10 Underrated Michael Jackson Songs

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[All songs from his solo career only.]

1. Baby Be Mine [Thriller, 1982]

I know what you’re thinking; how can a song from an album that sold 30 million copies in the US alone be underrated? Well in an album with so many iconic songs, “Baby Be Mine” consistently gets overlooked. It is the best jam on that album, no doubt. I play it all the time at my DJ nights and people bop every time.

2. Stranger in Moscow [HIStory, 1995]

One of Michael’s most powerful and emotional songs. It flopped in America and was a moderate hit around the rest of the world. The HIStory period was not well-regarded by the press and most of the songs on the album were greatly overlooked, in my opinion. The melody to this song is beautiful and as usual, Michael’s vocals are transcendent and also very vulnerable. The “how does it feel” part gets me every time, man. Tame Impala recognized the genius and did a rad cover of this song earlier this year.

3. Give In To Me [Dangerous, 1991]

Michael always tried to do one rock song on each album and this is one of his most passionate and filled with sexual tension. Slash from Guns and Roses plays guitar.

4. Girlfriend [Off The Wall, 1979]

Paul McCartney allegedly wrote this song for Michael but ended up recording it with Wings first. Michael’s version is far superior and is a nice mid-tempo breezy number on an album full of dance floor bangers.

5. They Don’t Care About Us [HIStory, 1995]

Another song from this era that was big worldwide but barely made a blip in the US due to some controversial lyrics and bad press at the time. I really like all of MJ’s songs about his haterz and this song in particular always had a killer military inspired dance routine when he performed it live.

6. Another Part of Me [Bad, 1987]

Some people may remember this song from the Captain EO 3D film at Disney World and it’s a jam!! As you can see in the link above, it was a killer song to perform and Michael really got into it. The vocals on this song are flawless.

7. Who Is It [Dangerous, 1991]

A rare song where Michael sings in his lower register, giving it a very sultry energy. The Dangerous album had five Top 20 singles and this was one that was overshadowed by the media hoopla surrounding the others.

8. Dangerous [Dangerous, 1991]

I love that Michael always tried to keep in touch with music trends, and for the Dangerous album he worked with new jack swing producer Teddy Riley to keep things “fresh.” This song is the prime example of MJ incorporating those modern r&b and hip hop elements into his music but still making it “his.”

9. You Rock My World [Invincible, 2001]

This whole era was pretty much written off by the critics, but I think this song is a nod to MJ’s Off The Wall album but modernizing it for what was then the “TRL audience” of the early 2000s. And the chorus is catchy as hell.

10. Dirty Diana [from Bad, 1987]

I just think this is his greatest song ever and should be on ALL THE LISTS EVER.

What do you think are Michael’s most underrated songs?

Why New Wave Isn’t Considered Classic Rock

New Wave Band Duran Duran“Classic rock” and classic rock radio is an extension of what was known as AOR radio formatting in the late 70s/early 80s [AOR= album oriented rock].

AOR program directors back then were almost always white men who thought their listeners wanted a radio rotation with a similar demographic, and generally played music by mostly white male artists in the rock n roll vein. They would also seemingly play “Stairway to Heaven” on the hour for no real reason. And were obsessed with the band Boston.

MTV was founded by people who previously worked at top AOR radio stations which is why it was a rock oriented TV station AT FIRST, though once they realized that hardly any classic rock bands had music videos, they were forced to play videos by unknown British art bands who wore makeup and weird outfits to fill the 24 hours in a day.

Which is why new wave/new romantic/synthpop took over in the 80s and things got interesting again.

By 1983 MTV was basically forced into playing music by black artists, mainly because of Michael Jackson and CBS Records. Until then they didn’t play any black music unless it was jazz or rock oriented.

Classic rock radio has gotten slightly better, I occasionally will hear new wave stuff like Blondie, The Pretenders, and Elvis Costello, sometimes the Clash. Never anything with synthesizers unless it’s in the prog-rock vein or maybe “Owner of a Lonely Heart”

Current classic rock radio stations mirror these narrow-minded attitudes of only grouping certain bands in the classic rock genre, leaving out all bands who are synth based, glam rock, funk based, or dance oriented, and that’s fine and dandy.

I think a lot of why these bands [the New York Dolls, Roxy Music, Slade, Sweet, Adam Ant, Duran Duran, Gary Numan, Ultravox, Japan, Spandau Ballet, Simple Minds, and T Rex] aren’t allowed in the classic rock radio world is because the male program directions were not comfortable with the makeup and the femme qualities of many of these musicians, but maybe that’s just me.

[BOWIE DIGRESSION]

We have to remember that even someone like Bowie didn’t become a mega-star in the US until his 1983 album Let’s Dance [his only real ‘hit’ in America in the 70s was “Fame”, which was a disco track basically]. His 70s output was still considered fairly fringe in America. Now obviously, classic rock radio plays Bowie a lot, but I think at a certain point in the 80s, he became so big they kind of had to. But Bowie was not considered classic rock in the 70s in America AT ALL.

Adam Ant’s influence on punk in the US, via Darby Crash

Darby Crash co-founded the influential LA punk band the Germs with Pat Smear. He died in December 1980.

From an interview with Darby Crash biographer Brendan Mullen

Question: What do you know about Darby’s trip to England and his subsequent obsession with Adam & The Ants? Who did Darby hang out with in England?

Mullen: He went to England for a month or so in early summer of 1980 with a woman named Amber, his latest patron, a woman he lived with for a while who picked up the tab for everything. They stayed with Amber’s friend Jordan who was a key designer-stylist in the classic Britpunk fashion look. According to Amber, Darby asked Jordan to give him what people called the “Mohawk” hairdo, although “Mohican” was actually the correct name, something Darby kept pointing out, but to no avail. Mohawk stuck in the vernacular. Mohican didn’t. Still is that way. Darby’s role model for the Big Make-Over-in-London was clearly Adam Ant and his Antpeople entourage of post-punk fashion casualties.

Here are some photos of Darby Crash sporting his Adam Ant inspired getups and his influential Mohawk haircut:

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Adam Ant in 1980

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A goth inspired outfit currently sold by Forever 21

Goth is Dead, Long Live Goth

Everyone is going goth– again. Yesterday the New York Times did a trend piece on goth that’s worth a read.

Choice quote from the article, “Google searches for “creeper” style shoes have grown by more than 530 percent between September 2010 and September 2013. “The goth trend is no longer reserved for an underground subculture,” said Heidi Ware, head of fashion editorial and creative for eBay. A choker necklace is sold on the site every 55 seconds.”

This is on the heels of the recent Kanye West album, which bares an influence of goth and Nine Inch Nails industrial sounds and Rihanna tagging photos on Instagram as “ghettogoth” and posting photos of chokers for fashion inspiration. Goth is back, but did it really ever leave?

Classic Rockers and Hip Hoppers: A love/hate relationship?

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Debbie Harry, Fab 5 Freddy, Grandmaster Flash, Chris Stein, and an unidentified woman. 1981 NYC

Debbie Harry, Fab 5 Freddy, Grandmaster Flash, Chris Stein, and an unidentified woman. 1981 NYC

I saw two things online today that reminded me of the old tired question: Can you appreciate both classic rock and hip hop?

Of course, we all know by now that you can be a fan of both genres of music. But a stereotype still persists amongst young people especially that you are either in one camp or another. Or that classic rockers and hip hop players feel the same way.

The big news today is that Lou Reed, the moody L’enfant terrible of the Velvet Underground wrote a fawning review of Kanye West’s new album Yeezus, describing it as “Majestic and inspiring” and “nothing short of spectacular.” A lot of people were surprised because well, Lou Reed typically doesn’t like anything. And a lot of performers from the classic rock era are unfairly critical of anything in hip hop. At least once a week I see someone reblog that quote from the late George Harrison saying “all rap is crap.”

On the flip side, yesterday Snoop Lion (formerly Snoop Dogg, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Tha Doggfather, Calvin Broadaus) was asked his favorite heavy metal/rock bands in a reddit AMA and answered, “beatles rolling stones ramones tha list goes on.”

The fact that Snoop Lion openly admits to liking rock n roll based music is no real surprise, as anyone that knows about the formation and history of hip hop and rapping knows that MCs have long-since shown their appreciation of rock music by sampling bands like Led Zeppelin, Mountain, and the Turtles.

The misconception that rappers don’t show appreciation for rock music is getting really tired. If anything, it’s been the old timers who clearly didn’t understand rap or hip hop culture when it first arrived, and never bothered to dig deeper to learn what it’s all about.

I should add that some people in the rock genre were accepting and appreciative of hip hop in the early days, most notably the new wave and punk musicians in NYC in the late 70s (the first rap song to top the charts was Blondie’s Rapture in 1981), like the Talking Heads and Blondie. In the UK, Malcolm McLaren (always one to cash in on the new hot thing) made some classic electro-hip hop songs in the early 80s. Adam and the Ants’ “Ant Rap” hit in the top 5 on the UK charts in the fall of 1981.

But while a few of these musicians embraced hip hop, most did not. Hip hop culture was founded on the inclusion of all types of music; funk, soul, jazz, Afro, Latin, disco, rock n roll, etc. Hip hop’s ability to be inspired by the best of all musical cultures and constantly change to include these elements in their art is perhaps why hip hop has been the dominant music on the pop charts since the early 1990s, whereas rock has remained fairly stagnant for years.

The basic gist? Hip hop has always had love for rock n roll.

DJ Kool Herc, the pioneer for hip hop in the US in the mid 1970s played songs by James Brown and funk artists, but also dropped lost rock gems like “The Mexican” by Babe Ruth; songs that never even charted in America. The band Mountain has been sampled nearly 200 times in hip hop. You can hear the drum break of “When the Levee Breaks” by Led Zeppelin on songs by the Beastie Boys, Ice-T, Eminem, and nearly 80 other tracks. Hip hop producers and rappers were also fond of “The Big Beat” by Billy Squier, Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust’, “Voodoo Chile” by Jimi Hendrix, Steely Dan, Hall & Oates, Van Halen, and Aerosmith.

Recently hip hop has shown genius ways of incorporating rock. MIA’s anthem “Paper Planes” brought freshness to “Straight to Hell” by the Clash for a new generation (The Clash were another rock oriented band that was early to hype hip hop). Kanye West always samples obscure rock tracks, including King Crimson’s “21st Century Schzoid Man”
on his song “Power.”

Adam Ant tells a story about visiting NYC in 1981 and seeing breakdancers doing routines to songs by synth pioneer Gary Numan. Afrika Bambaataa, the famous DJ and creator of many of hip hop’s enduring traditions, was a huge fan of Numan, as well as Yellow Magic Orchestra and would spin these white new wave artists at his DJ and breakdancing battles. He didn’t care that they were “rock” based acts. Those records sounded flawless. The kids didn’t care either, whether music was black or white, r&b based or rock based, or made by an awkward German band of robots named Kraftwerk.

Kraftwerk, incidentally, became a huge influence on hip hop culture because of Afrika Bambaata, who sampled them on his first big hit “Planet Rock.”

The most famous instance of rock inspiring rap was when Run D.M.C, were freestyling verses over the song “Walk This Way” by Aerosmith, not knowing who Aerosmith was, but knowing it was a dope song. They ended up remaking the song with Aerosmith, which had an enormous impact on how rap was viewed in the pop realm and also brought Aerosmith back into favor ability after many years out of the spotlight.

Hip hop has always embraced and been inspired by rock music. And yes, a fair amount of rock acts have shown appreciation for hip hop. It’s OK to only like classic rock. It’s OK to only like hip hop. But to act like these two genres can’t coexist peacefully in your life or my life is an extremely outdated and wrong assumption, and I’m really tired of hearing it.

New playlist: Executive Realness

I’ve made my first mix on Soundcloud. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Executive Realness: A set of classic new wave, synth and boogie jams from an era when boys wore makeup and all of the ladies looked fly. Featuring Visage, Duran Duran, New Order, Evelyn Champagne King and more!

A Tribute to Brian Eno

Brian EnoBasically a list of reasons why Brian Eno is cooler than most people.

  • His full name is Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno, RDI. Only a rad dude would have a name like that.
  • He dressed like a glittery alien from outer space and wore makeup and probably got more chicks than the typical classic rock bros.
  • He played synths + tapes with one of the best bands ever, Roxy Music.
  • He enjoys taking a lot of photos with cats.
  • He is the pioneer of ambient music, even coining that term.
  • His Music for Airports album was played in the background at La Guardia Airport in the 80s.
  • He composed the startup sound for Windows 95.
  • He once gave an extensive interview to Chrissie Hynde about his pornography collection.
  • CHOICE QUOTE: “Eno forever altered the ways in which music is approached, composed, performed, and perceived, and everything from punk to techno to new age bears his unmistakable influence.”-some guy who writes for Allmusic.com
  • MGMT wrote a song about him.
  • He created the Oblique Strategies card deck in the 1970s as a way for artists and musicians to get out of their writers/creative block and get inspired. It’s like the I-Ching but with messages to help you think out of the box.
  • He most recent project is to create music and light installations for hospitals with the intent of the music aiding the healing process and providing overall good vibes to patients.
  • I mean just look at him.

IN ADDITION TO NOT HAVING ANY PROPER MUSICAL TRAINING, BRIAN ENO PRODUCED THESE CLASSIC ALBUMS WHICH I’M SURE YOU ALL HAVE HEARD A MILLION TIMES:

  • More Songs about Buildings & Food / Fear of Music / Remain in Light, Talking Heads
  • Ultravox’s self-titled album
  • Q: Are We Not Men A: We Are Devo / Devo
  • The Joshua Tree / Achtung Baby / U2
  • Laid by James
  • The last two Coldplay albums.

Not to mention he was David Bowie’s main collaborator on the albums in his “Berlin Trilogy” (Low, Heroes, Lodger)

BRIAN ENO IS AN AMAZING HUMAN. THE END.

Brian Eno

Valley Girl Slang

Valley Girl

It’s interesting to see which valley girl phrases are still a part of our daily lexicon (awesome, like, freaking me out) and what slang is sadly just a reflection of the 1980s. I personally want to start a movement to bring back the word bitchin into everyday conversation. Who’s with me?

VALLEY GIRL SLANG

Awesome, gag me with a spoon, bitchin’, like, choice, barf me out, gnarly, tubular, dweeb, fresh, grody (see also, grody to the max), totally, fer sure, bod, no duh, what’s your damage, eat my shorts, righteous, take a chill pill, talk to the hand, i’m so sure, psych, have a cow (see also, don’t have a cow), bite me, freaking me out, tripendicular.

Try to use some of this valley girl slang in a sentence today!