Bad

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!

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Captain EO – Michael Jackson

250px-Captain_EO_posterRelease Year: 1986

Rating: 8/10

Today would’ve been Michael Jackson‘s 56th birthday. To commemorate the event, I decided to watch Captain EO, which I haven’t seen in a few years. For those who don’t know, Captain EO was originally a part of a Disneyland 3D ride held in the Epcot center. After his death, Disney made the smart move of opening it yet again for longtime fans to re-experience and for the younger generation to see it for the first time. The movie/ride was a big deal at the time because it featured the talent of George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola. It’s both whimsical and weird, much like Jackson himself.

The plot of the movie is simple and a bit vague. The King of Pop is the captain of a rowdy bunch of misfits who are on a mission to deliver a special gift to an evil queen. The crew doesn’t have a great reputation as EO himself mentions and it’s not hard to see why. They’re clumsy, slow, and kind of stupid, but still charming all the same. They reach the queen, she tries to destroy them, Jackson does some dancing and wins everyone over with a little bit of magic. By the end, the queen changes her ways. That’s pretty much the gist of the short film. It’s not really clear why they’re delivering a gift to the queen or why it’s so important they transform her. But it’s a film meant for a ride, what do you expect?

There’s no doubt the movie is a little weird. Jackson’s crew consists of some robots, a two headed alien, an adorable little fuzzy thing, and Hooter, an elephant that eats everything. Captain EO must really suck if he can’t even recruit at least one other human to help him out. They may be dumb, but they’re pretty charming just because of the way they look. Compared with the CGI filled entertainment of today, the use of costumes, puppets and claymation is awe inspiring. Some of it looks a little dated, but most of it held up well over the years. Even the evil witch queen looks really cool. As a kid, I was both intrigued and frightened by her appearance. She’s kept up by several tentacles and has menacing claws that clack whenever she moves. Even her whip lashing minions look scary. Covered in wires and metal, they come after the captain whips swinging. Even EO is scared. There’s one point when he tries to run away, leaving the crew behind. It’s funny that no one acknowledges this once the mission is complete. Eventually, he wins the scary guys over too.

For some reason whenever Jackson is saving someone, it involves a lot of magic and dancing (see Moonwalker game). It’s no different here. Once the music gets going, it turns out EO has powers in the form of color beams shooting from his fingers. This turns the evil minions into back up dancers. Yes, the whole thing is a little silly, but EO is all about the dancing and since it’s Jackson the moves are nothing less than stellar. What’s interesting is the look and feel of the choreography incorporates some “Thriller” moves along with moves Jackson would use later on in “Bad.” He also sings to the queen in the form of “We Are Here to Change the World.” It’s not the best Jackson song, but the heavy synth and bass inspired music is catchy. In the midst of all the dancing and singing the queen becomes dizzy. EO takes the opportunity to hover up to her, he apparently flies, and shoots beams in her face. This scene gets a little awkward because she starts moaning and you think “what is really going on here?” These beams turns her into a beautiful queen leaving EO and his crew dancing their way out to the tune of “Another Part of Me.” Everything is right in space once again.

Overall, the short film gets 8/10. Okay, so the plot isn’t entirely believable, but it’s still entertaining. The special effects and complex costumes still look good today and there are even some funny moments thanks to Hooter. The whole thing comes together when Jackson starts dancing and singing, what he does best after all. The music is catchy, Jackson looks great, and pulls off some impressive moves he would incorporate into his later routines. If anything, it’s a short film that’ll make you smile and thank Jackson for the wonderful music.

Five Years Gone

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Today marks five years since Michael Jackson‘s death in 2009. It’s unfortunate that since then more controversy, accusations, and law suits cropped up to get a piece of the singer. But we shouldn’t be thinking about those things today or any other thing the media has written about Jackson in the past. Today should be about the music. There is no question that fans are still heart broken over his death, but at least we have his amazing music, wonderful videos, and out of this world dancing to remember him by. Also, his influence can still be found in so many popular artists today. Whereas before many didn’t want to admit they liked Michael Jackson for fear of ridicule, now it’s hard to find any pop artist who says they aren’t influenced by him.

He was an amazing man who had his share of problems that he never got worked out, but he managed to leave us with some amazing music that’s still being sampled, covered, and cherished to this day. I’m sure everyone remembers where they were when they heard the news of his passing, but think about happy memories of him. Maybe you were fortunate enough to see him live or maybe seeing his music videos never failed to put a smile on your face. Either way get out your favorite Jackson album, watch his best videos, and celebrate this man’s life because there will never be anyone else so deserving of the title The King of Pop.

Here are some articles from this site about Michael Jackson you may enjoy:

Bad 25

Guide to Unofficial Jackson DVDs

Michael Jackson Facts

Live at Bucharest Review

Bad 25 Film

Four Years Ago…

 

Xscape – Michael Jackson

 

XscapeRelease Year: 2014

Rating: 8.5/10

Once a prominent artist dies, there’s a guarantee that the estate or the record company will release unheard songs or rough cuts just to make a few bucks. So no one should’ve been surprised when it was announce Michael Jackson would have a new album this year. Rather than release polished demos as they were, many producers took it upon themselves to update the songs. While their contributions aren’t bad, once you hear the demos you see why they were largely unneeded.

Jackson already had one posthumous album in 2010 that was met with mixed reviews, but this is the superior release. Not every song is notable, but there are enough of them to make this a noteworthy release. The lead single “Love Never Felt so Good” is no doubt best track from the release. Everything about it is a classics Jackson song: it’s catchy, danceable, upbeat, and makes you feel good. If he actually had the chance to finish the song, it would’ve been a hit. Compared with the demo versions there weren’t many drastic changes. The version with Justin Timberlake shakes things up a bit. The music here is very similar to that of “Don’t Stop til You Get Enough” adding a bit of nostalgia to the mix. No matter which version you hear, the song is great and reminds you why Jackson was such a successful artist.

One thing that keeps all the tracks together is Jackson’s fierce and strong vocal delivery. This is easily heard on “Chicago,” a tale about the singer hooking up with a cheating wife. The vocals here are intense and full of the attitude he was known for. You can easily date the song back to the ’90s since one of the lyric reads “She said just to give me a page/59 was the code she gave.” This hints it might’ve been meant for the Dangerous album. A notable difference between the “updated” and demo version is the music. The demo music is a bit softer and slower making Jackson bitter, whereas the music on the other one is heavier and aggressive making him come off as angry. Both of them sound good, but something about the demo feels more genuine.

Loving You” is another classic Jackson song. The clean, loving vibe of the track is reminiscent of the mellow groove of “Rock With You.” Since it’s such a positive number, you can picture the singer smiling while he’s singing. Even though “A Place With No Name” is one of the weaker tracks, it’s still interesting to hear. In his original demo, he uses the melody and music of America’s “Horse with No Name” to create this song. While the updated version gives it more of its own sound, it’s still interesting to hear Jackson play around with different concepts. “Do You Know Where You’re Children Are?” is a bit heavy handed with its theme of child abuse, but it’s not bad. The music found on the demo version feels more natural to the track versus the reproduced version.

Slave to the Rhythm” has a dance centric beat makes it more on the catchy side. It’s one of those songs that gets you on your feet and one we would love to see Jackson groove to. “Blue Gangsta” finds Jackson sounding sinister. Again, the music in the demo version sounds better. The newly produced version has booming music more appropriate for a rap song; it sounds like it’s trying way to hard to be relevant and current. There are even moments when the music takes over the vocals. “Xscape” deals with Jackson’s perils of fame and how people won’t leave him alone. Again, there’s a strong vocal delivery that instantly draws you in and though it’s not a stand out song, it still manages to be catchy.

Overall, the album get 8.5/10. It’s not Jackson’s greatest work, but this shows he had some great songs in the mix. Better than his first posthumous release, the record gives you eight satisfying songs that make you want to hear more of his music when its over. My only gripe is how the record company handled it. There is no reason various producers had to come in and “update” these songs. Some of the music on the demos is a bit dated, but at least they sound like Jackson songs. Why they didn’t just release the demos the way they were is a mystery. Also, making fans pay more to have the demos is a low blow. Other than that it’s a really solid release any Jackson fan would love to have in their collection.

Bad 25 Documentary

Bad_25_film_posterRelease Year: 2012

Rating: 9.5/10

This Spike Lee directed film premiered last year on TV and only came out on home media mid-2013. When it was first released, the response to it was overwhelming and it’s easy to see why. The film is focused and well put together. Rather than trying to talk about Michael Jackson‘s entire career, it focuses on the Bad era. Unlike other documentaries that have been released since his death, this one feels authentic since Lee speaks with several people who have worked extensively with the singer. It’s an awesome film that gives fans an inside look at the making of Bad.

With Bad being my favorite Jackson album, I was all over this film. I think it’s safe to say that this is the best documentary released since his death. Hell, it may even be one of the best ones out there. What I really like is all the footage that’s included. Some of it has been seen before, but there are so many others from around the world that have rarely been seen. What’s even better are all the behind the scenes and candid footage from the era. I can’t tell you how much I loved the making of the “Bad” and “The Way You Make me Feel” footage. I was surprised that I hadn’t seen it before since most of these films recycle interviews you can easily find on the internet. Fans get to see rehearsals for scenes from “Smooth Criminal” to “Bad.” There’s also a segment on the “Speed Demon” video where it is revealed that it was Jackson’s idea to have a California Raisin commercial based on his image. It was amazing to see how he was involved with every step of the commercial.

I also love the way the film is set up. It actually goes through the entire Bad album track by track. It begins with the title track and ends with “Man in the Mirror.” There are some songs that get longer segments than others, but at least they have something interesting to say about each track. If anything I wish they would’ve looked more at “Another Part of Me.” Much wasn’t said about the song and then it goes on to show the entire video released for the single. While it was nice to see it should’ve been left off, especially since that space could’ve been used for more interesting facts and candid footage. One of the most interesting songs the filmed looked at is “Just Good Friends.” What made this segment so memorable is that just about everyone Lee spoke with agreed it’s a throwaway track, which is how I feel about the song as well. Not only do these segments provide information about the songs themselves, they also look at things in pop culture that found its way into Jackson’s music.

While most music documentaries have interviews with people who only worked the artists maybe once or speak with people who claim to know them, this one actually gets people Jackson worked with on a regular basis. We get stories from people who worked with him in the studio, to some of the video directors, like Martin Scorsese and even the model who starred alongside Jackson in “The Way You Make Me Feel.” They had so many great stories to share about the singer it will make you fall in love with him even more. There are also some interviews with current artists who were influenced by the King of Pop, such as ?uestlove, Chris Brown, Justin Bieber, Kanye West, and Mariah Carey. By hearing these people speak about their experiences with Michael the whole film feels authentic and truthful. It doesn’t feel like bullshit or someone just trying to make money off of him. You can tell they really loved and cared for him. This feeling is brought even more to life when Lee asks them where they were when they heard about his death. Just about all of them begin crying and it makes you remember where you were when the news came out. Not only is there information about Jackson’s songs, there’s technical information regarding music and choreography as well.

Since we do hear from studio musicians, engineers, and even choreographers who worked with the singer during this time, a lot of them take the chance to explain some of the more technical aspects of the songs. They’ll break down certain effects and techniques, such as a drum shuffle. There’s even one part where we see his vocal coach and plays some of Michael’s singing exercises where we get to hear his low range. It’s really freaky to hear, but interesting nonetheless. The choreographer shared some great information as to where the King of Pop got some of his dance moves, such as the moon walk or his infamous pop lock. It really makes you appreciate what he did for music and dance and even more.

Overall, the film gets 9.5/10. It’s an amazing documentary that gives you so much information you have to watch it several times to keep up with it. Part of what makes the movie so great is every time you watch you’ll find something new to focus on. It’s great to hear from so many people who worked with Jackson and even some current artists who have been influenced him. Thanks to this and a lot of the information given the film is more genuine than most of the ones released since his death. This is one Jackson film you will never get tired of.