Michael Jackson took music videos to another level even in the ’80s and 90’s when no one really cared about them. In such an era, when music videos were treated as an extra expense for promotional purposes MJ knew it’ll change everything. And so things happened, today music video is the primary concern for any music release and producers are ready to invest in millions.
The King of Pop saw the future and did his works with utmost perfection. The dance was the primary element in all of his videos, not only did he invent dance styles but also hired professional dancers in the music videos. Let’s have a look at Jackson’s most famous dances in his music videos and the videos in general. We will be focusing mainly on music videos and not on-stage performances.
1. Smooth Criminal
Jackson performed his second most famous gravity leaning dance move in the video for the first time. The seemingly impossible dance move leaning forward and then standing straight took great athleticism and some special effects in the video. Smooth Criminal is MJ’s one of the best works as far as music video making is concerned. He worked with the famous director Colin Chilvers. The music they created together was a mixed idea from some already existing concepts. The initial goal was to create a noir genre environment to work for the purpose. MJ took some inspiration from Fred Astair’s “Band Wagon”. It won the 1989 Brit Awards.
2. Beat It
“Beat It” is considered as a music video that transformed MJ’s stardom and expanded it globally. Not only did it convey a message but also Jackson had done something awkwardly extraordinary, as a result, it got the exposure even in a time when music videos were a new thing. Choreographed by Primetime Emmy Award winner Michael Peters, the dance moves were essentially Jacksonized, and as always he made it a great performance. Also, the red zipper jacket was matching the environment to take the performance to another level. The 1983 music video featured 80 real gangsters of two rival gangs in the cast, it was MJ’s idea to add some reality into the video. “Beat it” was produced by MJ himself and the budget was around $150,000. Directed by Bob Giraldi, the video was featured on MTV, after “Billie Jean” by an African-American artist for the first time.
Thriller is the largest music album in the history of commercial music. And the music video is celebrated as the most famous music video of all time. In 2010, the US National Film Registry inducted the music video as a ‘treasure’. How did all these happen? The 1983 music video was an experimental one, neither director John Landis nor MJ ever thought it’ll touch so many people, and even after a decade of his death, it’ll be equally sought after. The dance moves were quite extraordinary in Jackson’s superhit music video. This one also was Choreographed by Primetime Emmy Award winner Michael Peters, the Zombie dance in this video is famous even after 30 years and who can forget that night street filled with zombies performing the dance moves. The budget of “Thriller” in aggregate was little more than a million and it was the highest budget music video of that time. This horror-fantasy romantic music video broke all the existing records and many of the previous records are intact until today.
4. Black or White
“Black or White” is another music video with the essence of a short film. Jackson has included various forms of dancing from all over the world including Asia and Africa. He even included a southern African Zulu dance snippet, it looks like a huge arrangement of many things. Working with John Landis gave Jackson extra comfort and both of them flourished in the video. The video had garnered a 500 million viewer base from 27 countries.
The director of the music video is the living legend Martin Scorsese and the writer is another famous man, Richard Price. Jackson wanted to make an 18 minutes long short film and hired a novelist to write the script. Though it was another gang rival themed video, like every other of his videos it has got several twists. Also, it has got great dancing shots of MJ and his co-actors, especially the one where a person uses skating shoes to get back on his feet; though it’s somewhat common today but back then it was a crazy thing. Jeffrey Daniel was the choreographer, he was the man who taught MJ the moonwalk.
6. I Wanna Rock With You
“I Wanna Rock With You” came from Jackson’s earlier days. It was 1979 when young Jackson shot the simple yet beautiful music video for his evergreen song. The dance moves are quite simple and funny; it’s popular in amateur dancers. Directed by Bruce Gowers, it was shot in L.A’s 800 stage. It feels good to see MJ performing in an old-school way on a stage with a laser coming from his backside.
7. You Rock My World
The music video is more of a short film with a story to tell. Directed by Paul Hunter, it shows a conflict over rivals and a woman at stake. Jackson uses some of the dance moves in the video that could not make in “Dangerous” the MTV performance. MJ dances around the floor with a black suit and a pink shirt. And it really looks cool on him. There is an appearance of the legendary actor Marlon Brando, and it is said that out of the four million budget, Brando took one million. It was a super hit soon after the release and got several awards.
8. They Don’t Care About Us
Jackson wasn’t the fancy singer who wished to enjoy the lavish life of a superstar, in this video, he showed the resilience to fight the system. Shooting in Rio, especially in places where poverty, crime, and hunger was a normal incident, was a big deal. The state authorities constantly denied MJ to shoot there. But at last with the support of local people, he completed the video. There is a scene where Michael was dancing and two local women came to hug him, he fell down on the ground but kept on dancing after that. It was all real and recorded in real-time. Some of the best dancing moves MJ performed in the video along with a bunch of drummers and local people.
9. Remember The Time
MJ had always been fond of longer music videos, this is one of them. “Remember the Time” is based on a unique storyline of ancient Egypt, the director John Singleton has done magic with the special effects team and Jackson, on the other hand, has given a great dance performance. Produced by Epic Records, MJ’s record label, the budget isn’t yet publicly revealed but it’s quite big for sure.
10. Don’t Stop Till Get Enough
Yet another video from 1979, it can be considered cool as it was created four decades ago. MJ’s first solo music video had been shot with chroma key special effects, again a cool thing of that time. Directed by Nick Saxton, one can see a gentleman Michael in formal attire. The video doesn’t have much dancing, but MJ seems to enjoy his footwork and body shaking on rhythm.
11. The Way You Make Me Feel
The music video follows the song intimately, with no big stunts, or any special effects, but it has an inner message to give. While chasing a woman, how does a man react, while being rejected how should one feel, these are the things you can understand from the dance moves. It’s rather calm and goes deep.
Featuring the basketball legend Michael Jordan, the music video for Jam is a thing to watch. Both the legends are trying to teach each other their skills, and it looks really funny to see them struggling. With a fast beat and rap, it is something to enjoy. Especially the scenes where Jackson is teaching Jordan the Moonwalk. Directed by David Kellogg, the music video was a hit and stayed on people’s minds for a long time.
The music video was Michael’s anger and despair to the people, who created trouble in his life. Michael collaborating with the novelist Stephen King wrote the script and first made a short film and then a music video. The short film was released in the Cannes Film festival and music video shortly after. The video won the Bob Fosse Award for the best choreography as MJ did a fantastic dance performance.
14. In the Closet
“In the Closet” has a minimalistic view as a music video, only MJ and Naomi are dancing. With a sepia tone and white dress, both of them look great. In freestyle dancing, all it shows is the desire for each other. The director Herb Ritts gifted a beautiful video with less chaos and more focus.
15. One More Chance
“One More Chance” doesn’t have a complete video as the shoot was interrupted due to legal procedures. After the death of the legend, the Jackson family released whatever portion they had in their possession. It’s mainly the dancing scenes of MJ. Directed by Nick Brandt, it’s a memoir to Jackson. Even in the incomplete video, MJ’s dancing on the tables and his roaming around the hall while asking for one more chance is a touching scene. To match with the dark environment, his grey jacket added another level of flavor.