Michael Jackson

Playlist: Room Service

Hotels can be strange places. While they can represent a lavish lifestyle and living in the lap of luxury, they’re also mysterious, unsettling, and creepy. Why else do you think so many horror movies take place in them? Musicians spend most of their time in and out of hotel rooms around the world, so there are plenty of songs about hotels out there. While some of them view the hotel as a place of comfort or even a wild night, others see it as something mysterious and unnerving. Here are some of the more notable songs about hotels and what happens behind closed doors.

“Hotel Yorba” – The White Stripes

This early White Stripes song features the name of a real hotel in the band’s hometown of Detroit. They actually recorded the single version of this song in room 206 of the hotel. When they wanted to film the video inside the hotel, they weren’t allowed to and used various exterior shots instead. Upon initial release, the song was a hit in England before it was embraced stateside. Now, it’s considered a fan favorite, though for some reason I always disliked this song. Something about the bluegrass and the jaunty melody of the “1, 2, 3, 4” hook was annoying to me.

“Room 13” – Black Flag

Here we see a man on the brink of losing control. He’s at the point of snapping and is not sure whether or not he can make it in the world. At the same time, he wants to live and keeps begging for someone to “keep me alive/I don’t know if I can do it.” The song is brash, in your face, and outright brutal, much like Black Flag themselves. Not only is the song aggressive it leaves you wondering, what the hell is room 13? It’s never mentioned and leaves your mind to wander. Is it part of an insane asylum or prison? We’re never sure. All we know for sure is this guy is about to lose it.

“Hotel” – Cassidy ft. R. Kelly

Anybody actually remember the rapper, Cassidy? Probably not, but in 2003 he had one of the hottest hip hop songs. With R. Kelly by his side, Cassidy talks about using lush hotels to hold lavish parties and convince hotties to creep up to his hotel room. It’s similar to Chingy’s “Holidae In” and Cassidy knows this as he makes references to both that song and the iconic “Rapper’s Delight.” Honestly, it sounds like your typical rap song, but what made this one a hit was the unforgettable hook. Even if you didn’t really like the song you couldn’t help but sing the R. Kelly laced hook. You gotta admit, the man knows how to make earworm hooks.

“Room 21” – Hinder

I always saw Hinder as a sleazy band and they prove it with this song.  Sounding like a Motley Crue song, the band talks about being seduced by an irresistible woman and having a wild night in room 21. When the guy comes to the next morning, the mysterious woman is gone. He’s been used, but it was so good he doesn’t care. It’s the classic tale of excess, sex, and partying. It’s clearly meant to be a fun night to remember instead of a cautionary tale like the other songs on this list.

“Heartbreak Hotel (This Place Hotel)” – Michael Jackson

One of Jackson’s best and underrated songs, it’s about a strange hotel designed to break up couples. In it, the protagonist talks about taking his lover to what he thought would be a romantic night out and instead ends in heartache. The hotel implants two women in his room implying he’s cheating on his lover. He can’t convince her otherwise and he’s left alone. The upbeat music, Jackson’s wails, and the catchy hook distracts you from how weird this song is. A hotel made to break up couples? Just shows you never know what’s happening behind closed doors. To make the song even stranger the song title was later changed to “This Place Hotel” to avoid confusion with the Elvis Presley song.

“Room 309” – Creeper

If you’ve been following Creeper, then you’d know about the major story running across two EPs and their debut album. In a nutshell, the story follows the Callous Heart cult, the stranger, and paranormal investigator James Scythe trying to piece it all together. Room 309 is where James stays at The Dolphin Hotel in Southampton, UK. The story is so massive, it’s best to you check it all out here. As for the song itself, it’s one of the heaviest on the album and packs a major punch, showing off Creeper’s heavier side.

“Twilight Hotel” – Quiet Riot

This quintessential 80s rock band takes us to the titular hotel where “anything goes” and your wildest fantasies will be fulfilled. Frontman Kevin DuBrow sings about a “secret rendezvous” in this place that seems too good to be true. Even though it holds unbridled pleasures, there’s still an air of apprehension about the place. Appearing on their third album, QIII, the song is a typical rock ballad filled with big hooks and shredding guitars. Surprisingly, it’s not as sappy or cheesy as other ballads of the era.

“Room 409” – Bullet For My Valentine

Sometimes you don’t want to know what’s waiting for you in a room as this Bullet song explains. Frontman Matt Tuck sings about a guy walking into Room 409 and finding his girlfriend with another man. Rather than walking out the door, he goes in upset and ready to unleash his violent rage. It’s clear things aren’t going to end well with Tuck singing “[You] said his name and I came in your direction /Now I can choose what to do with both of you.” This territory isn’t new for Bullet. They have lots of songs about getting revenge on a cheating lover, but this one is probably their best.

“Chelsea Hotel #2” – Leonard Cohen

There are plenty of songs about the infamous Chelsea Hotel, but this one is about a once in a lifetime meeting. In 1968, Leonard Cohen was staying at the New York hotel working on his music. At 3 AM he ran into a woman in the elevator and proceeded to strike up a conversation. Turns out, the woman was none other than Janis Joplin. They apparently spent the night together, but their affair would be forgotten in the morning. Cohen penned this song about their meeting in 1971 not too long after her death. It’s a bittersweet account of a night spent together that’s all too fleeting.

“Hotel California” – The Eagles

The mother of all hotel songs. You can’t have a hotel playlist without this Eagles classic.

Dangerous – Michael Jackson

Release Year: 1991

Rating: 8.5/10

There’s no question whether or not Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Bad are amazing albums. The former is still the best selling album of all time. Many people have come close to beating the record, but no one has done it yet. Even though his follow up, Dangerous, was another top seller, it doesn’t seem to get as much attention as the previous two. There could be several reasons for this: plastic surgery, drugs, and allegations the media chose to focus on. The album represents an era of change for the singer. He experimented with a new sound and took on themes that went beyond gushy love songs.

At the time, this album was unlike any Jackson had done before. One of the biggest changes is the prominence of New Jack Swing sound on just about all of the songs. This can be heard on tracks “Can’t Let Her Get Away,” “Jam,” and “She Drives Me Wild.” Elements of pop still exist, but there’s also a heavy influence of funk, rap, and R&B. Jackson further expanded his rap influences by having Heavy D and Wrex N Effect do a verse on a few songs. This sound, while can be dated at times, gives the music a more aggressive, harder hitting vibe than before. It even changed his vocals a bit which were in a lower register and sounded harsher than on past releases. With this album, Jackson also takes on more mature themes.

Jackson’s music has always had messages about changing the world through peace and love, but here he tackles heavier issues like societal ills and racism. “Why You Wanna Trip On Me?” is two-fold; it’s aimed at critics who are obsessed with the singer’s personal life, but also wonders why they aren’t focusing on bigger problems at hand like the homeless or disease. “Jam” also finds Jackson lamenting the world’s problems and how being good to one another seems to be disappearing. But the song where these themes ring out the most is the ballad “Heal the World.” The somber track has a simple message: make the world a better place for our children. He even drives the point home with samples of kids playing and singing the hook at the end. It’s a thoughtful song and one of Jackson’s greatest ballads that still rings true today.

Jackson addresses racial issues on the infectious and popular “Black or White.” The single finds the pop icon delving into rock again with Slash doing the opening riff even though he’s credited with playing on the entire song. Either way, the guitar on this track is killer. As soon as you hear it, it makes you want to bust out your best air guitar moves. Jackson sings sweetly about equality and how the color of your skin doesn’t matter. It’s not until the hard hitting bridge that his anger comes out. The song does a 180 and gets aggressive with Jackson yelling “I ain’t ‘fraid of no sheets.” Then there’s the rap by one of his producers, which is kind of cheesy and dated, but forgivable since the rest of the song is so good. It’s an amazing song that addresses racial issues without beating listeners over the head with its message.

Just like his other releases, this album is made up of successful and classic Jackson hits. “In the Closet” finds the singer being more sexual as he talks about lovers keeping their relationship secret. The music has a cool, slinky groove and he sings in a hushed manner amping up the sexual nature of the song. It’s still weird to think of him as a sexual person, but the song proves irresistible especially when he sings “She wants to get it/aw, she wants to get it.” “Remember the Time” is a slick, exotic sounding track where Jackson sounds playful as he reflects on a relationship. It’s more in line with his pop nature, but still has the New Jack Swing influence all over it. Just like most of his songs, it’s catchy, great to dance to, and fun. A standout single from the album.

Give In To Me” and “Who is It” are the most underrated singles to come from the record. The former finds the singer hooking up with Slash for a rock ballad. Jackson’s vocals come off as more aggressive and fiery, while the sad droning guitar riff sways listeners. It’s often been compared to “Dirty Diana” with its rock feel and subject matter. The two do have seductive vibes with the blazing guitar riffs, but the singer seems more somber on this track. He also takes the rock sound further offering up some diversity on the primarily New Jack Swing album. With the latter song, there’s something cool and sleek about it.

Who Is It” opens with eerie singing denoting something epic followed by a thudding, booming bass that hits you right in the gut. Jackson’s singing sounds more emotional as his start/stop style makes it seem like he was in the middle of crying. Though it’s been compared to “Billie Jean” for its woman-done-him-wrong subject, it’s a stellar song that explores the singer’s darker side.

It wouldn’t be a Michael Jackson album without ballads and there are a good handful here. The best out of the bunch is the beautiful and heartfelt “Will You Be There?” With the soft music and the choir humming at the beginning, it sounds like a religious hymn as Jackson sings about finding someone or something to lean on and make him stronger. The bridge seems tied to the singer’s personal life as he sings “Everyone’s Taking Control Of Me/Seems That The World’s/Got A Role For Me/I’m So Confused/Will You Show To Me.” At the end, the choir makes a return completing the religious feel as Jackson adlibs sounding like he’s going to church. It’s one of those songs with the ability to make you cry if played at the right moment.

While the other ballads are good, they don’t compare to this one. “Keep the Faith” is actually the most dated and weakest song the album. The music makes it sound like a dated gospel track. The music is so obviously 90s ensuring the song hasn’t aged well. And if you’re not a fan of gospel music the song won’t be all that appealing. The message is thoughtful, but it’s the most forgettable track on the record. “Gone too Soon” is a heartbreaking track dedicated to Jackson’s friend Ryan White, who was ostracized at a young age due to his AIDS diagnosis. He later died at the age of 18. It’s a simple, bare bones song with Jackson’s soft singing and light music. But the song is only harder to listen to now since it can be easily applied to the singer’s death. Usher actually sang the tune at Jackson’s memorial and broke out in tears. Even though it’s beautiful, it can be hard to hear.

The album closes with “Dangerous” another underrated track from Jackson’s catalog. Similar to other songs, it represents a new sound for the singer. It begins with mechanical noises before the punchy upbeat music comes on. The entire track is slick especially with Jackson singing in a lower register to complete the seductive mood going on. The vibe is perfect since it feels like the music actually has an air of danger to it. It’s one of his most proactive songs and a stand out from an already stellar album.

Dangerous represents a new era for Michael Jackson. He not only experimented with different sounds to fit with the trend of the time, he tackled heavier themes such as racism. The New Jack Swing sound is dated at times but otherwise shows Jackson was ahead of the curve. This album is another hit in Jackson’s catalog, yet doesn’t receive as much praise as his other work. The record isn’t flawless and some of the songs run together, but it’s still has songs that are now considered classics. It shows a different side of the singer, one that was more aggressive and harsh. No matter how you see it, the album is another stand out hit for Jackson.

Michael Jackson’s Journey from Motown to Off the Wall (2016)

Release Year: 2016

Rating: 8.5/10

“Michael Jackson was always around defining a part of your life,” says John Legend. And it’s true. No matter how or when you found Michael Jackson’s music, it stayed with you and played a significant part of your life some way. Though he’s gone, Jackson’s music still does the same especially as his music finds new life. Jackson continues to be a hot topic and it’s no different this year with Spike Lee’s latest film on the singer. This time he sets out to show the significance of one of Jackson’s oft overlooked albums, Off the Wall, and its impact on both Jackson and the world.

Aside from the subject matter, the film is identical to previous one about Bad. It has clips from family, friends, producers, and other artists talking about how great Jackson was and why the album is so important. One plus is all the great rare concert, backstage, and interview footage featured throughout. Recording in the studio, dancing at studio 54, and performing with his brothers, this footage finally gives fans something new to look at. So many documentaries on the singer often rehash the same footage you can find during a quick Youtube search. But the material here is rare and fresh for most people watching. For others, clips like the Jacksons performing on Soul Train will be a nostalgia trip.

Similar to Lee’s previous documentary, this one looks at Off the Wall track by track. Each song has its own story from how it was written to influences. One of the best moments is the discussion of “She’s Out of My Life.” The writer of the song, Tom Bahler , says it’s about a time he was sitting in traffic talking about how someone he loved left him and she’s not coming back. But similar to the previous film, many of the tracks are shoved aside in favor of more popular ones. Five minutes or less are spent discussing most of the songs on the b-side. Maybe there wasn’t much to say about them, but it made the second half the film rushed as a result. Just as we were getting to the meat of the LP talking about “Burn This Disco Out” and “It’s The Falling In Love” the movie speeds up towards its end. It’s a shame because in the last ten minutes discussion of Jackson and how he changed perception on music made by black artists take place. In that short amount of time we learn how his Grammy win wasn’t televised and People Magazine’s refusal to put him on the cover. This brings up important context on racism in the industry, but before you know it the credits are rolling.

The film does a great job at showing the beginnings of what have become the iconic Jackson style. We hear about the first time he interrupted himself in the studio to break out in dance. Or the time he went off track and gave birth to his signature “Woos!” and “Ows!” We even learn how he took the loafers, white socks style from a dancer he admired. It’s these moments Jackson fans will drink up and store. One nice touch on Lee’s part was letting Michael tell some of his story. From start to finish audio clips of Michael are interjected to offer some more insight on what’s being discussed. It’s a simple, yet effective way to let him have a say in the story.

The documentary is another solid addition to both Spike Lee’s catalog and Jackson’s. It’s not exceptional or amazing, but it tells the story of Off the Wall and the beginning of Michael’s solo career in detail and with passion. Personally, the Bad film is still my favorite, but I’m partial to that album. Even if you know nothing about Off the Wall, the documentary will engage Jackson’s fans and hopefully teach them something new about the singer. It also shows how Off the Wall had an impact on music history. To quote Pharrell Williams, the film shows how Jackson “took black music to a place where it became human music.”

Playlist: Best Grammy Award Performances

It’s almost time for the Grammys again, which means lots of snubs, disappointments, questionable moments, and Adele. That’s why everyone is going to watch, right? The award ceremony has been panned for the past couple of years for being bland and boring, but along with its low moments are tons of high moments. It’s still known for some of the most iconic and memorable performances in music. So before we start predicting when exactly Kanye is going to crash the stage, lets look back on some of the best performances from the Grammys.

“Stan” – Eminem & Elton John (2001)

Though Eminem made a joke about the Grammys in his song “The Real Slim Shady,” he’s been no stranger to them since his massive album The Marshall Mathers LP. This is the time when the rapper was most controversial garnering the anger of groups like GLAAD, who claimed he was homophobic. To shut up his critics once and for all, Eminem delivered a powerful performance of “Stan” with Elton John singing the chorus. At the song’s end, the two embraced and held hands in a victory pose. It’s not only one of the best Grammy moments of all time, but one of the best Eminem moments ever.

“American Idiot” – Green Day (2005)

Eyeliner, creepers, red ties, and lots of pyro. American Idiot era Green Day was on the rise thanks to their massive concept album. Not only was it a big winner at the 2005 Grammys, they also delivered a performance of the title track that was unforgettable. Instead of being cut and dry, the band brought their snotty attitude, slaying guitars, and their love of fire with them. As usual the band sounded great and wowed the crowd with fire shooting up at all the right moments. The band made sure to light a fire under the asses of the stiff academy. This is just one of a number of amazing performances from the year of American Idiot.

“The Way You Make Me Feel/Man in the Mirror” – Michael Jackson (1988)

Michael Jackson didn’t grace award show stages that much during his life, but whenever he did it brought the fucking house down. This 1988 performance starts out pretty standard: Jackson blows away the crowd with his dancing and singing. But it’s not until we get to “Man in the Mirror” where the show really starts. As he continues to sing, he gets more into the song until he’s falling on his knees, near tears, demanding everyone to “make that change.” The best part are the last five minutes where he seems to go off the record and just feels the music and gets everyone to stand up. He’s possessed by the song as he spins and collapses while a choir backs him up. It’s one of those moments that’s so stunning you remain quiet during the whole thing.  It shows why there will never be another performer with the fire, passion, and moves like Jackson.

“Where It’s At” – Beck (1997)

There’s always one year where Beck sweeps the award shows and makes some people question “Who the hell is Beck?” During the 1997 Grammys, he performed his hit single “Where It’s At” from Odeley, which was up for several awards that night. The thing that makes the performance so great is Beck’s unbridled energy. He has all the moves and swagger of a rapper and even pulls some awkward, yet entertaining dance moves at the end. His monotone vocals matched with his wild movements makes Beck hypnotizing to watch on stage. It ends on a high note, literally with Beck pulling off some scratchy falsetto. After the performance he won a Grammy for Best Rock Male Vocal. And similar to last year’s ceremony, many were left wondering who the hell this guy was.

“Runaway” – Bruno Mars (2012)

I wouldn’t call myself a huge Bruno Mars fan, but his performance from the 2012 Grammys blew me away. Is it his upbeat energy? Yes. Is it his style? Yes. Is it him commanding people to get off their “rich asses?” Yes. He sounds great and pulls off some awesome dance moves, but what makes this performance so memorable is the set up. It looks like an old school soul performance complete with matching gold suits, Temptation style dance moves, and Bruno’s pompadour with some added James Brown for flavor. He’s such a charismatic performer that he makes any award shows, or Super Bowl, exciting.

“I Put a Spell on You” – Annie Lennox & Hozier (2015)

What started out as a performance from Hozier featuring Annie Lennox turned into the Eurythmics singer taking over the stage. She came out to join Hozier on “Take Me to Church,” but as soon as she started “I Put A Spell on You” everyone forgot he was on stage. Her soulful delivery is powerful and she commands the stage while singing and swinging her hips. All Hozier could do and stand back and nervously smile. The way she belted out those notes gave you chills. It was so amazing it’s all people could talk about the next day. Sorry, Hozier. Good try, though.

“I Will Always Love You” – Whitney Houston (1994)

At the 36th Grammys Whitney Houston blew everyone away this performance of her hit single “I Will Always Love You.” She starts out by performing the first verse acapella, which is enough to stir you. She really gets in her element when the music starts up and she continues singing in her elegant white gown. The best is when the drum pounds and she holds the note while she sings the chorus one more time. Watching it again over 20 years later, it still gives you goosebumps when she hits that note. It’s a reminder of what a wonderful performer Houston was and a sad reminder of what we’ve lost.

“One” – Metallica (1989)

Everyone knows the story of Metallica losing the Best Heavy Metal album to Jethro Tull in 1989. Though they didn’t win, and yeah they should’ve of, they delivered a blazing performance of “One” from their …And Justice for All album. Things start out kind of shaky with the vocals, once the band gets in the groove of things, they take over the stage and set fire to the Grammys. The performance is intense, brutal, and heavy as if reminding the committee why they should’ve won in the first place. Luckily, the academy realized they were wrong and gave the band best Metal Performance for the same song the following year. The band revisited the song at the 2014 ceremony with pianist Land Lang accompanying them.

“Feel Good Inc/Hung Up” – Madonna & Gorillaz (2006)

Madonna and Gorillaz seems like a collaboration that would never happen, but oddly enough it works. This performance features the animated band as 3D holograms singing, gyrating, and looking bored in general. When De La Soul comes out 2-D checks his phone while leaning on the mic. Then Madonna pops up on screen, also a hologram, and teases the band. After that she appears on stage in the purple leotard first seen in the “Hung Up” video. The entire performance is fun, innovative, creative, and unforgettable. Though Madonna’s rendition of “Living for Love” was also good, this one is more memorable and creative.

“Rolling in the Deep” – Adele (2012)

You knew she was going to pop up here sooner or later. The performance is simple; no fancy effects, tricks, or collaborations. Just Adele, her singers, and her band. Her voice is so powerful and beautiful, you can close your eyes and let it wash over you. Even if you don’t play her heartbreaking songs on repeat after seeing this performance you had to acknowledge that she’s one of the best modern singers. There are plenty of people who can’t wait to see what the singer will do at this year’s ceremony. Actually, it’s probably the only reason anyone will tune in.

“Glitter in the Air” – Pink (2010)

When Pink came out on stage to perform “Glitter in the Air” no one at home or in the crowd expected to see her twirling through the air. She comes out in a hooded shroud, looking beautiful and elegant. Just when you think she’s going to stand there and sing, she reveals a nude leotard and joins a group of aerial acrobats that lift her in the air. She strikes various poses and even pulls off an impressive spin and she’s still singing. She never misses a beat. By the end everyone was stunned and in awe. It’s a trick she’s pulled off a few more times for later Grammy performances, but no one will ever forget the first time she did it here.

“Seven Nation Army/Death Letter” – The White Stripes (2004)

The White Stripes managed to make a lot of noise at the 2004 ceremony. The performance starts out with the popular “Seven Nation Army,” but ends with a chaotic seizure educing rendition of “Death Letter.” It’s here where Jack White lets loose and plays with fire and fury. He stumbles around the stage, motion towards Meg White, and ends the song with a unchained solo. The performance is also great due to the weird introduction by Beck who references “Children of God” before introducing the duo. Well, it is Beck after all.

“La Copa de la Vida (Cup of Life)” – Ricky Martin (1999)

This performance will forever be burned in my memory. Why? Because my mom and I were glued to the screen, wondering who this hot new guy was and how fast could we get his album. Ricky Martin was at the forefront of the Latin explosion of the late 90s. He cemented his popularity at the time with this performance at the 41st Grammy Awards. After this performance aired, Martin was a household name and everyone wanted to live “la vida loca.” Sorry, I had to.

“Lady Marmalade” – Pink, Christina Aguilera, Mya, Lil’ Kim ft. Missy Elliot & Patti LaBelle (2002)

It was hard to escape this song in the early 2000s and though the group of ladies performed the song at various award shows throughout the year, this one is the best. All of the singers sound on point and Aguilera finally shed the gigantic poodle wig she was obsessed with. What made this performance so memorable from the others, is the original Lady Marmalade, Patti LaBelle, joined the group on stage. While she didn’t get to sing much she did enough to show she still had the chops and even though this cover was pretty good, nothing could outshine the original.

Which Grammy performance is your favorite? Is there one that I missed? Let me know in the comments.

 

Top 10 Michael Jackson Covers

This Sunday would’ve been Michael Jackson’s 57th birthday. Instead of dwelling over the fact he’s no longer with us, it’s a time to celebrate his wonderful music. No matter what you thought of him it’s clear his music has inspired artists across a span of genres from R&B to rock. Some artists have even taken it upon themselves to cover their favorite Jackson song. Of course no one does it better than Michael, but some artists have come close. There are a ton of terrible ones out there, but here are ten of the best Michael Jackson covers.

10. “The Girl is Mine” – Richard Cheese

Richard Cheese is known for making lounge style covers out of popular songs. He previously covered Jackson’s “Beat It,” but it’s his version of “The Girl is Mine” that’s unique and hilarious. The song starts out like a standard lounge tune and Cheese sounds smooth and silky. Just imagine him snapping his fingers to the beat while listening to it. After the first verse he introduces a special guest, which is supposed to be Stephen Hawking. Yeah, you read that right. Of course it’s not actually him, but hearing an automated voice singing this Jackson duet is weird, but is sure to put a smile on your face. It’s a bit silly, but you gotta admit Jackson’s tunes sound pretty good in lounge style.

9. “Billie Jean” – Nonpoint

This song has been speed up to be a punk rock anthem and tuned down to be a metal nightmare, but Nonpoint puts a different spin on it. They slow things down to make a brooding, melancholy song. Singer Ellias Soriano sounds vulnerable, broken, and hurt as he wails “but the kid is not my son.” Any ounce of happiness or fun is completely stripped away from the track. We’re left with the underlying angst and anger that was masked by the catchy beats. It’s not until you hear the song in this style that you realize how somber it can be.

8. “Dirty Diana” – Bruno Mars/Christina Aguilera

Both of these artists covered the sexy song during live performances and they’re both excellent. Mars’ version is very faithful to the original. In the clip, he plays the dirty riff while the synth soars behind him. He didn’t go too far from the source material, but he at least sounds really good while singing it. I’m sure he could release this as a single and it would sell well. The same goes for Aguilera’s version, which she sang at a Jackson tribute concert. But her impressive vocals matched with the steamy lyrics will give you chills.

7. “Speed Demon” – Xerath

It may come as a surprise to learn how many metal bands love covering Michael Jackson songs. “Beat It” seems to be the favorite track, but this British band went for one of the underrated tracks from Bad. Everything about this version kicks ass from the riff given a dirty make over to the intense vocals screaming “Speed demon!” that sounds like singer Richard Thomson is ripping his vocal cords. This track captures the dangerous and edginess Jackson tried to give off on the original. This track has the same spirit of the original, yet has its own flavor that makes it unique.

6. “P.Y.T.” – The Wood Brothers

There’s a good chance you may not have heard of this Americana blues band, but they know what makes a good cover song. As part of the A.V. Club’s project where artists choose a song to cover from a list, these guys choose this tune from Michael Jackson’s Thriller. It starts out a little wonky with the jarring vocals and silly music, but it all falls into place by the time they reach the hook. They turn the song from an R&B dance track to a smooth, folksy tune that sounds just as silky as the original. The coolest part is during the refrain where instead of singing “Pretty young things/repeat after me” they freestyle riffs instead, but that doesn’t stop a chorus of people from responding with “Na-na-na-na.”

5. “D.D.” – The Weeknd

With comparisons to the late pop star, it’s no surprise that The Weeknd covered this sultry track from Bad. It starts out pretty faithful to the original, but once it gets to the chorus hard electronic beats take over creating a lush soundscape of pulsating rhythm. This version takes the grittiness and edge out of the song, but turns it into more of an atmospheric track that ends up sounding more sad than angry. It’s a subtle tweak to the song, but it’s effective at giving it a completely different vibe.

4. “Billie Jean” – The Bates

This German punk band, known for their cover tunes oddly enough, turns the R&B filled track into a raucous punk anthem made for moshing. Their version is pretty faithful to the original except when it comes to the music. Their gritty guitars and energetic vibe punches up the song and brings it into the rock realm. The best part is the chorus where you can picture them pogo dancing while singing “Billie Jean is not my lover.” Something about it is fun, upbeat, vibrant, and just really inviting. Whether you like Michael Jackson or not this song is sure to get you in the pit. They’re cover songs are pretty spectacular. Check out their version of The Cure’s “Wailing Wall.”

3. “I’ll Be There” – Mariah Carey

This Jackson 5 track was always kind of mushy and definitely got the feels going, especially when Michael performed it in concert. Carey does a very faithful rendition of the song that doesn’t hold back on the emotions. Her soft soaring vocals that made her a household name in the 90s, work perfectly with this slow track and turns it into something beautiful. She did such an amazing job with it that it became a regular in her catalog and many believe it surpasses the original. She was even nominated for a Grammy for the song in 1993. Of course it took on new meaning when she performed it at Jackson’s memorial service in 2009. Say what you want about Mariah now, but back in the day her voice was something out of this world.

2. “Smooth Criminal” – Alien Ant Farm

These guys proved it was possible to make a kick ass MJ cover without royally fucking it up. Jackson has always incorporated rock influences into his music and this proves how well his songs work when you replace the synth with gritty guitars. It turns this classic Jackson jam into a headbanger. What’s even better is the video filled with references to the singer’s videos from Bubbles to the “Thriller” ending. How many can you spot? Alien Ant Farm may not be remembered for anything else, but at least they gave us this awesome cover that shows how universal Jackson’s music is.

1. “Thriller” – Imogen Heap

Ever think the creep-tacular filled “Thriller” would work as a soft ballad? Somehow Imogen Heap makes it work. With a stark, beautiful piano accompanying her she sounds haunting, yet beautiful as she sings Jackson’s iconic tune. She sounds breathy and airy as she whispers “Cause this is thriller/thriller night.” It really catches you by surprise with how awesome it is. Who would’ve thought the song would work well at a slower speed and without Vincent Price’s eerie laugh? This is everything a good cover is supposed to be: a hint of the original, but different enough to grab your attention.

Which Michael Jackson cover is your favorite? Is there another great one I missed? Let me know in the comments!