also about romance, it has a much more energetic uptempo sound than a lot of the Jacksons’ other love songs. Perhaps that’s because it’s about the excitement of getting the girl.

  • #39. Another Part Of Me
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    #39. Another Part Of Me

    Artist: Michael Jackson

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 11

    Peak Date: Sept. 10, 1988

    Weeks On Chart: 13

    The music video for “Another Part of Me” shows clips from the height of Michael Jackson mania—it shows huge crowds of screaming fans, packs of paparazzi taking photos, and people swarming Jackson’s security guards before turning to concert footage of Jackson performing the song.

  • #38. P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)
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    #38. P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)

    Artist: Michael Jackson

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 10

    Peak Date: Nov. 26, 1983

    Weeks On Chart: 16

    Every now and then, a popular song will insert a new piece of slang into the country’s lexicon—like “P.Y.T.” The track’s chorus uses the lyrical repetition of two acronyms (P.Y.T. and T.L.C.) for a sound that’s as memorable as it is catchy.

  • #37. Sugar Daddy
    15/ Getty Images

    #37. Sugar Daddy

    Artist: The Jackson 5

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 10

    Peak Date: Jan. 22, 1972

    Weeks On Chart: 10

    The lady that the Jackson 5 sings about in this song has a doting sugar daddy, but she turns around and gives her love to a less-wealthy suitor.

  • #36. In The Closet
    16/ Getty Images

    #36. In The Closet

    Artist: Michael Jackson

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 6

    Peak Date: May 30, 1992

    Weeks On Chart: 20

    The title of this song seems like an odd choice for a man who denied rumors of homosexuality for most of his career. The other notable thing about “In The Closet”: Princess Stéphanie of Monaco contributed the spoken word vocals for the track.

  • #35. Off The Wall
    17/ Getty Images

    #35. Off The Wall

    Artist: Michael Jackson

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 10

    Peak Date: April 12, 1980

    Weeks On Chart: 17

    “Off The Wall” is a great Friday night pump-up jam, with lyrics that encourage the listener to “leave that 9-to-5 up on the shelf and just enjoy yourself.”

  • #34. She's Out Of My Life
    18/ DON EMMERT // Getty Images

    #34. She's Out Of My Life

    Artist: Michael Jackson

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 10

    Peak Date: June 21, 1980

    Weeks On Chart: 16

    Written by Thomas Bähler, this ballad made Michael so emotional that you can actually hear his voice waver on the last few words. Quincy Jones told Rolling Stone that they couldn’t get through a recording without Michael crying, so they decided to leave it in.

  • #33. Scream/Childhood
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    #33. Scream/Childhood

    Artist: Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 5

    Peak Date: June 17, 1995

    Weeks On Chart: 17

    Michael and his sister Janet sing a duet on “Scream,” which has a striking, futuristic music video that was shot in black and white and shows the siblings letting off steam in a spaceship setting. Michael performs solo on the single’s B-side, “Childhood,” which has the singer yearning for the traditional upbringing he never had.

  • #32. Will You Be There
    20/ Getty Images

    #32. Will You Be There

    Artist: Michael Jackson

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 7

    Peak Date: Sept. 11, 1993

    Weeks On Chart: 20

    Featured on 1991’s “Dangerous” as well as the 1993 “Free Willy” soundtrack, “Will You Be There” deals with themes of friendship, trust, and love. The song seems like a reaction to the pressures of fame, as Michael sings, “Everyone's taking control of me / Seems that the world's got a role for me.”

  • #31. Human Nature
    21/ Getty Images

    #31. Human Nature

    Artist: Michael Jackson

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 7

    Peak Date: Sept. 17, 1983

    Weeks On Chart: 14

    Although this smooth, silky R&B ballad may sound like it’s about romantic love, it explores more abstract, philosophical themes. Though the lyrics are more ambiguous than many of Jackson’s other hits, they are undoubtedly meaningful.

  • #30. Smooth Criminal
    22/ Getty Images

    #30. Smooth Criminal

    Artist: Michael Jackson

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 7

    Peak Date: Jan. 14, 1989

    Weeks On Chart: 15

    The simplistic nature of “Smooth Criminal” lends itself well to the music video, in which Michael plays a sharply dressed gangster. The plot involves masked men with rifles, a girl—presumed to be Annie—being pinned down, fire in the streets, and plenty of pool hall dance sequences.

  • #29. Mama's Pearl
    23/ Getty Images

    #29. Mama's Pearl

    Artist: The Jackson 5

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 2

    Peak Date: Feb. 27, 1971

    Weeks On Chart: 10

    The Jackson 5 tries to convince a young girl to let down her defenses and give into love in this uptempo track. Catchy rhymes like “goody girl lay down your curls / let me give your heart a twirl” make this song particularly fun.

  • #28. Thriller
    24/ Youtube

    #28. Thriller

    Artist: Michael Jackson

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 4

    Peak Date: March 3, 1984

    Weeks On Chart: 14

    The 14-minute music video for “Thriller” remains one of the most popular of all time while the album of the same name is the bestselling in industry history. An entire generation of children and teens grew up learning the iconic dance from the horror movie spoof.

  • #27. Enjoy Yourself
    25/ Getty Images

    #27. Enjoy Yourself

    Artist: The Jacksons

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 6

    Peak Date: Feb. 19, 1977

    Weeks On Chart: 21

    Another seduction song, “Enjoy Yourself” focuses on convincing a wallflower to join the party. The simple refrain “enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself with me” repeats throughout the song.

  • #26. Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground)
    26/ Phil Walter // Getty Images

    #26. Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground)

    Artist: The Jacksons

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 7

    Peak Date: May 19, 1979

    Weeks On Chart: 22

    It’s hard to keep your body from moving when you hear “let's dance / let's shout / shake your body down to the ground.” Though the lyrics are rather simple, the fun disco attitude of this track is irresistible.

  • #25. Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'
    27/ Pool // Getty Images

    #25. Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'

    Artist: Michael Jackson

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 5

    Peak Date: July 16, 1983

    Weeks On Chart: 15

    This classic Michael Jackson track has a deceptively dark undertone. If you listen closely, you’ll hear lyrics like “you really can't make him hate her / so your tongue became a razor.”

  • #24. Remember The Time
    28/ Keystone // Getty Images

    #24. Remember The Time

    Artist: Michael Jackson

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 3

    Peak Date: March 7, 1992

    Weeks On Chart: 20

    The music video for “Remember The Time” is set in ancient Egypt and shows Jackson trying to seduce a queen (supermodel Iman) away from the pharaoh (Eddie Murphy). The glitzy gold outfits add '90s flair to the 9-minute video.

  • #23. State Of Shock
    29/ Pool // Getty Images

    #23. State Of Shock

    Artist: The Jacksons

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 3

    Peak Date: Aug. 4, 1984

    Weeks On Chart: 15

    Mick Jagger appears on this rock-influenced song by the Jacksons. The lyrics are about a lover putting someone into a “state of shock” with her paralyzingly sexy ways.

  • #22. You Are Not Alone
    30/ Vince Bucci // Getty Images

    #22. You Are Not Alone

    Artist: Michael Jackson

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 1 (1 week)

    Peak Date: Sept. 2, 1995

    Weeks On Chart: 20

    This slow, melancholy R&B ballad was written by R. Kelly, who later recorded his own version of the song. The music video features shots of Jackson and his new wife Lisa Marie Presley in states of undress—showcasing a lack of chemistry.

  • #21. Ben
    31/ George Rose // Getty Images

    #21. Ben

    Artist: Michael Jackson

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 1 (1 week)

    Peak Date: Oct. 14, 1972

    Weeks On Chart: 16

    The first of Jackson’s solo #1 hits, “Ben” is a love song ... about a rat. The song was the title track to the film of the same name, the sequel to the 1971 horror movie “Willard” about a young boy who trains a pack of rats to attack his enemies. It tugs the heartstrings especially hard considering Michael’s childhood pets.

  • #20. Never Can Say Goodbye
    32/ Phil Walter // Getty Images

    #20. Never Can Say Goodbye

    Artist: The Jackson 5

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 2

    Peak Date: May 8, 1971

    Weeks On Chart: 12

    A great song to put on after a lovers’ quarrel, “Never Can Say Goodbye” encapsulates the feeling of being unable to break up even when you know it’s for the best.

  • #19. Rockin' Robin
    33/ Kevin Winter // Getty Images

    #19. Rockin' Robin

    Artist: Michael Jackson

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 2

    Peak Date: April 22, 1972

    Weeks On Chart: 13

    Jackson recorded this family-friendly song when he was just 14. The lyrics about a bird who loves to jam are just as delightful today as they were when the song debuted in 1972.

  • #18. Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough
    34/ Brenda Chase // Getty Images

    #18. Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough

    Artist: Michael Jackson

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 1 (1 week)

    Peak Date: Oct. 13, 1979

    Weeks On Chart: 21

    The video for this uptempo Michael Jackson song shows the singer dancing in front of a futuristic, outer space background. The fun lyrics and groovy beat make it easy to sing along.

  • #17. Dirty Diana
    35/ ROBYN BECK // Getty Images

    #17. Dirty Diana

    Artist: Michael Jackson

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 1 (1 week)

    Peak Date: July 2, 1988

    Weeks On Chart: 14

    This song from the “Bad” album is about a seductress who goes after musicians, then breaks their hearts. Michael Jackson doesn’t want to fall into her trap.  

  • #16. Got To Be There
    36/ MJ Kim // Getty Images

    #16. Got To Be There

    Artist: Michael Jackson

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 4

    Peak Date: Dec. 11, 1971

    Weeks On Chart: 14

    A younger Michael Jackson croons this sweet love song about being there for your special someone. As the lyrics say, “when she says, ‘Hello world!’ / I need her sharing the world beside me.”


     

  • #15. Bad
    37/ Hulton Archive // Getty Images

    #15. Bad

    Artist: Michael Jackson

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 1 (2 weeks)

    Peak Date: Oct. 24, 1987

    Weeks On Chart: 14

    Being bad feels oh-so-good in this classic Michael Jackson song. The music video’s stunning dance sequence features Jackson and a large group of backup dancers jamming in a subway station.


     

  • #14. I Just Can't Stop Loving You
    38/ Youtube

    #14. I Just Can't Stop Loving You

    Artist: Michael Jackson with Siedah Garrett

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 1 (1 week)

    Peak Date: Sept. 19, 1987

    Weeks On Chart: 14

    In a stark contrast to the bad boy persona he shows in the title track from “Bad,” Jackson’s voice sounds sweet and angelic in the yearning “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You.” It’s a duet with Siedah Garrett, a prolific R&B songwriter and vocalist who co-wrote “Man in the Mirror.”

  • #13. Black Or White
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    #13. Black Or White

    Artist: Michael Jackson

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 1 (7 weeks)

    Peak Date: Dec. 7, 1991

    Weeks On Chart: 20

    When Jackson released “Black and White” as an 11-minute “music film” on Fox, BET, and MTV, its highlights included groundbreaking visual effects, celebrity cameos, and cultural dances from around the world. But it also came with controversy: The video’s ending shows Michael in a gritty urban scene, where he goes on a destructive rampage and performs some erotically tinged dance moves that were interpreted as simulated masturbation. Jackson later apologized, re-edited, and re-released the video.


     

  • #12. The Way You Make Me Feel
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    #12. The Way You Make Me Feel

    Artist: Michael Jackson

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 1 (1 week)

    Peak Date: Jan. 23, 1988

    Weeks On Chart: 18

    This funky R&B anthem is an ode to a pretty girl in high heels, and is a great showcase of Jackson’s vocal chops. Michael croons about how he wants to take her out on the town, before launching into its spirited chorus.

  • #11. The Love You Save / I Found That Girl
    41/ CBS Television // Wikicommons

    #11. The Love You Save / I Found That Girl

    Artist: The Jackson 5

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 1 (2 weeks)

    Peak Date: June 27, 1970

    Weeks On Chart: 13

    A playfully scolding tune about an on-again-off-again love, “The Love You Save” warns that its subject will be left all alone if she keeps playing the field. Its B-side, “I Found That Girl,” is written from the perspective of a young man telling his mother about a new lady friend.

  • #10. The Girl Is Mine
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    #10. The Girl Is Mine

    Artist: Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 2

    Peak Date: Jan. 8, 1983

    Weeks On Chart: 18

    Legendary Beatle Paul McCartney collaborated with Jackson on this smooth track, taking alternating verses to voice the perspectives of two men fighting over the same girl.

  • #9. ABC
    43/ CBS Television // Wikicommons

    #9. ABC

    Artist: The Jackson 5

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 1 (2 weeks)

    Peak Date: April 25, 1970

    Weeks On Chart: 13

    The catchy lyrics on this track make it easy to sing along to, no matter your age; its bouncy '70s groove makes it the quintessential Jackson 5 hit.

  • #8. I Want You Back
    44/ Michael Jacksonfan // Flickr

    #8. I Want You Back

    Artist: The Jackson 5

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 1 (1 week)

    Peak Date: Jan. 31, 1970

    Weeks On Chart: 19

    Anyone who has ever been through a breakup knows the singular pleasure of turning down your ex when they come crawling back. This melodic Jackson 5 hit comes from the perspective of the dumped—if only all exes were this charming in their pleas for redemption.

  • #7. Man In The Mirror
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    #7. Man In The Mirror

    Artist: Michael Jackson

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 1 (2 weeks)

    Peak Date: March 26, 1988

    Weeks On Chart: 17

    The ever-inspirational “Man In The Mirror” has a message of making the world a better place—by first looking within. Its lyrics cover social issues such as homelessness and poverty.

  • #6. Dancing Machine
    46/ CBS Television // Wikicommons

    #6. Dancing Machine

    Artist: The Jackson 5

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 2

    Peak Date: May 18, 1974

    Weeks On Chart: 22

    Uptempo and a little bit sexy, “Dancing Machine” describes a girl with some great moves on her. Young Michael Jackson croons about the “rhythmic, acrobatic” lady who’s a “dynamite attraction.”

  • #5. Rock With You
    47/ Carlo Allegri // Getty Images

    #5. Rock With You

    Artist: Michael Jackson

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 1 (4 weeks)

    Peak Date: Jan. 19, 1980

    Weeks On Chart: 24

    This disco-infused tune is a dance party staple. Grab someone, head to the dance floor, and “share that beat of love” whenever this song comes on.

  • #4. Beat It
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    #4. Beat It

    Artist: Michael Jackson

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 1 (3 weeks)

    Peak Date: April 30, 1983

    Weeks On Chart: 25

    Famous for its gritty video and Eddie Van Halen guitar solo, “Beat It” might be one of the world’s most effective pump up songs. No matter what you’re up against, remember to show “how funky and strong is your fight” to channel your inner tough guy.

  • #3. I'll Be There
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    #3. I'll Be There

    Artist: The Jackson 5

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 1 (5 weeks)

    Peak Date: Oct. 17, 1970

    Weeks On Chart: 16

    The sweet message of this Jackson 5 tune makes it perennially popular, with lyrics like “Let me fill your heart with joy and laughter / Togetherness, girl, is all I'm after.” The song reached a new generation of fans when Mariah Carey (in a duet with Trey Lorenz) covered it on “MTV Unplugged”—her version reached the top of the charts as well.

  • #2. Billie Jean
    50/ Charley Gallay // Getty Images

    #2. Billie Jean

    Artist: Michael Jackson

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 1 (7 weeks)

    Peak Date: March 5, 1983

    Weeks On Chart: 24

    Jackson’s second most popular song of all time is a favorite at parties, despite its storyline about a parental dispute—proving the power of a catchy groove. Rumors continue to abound regarding whom Michael was singing about when he claimed that “the kid is not my son.”

  • #1. Say Say Say
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    #1. Say Say Say

    Artist: Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson

    Hot 100 Peak Position: 1 (six weeks)

    Peak Date: Dec. 10, 1983

    Weeks On Chart: 22

    Interestingly, the highest-charting Michael Jackson song of all time didn’t appear on any of his albums. Instead, “Say Say Say” was released on Paul McCartney’s “Pipes of Peace” album. The Western-themed music video featured a narrative about two con men—Mac and Jack, played by the two musicians—who perform a scam and donate the proceeds to an orphanage.

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