The top 20 Michael Jackson songs of all time

Michael Jackson has an incredible back catalogue but which is The King of Pop's best song?

It goes without saying, that Michael Jackson had a recording discography like few others. From his time in The Jackson 5 as a young man to when he became a bonafide superstar solo artist, he proved himself as a pop titan over and over again.

Though this does nothing to settle which masterpiece is his finest piece of work. Some say the best Michael Jackson songs are the disco-led bangers – and some say his epic love songs show the King of Pop at his finest. Ultimately, they’re all pretty special, so we’ve tried our very best to decide just which one is tops.

All the classics, like ‘Thriller’, ‘ABC’, and ‘Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough’ are all right up there – but which one has come out on top? Get our ranking of the 20 best Michael Jackson songs of all time.

20. ‘Leave Me Alone’, (Bad, 1987)

On the official Radio 1 UK chart, the song peaked at Number Two, held from the top spot by Simple Minds’ ‘Belfast Child’, and was the 44th best-selling single of 1989 in the UK. Pic: Getty

19. ‘They Don’t Care About Us’, (HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book 1, 1995)

The song remains one of the most controversial pieces Jackson ever composed. In the US, media scrutiny surrounding alleged anti-semitic lyrics were the catalyst for Jackson issuing multiple apologies and re-recording the album, altering the lyrics for that particular track. Pic: Getty

18. ‘P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)’, (Thriller, 1982)

The original demo of the song was totally reworked into a more uptempo beat by James Ingram and producer Quincy Jones. Janet and La Toya provide backing vocals in the guise of the P.Y.T.s. Pic: PA Photos


17. ‘Off The Wall’, (‘Off The Wall’, 1979)

Title track from the album, it became Jackson’s third Top 10 single from ‘Off The Wall’, which eventually had four Top 10 singles – Jackson was the first artist to accomplish this. Pic: Getty

16. ‘Can You Feel It’, (Triumph, 1981)

Co-written by Michael and brother Randy for the group The Jacksons, this was voted one of the 100 best videos of all time in a poll to mark the 20th anniversary of MTV. Pic: Getty

15. ‘Rock With You’, (‘Off The Wall’, 1979)

This song helped Jackson score one of the first Billboard Number One singles in the ’80s, as well as one of the last big hits of the disco era. According to Billboard, the song was the fourth biggest single of the decade. Pic: Getty

14. ‘Black Or White’, (‘Dangerous, 1991)

This single is considered the biggest selling rock song of the ’90s. Written, composed, and arranged by Jackson with the rap lyrics by Bill Bottrell, the video featured a young Macauly Culkin as the kid playing the loud music at the start. George Wendt (Norm from Cheers) played the father. Pic: Rex Features


13. ‘Dirty Diana’, (‘Bad’, 1987)

Jackson hired Billy Idol’s former guitarist Steve Stevens to back him on this track. In an interview from the special edition of ‘Bad’, Quincy Jones later confirmed that it was about groupies – some media speculation point this song to Diana Ross, who Jacko was believed to have been having an affair with him at the time. Pic: Getty

12. ‘Blame It On The Boogie’ (1978)

Originally released in 1978 both by English singer-songwriter Mick Jackson as well as, in its most famous version, by The Jacksons. As the tracks battled for position in the charts, the press hailed it ‘The Battle Of The Boogie’. Pic: Getty

11. ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’’, (‘Thriller’, 1982)

This single was originally intended for release on ‘Off The Wall’, but was not recorded until the 1982 sessions for ‘Thriller’. The song is about rumours surrounding the star, and contains a reference to Billie Jean. Pic: Getty

10. ‘Bad’, (‘Bad’, 1987)

‘Bad’ was originally intended as a duet with long time rival Prince. Quincy Jones, in an interview included in the special edition of ‘Bad’, said that Prince told Jackson and him that he had not wanted to participate because “it would be a hit without (him)”. Pic: Rex Features


9. ‘I Want You Back’, (‘Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5’, 1969)

‘I Want You Back’ was the only single to be released from the album, and has sold six million copies worldwide. It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999, and ranked 120 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Pic: PA Photos

8. ‘Man In The Mirror’, (‘Bad’, 1987)

The video for the single is a notable departure from Jackson’s other videos. Featuring footage of various news events of the time, Jackson appears in a brief clip towards the end of the video in which he can be seen donning a red jacket and standing in a large crowd. Pic: PA Photos

7. ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’, (‘Bad’, 1987)

Michael wrote this song at the request of his mother, Katherine, who wanted a song with “a shuffling kind of rhythm”. It was the third consecutive Number One single from his album ‘Bad’ in the US. Pic: Getty

6. ‘ABC’, (‘ABC’, 1970)

This single peaked at Number Eight in the UK, and like most of the early Jackson 5 hits, ‘ABC’ was written and produced by ‘The Corporation’ – a team composed of Motown chief Berry Gordy, Freddie Perren, Alphonzo Mizell and Deke Richards. Pic: Getty

5. ‘Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough’, (‘Off The Wall’, 1979)

This track was the first solo recording over which Jackson had creative control, and was his debut single released under Epic Records. The musical piece also won him his first solo Grammy and American Music Awards. Pic: Getty

4. ‘Smooth Criminal’, (‘Bad’, 1987)

‘Smooth Criminal’ was the centrepiece for Jackson’s short film ‘Moonwalker’, featuring Joe Pesci. The effect in the video when Jackson and his dancers lean forward (‘Anti-gravity lean’) was achieved using special harnesses with wires and magnets. Pic: Getty

3. ‘Thriller’, (‘Thriller’, 1982)

Featuring a guest soliloquy from Vincent Price, ‘Thriller’ is considered one of Jackson’s signature songs, but only peaked at Number 10 when it was released. The mini-film music video accompanying it was the most expensive of its time, costing $500,000, and Guinness World Records listed it in 2006 as the most successful music video ever, selling over 9 million units. Pic: Rex Features

2. ‘Beat It’, (‘Thriller’, 1982)

Eddie Van Halen was finally drafted in to add the distinctive overdriven guitar solo, but it took a couple of attempts – he initially thought the phone calls from Quincy Jones were pranks. Van Halen ended up recording the part for free. Pic: Getty

1 ‘Billie Jean’, (‘Thriller’, 1982)

Written by Jackson and produced by Quincy Jones, this track was almost removed from the album as Jones disliked it. The song’s lyrics refer to a real-life experience, in which a mentally ill female fan claimed that Jackson fathered one of her twins. Pic: PA Photos