Michael Jackson was the pioneer of music videos along with many other things. He created some of the most iconic music videos that still claim relevance today. All of these music videos made a bold statement in terms of the pop genre or the making of music videos. MJ’s perfectionism reflected in each one of them, and that is the reason unlike many other famous artists, these specimens from more than two decades still thrive.
We tried to choose 10 videos from the wide number of his creations. Although we are aware of the fact that the top 10 list is pretty narrow, we have tried hard to pick the best ones.
10. Remember The Time
The portrayal of the ancient Egyptian monarchy with the pharaoh sitting was undoubtedly a scene in a music video from the ‘90s. Under the direction of John Singleton, MJ crushed the video with his fantastic dance performance and once again presented a fresh idea to the pop industry.
“Scream” was a duet of Michael and Janet Jackson. Directed by Mark Romanek, it had a spaceship. I am serious. The duo sings and dances in a black and white color combination mainly expressing anger to the criticisms they have faced over the years. The video is mostly known for its high budget, and MJ never satisfied his artistic appetite for ordinary things, so hell yeah you’ll see some of his aggression here.
8. Earth Song
The Earth needs you now more than ever, though these aren’t the lines used by MJ this was the message. “Earth Song” showed the problem nature is facing- deforestation, war, poverty, and more. The director Nick Bradt fantastically portrayed every scene with artistic metaphors. MJ asked people to donate to his “Heal the World Foundation” in the end. People received the song grandly and won several awards. Jackson performed the song in the Brit award ceremony while receiving the “Artist of a Generation” award.
7. They Don’t Care About us – Brazil
Michael Jackson belonged from a time when artists spoke for people and their problems. “They Don’t Care About Us” was on the life of common deprived people. Displaying the misery of their lives MJ shot the video in Salvador and Rio. Spike Lee captured their lives to display the horror and successfully the video got public attention. And once again art thrived over corruption Jackson’s video made a practical impact on those areas. Although the song wasn’t ‘very much loved’ in the US, it had garnered global recognition, especially in Europe.
6. Black or White
Michael and John Landis once again collaborated for “Black or White” to make a bold statement. Early on in the ‘90s, the music video spoke for racial harmony- and not just between white and black but for the entire world. Landis’s direction once again shined here, in each frame there was something remarkable. For the first time with a huge budget, the video worked on morphing. Dancers across the world performed in the video from Asia to Russia. There was also a cameo appearance of the “Home alone” kid Macaulay Culkin. The music led the use of special effects in a broad manner that later the industry adapted.
5. Smooth Criminal
When you think the MJ magic dance is getting older, Jackson brought the “gravity defining lean”. Released in 1988, it might have not been something big as “Beat it” or “Billie Jean” but it was an artistic masterpiece indeed. Inspired from a “Godfather”-ish theme, Jackson placed the set in a regular roadside bar to justify the violence. The director Colin Chilvers and choreographer Jeffery Daniels left their signature- the sheer mystery of the “lean” left people astonished and a subject to discuss even today. “Smooth Criminal” didn’t go very smoothly, it made some chaos in the stunned public.
4. Beat It
The year was 1983 and the person was Michael Jackson, everything went like a dream. “Beat it”, the music video took a stand, not only from the entertainment aspect but also from the social aspect. MJ gave a very firm message on gang violence, his cast included 80 real gang members to perform side by side. The director Bob Giraldi in one interview mentioned the video wasn’t inspired by the “west side story”, rejecting the popular claim Giraldi said it was “absolutely not true at all”. Read More
People love to compare things and judge based on illogical comparison- in a report from 1987, Rolling Stone compared Bad and Thriller. They said if anyone really wants to compare the two albums they should check the fillers, the former is well ahead than Thriller in this category. Bad made a lasting impression by giving out the message that “good environment changes bad people into good people”. Martin Scorsese, the director of the video had his own moment to design the 18-minute short film with a budget of $2.2M.
2. Billie Jean
Jackson was famous from his childhood but it wasn’t until the release of “Billie Jean” that he became the superstar, who ruled the ‘80s. The release of this music video in 1983 marked MJ’s debut on MTV’s list as well, it made a difference in popularity and significance for Jackson and MTV. Some critics argued, including The Guardian that it was the first music video that made some sense, the others that were around at that time were “either primitive or stupid”. For the first time in history, Michael Jackson emerged as the star of both the Black and White community- and it wasn’t something Elvis or even “Beatles” could achieve. The director Steve Barron kept the video focused on MJ and MJ only, his appearance, his dance, and even his acting, everything marked the arrival of the next big thing in the music industry.
If there were any artistic revolution in the ‘80s, it was surely the release of “Thriller”. The greatest music video of all time wasn’t just something that entertained people, it changed the concept of music videos. With a hefty budget of $500,000, what MJ created was a public display of artistic freedom and the same did John Landis. Vaughan Arnell once said, “It was an amalgamation of two talents”. I couldn’t agree more, it was indeed the two biggest names, came up with the idea of an unusually long music video that shows some supernatural horror/zombie sequences. Since then, it has been a speaker of artistic freedom, going beyond the set TV guidelines which later would show up in YouTube and inspiration of many music video creators. Even today the music video is relevant and familiar.