Michael Jackson recorded loads of impressive material that didn’t make it onto his regular studio albums. The reasons for leaving tracks off were various: sometimes there just wasn’t enough space, sometimes they didn’t fit with the album as a whole, and sometimes he wanted to continue working on them. Many of these songs, however, were just as good as what ultimately made the cut. Unfortunately, that meant dozens of incredible tracks have gone almost completely overlooked by the average music listener.
Below, then, I have compiled a Top Ten list of what I feel are Michael Jackson’s best non studio-album songs. My rules were to only include songs that a) were never included on his original albums, and b) have been officially released in some capacity (therefore, tracks like “Blue Gangsta,” “Make or Break,” “A Place With No Name,” etc. aren’t included).
My apologies in advance for inevitably leaving off someone’s favorite hidden gem. But feel free to vote in the poll.
1. In the Back
This song is genius. Put on a good set of headphones and marvel at the layers of sound. Imagine what is being communicated with each instrument. Listen to the pain in his voice. “Dreams don’t last forever…”
2. Much Too Soon
I think this competes with “She’s Out of My Life” as Michael’s most poignant expression of regret and lost love. Beautiful lyrics. Authentic, tragic, human. One of my all-time favorites.
How was this not on Bad? Well, we know why, but it’s a testament to Michael’s talent that amazing songs like this could be left off. Great energy, killer bass, rich harmonies, and some fantastic harmonica!
4. Behind the Mask
This song would have been a big hit on Thriller. Such a unique track with those sheets of synth, its strange, postmodern aura and cyborg mantras. Had Michael’s version been finished and released in 1982 it could have been just as big as “Beat It” (especially with a video). Hopefully, the original demo will come out at some point.
5. Scared of the Moon
A dark Blakean song about childhood trauma. Many revealing insights are packed into this haunting, lyrical masterpiece.
6. Fall Again
I fell in love with this song the first time I heard it. Gorgeous, melancholy ballad. (Bonus: the great uncut bit at the end of Michael appreciating an unusual sound.)
Another outstanding Bad outtake. Raw, funky. Love the vocal on this one–the way he bites into the lyrics. And the signature finger snapping.
8. The Way You Love Me
Stevie Wonder loves it. What else needs to be said? Absolutely sublime vocal harmonies.
9. Beautiful Girl
Reminds me, in some ways, of “Liberian Girl.” Lush production, beautiful vocals. Just a wonderful piece of music.
10. We’ve Had Enough
Michael doesn’t get enough credit for his protest songs. This one’s a passionate plea that builds slowly and vividly, before exploding in desperate outrage at the climax. That pained ending, “Oh no, oh no…why did you do it?” speaks volumes.
Honorable Mention: “Someone Put Your Hand Out,” “Fly Away,” “Monkey Business”