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CEREMONY | The Michael Jackson Number Ones Rate


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Tonight’s story is somewhat unique and calls for a different kind of introduction.
—‘Threatened’ (2001)


Welcome to the Michael Jackson Number Ones Rate ceremony!

With over a billion records sold worldwide, including 13 Billboard Hot 100 chart-toppers, Michael Jackson is one of the greatest selling musicians who ever lived. A consummate professional and perpetual innovator, his four-decade discography includes many songs that form the cultural fabric of modern pop music. Put simply, Michael Jackson defined the megastar.

For the past month, you’ve been rating the 20 incredible songs from 2003’s Number Ones compilation album, including many of MJ’s greatest hits. From ‘Billie’ to ‘Beat It’, ‘Rock With You’ to ‘Rock My World’, these songs have been battling to be crowned Gagadaily’s Favourite MJ Number One. And now it’s time to find out which song is your winner! Here’s your reminder of the competitors:


We’ll be counting down the 20 songs over the course of around 2 hours. There’s a tie somewhere in the results, so in that case the song with the fewest 11s will be eliminated first. Along the way I’ll be sharing your (amazing) commentary, as well as some information on these songs’ backstories and my own thoughts on the tracks.

The ceremony starts in an hour – 2PM PT / 5PM ET / 10PM UK. Whilst you’re waiting, sit back & relax with this tailormade preshow playlist of some of the brilliant MJ songs that you haven’t been rating. Enjoy!

Edited by Cruelty
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Werewolves Wanted

Coming in to ask everyone what their favorite number ones cover variant is? :giveup: The off the wall one is my favorite. He’s so handsome 

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3 minutes ago, Werewolves Wanted said:

Coming in to ask everyone what their favorite number ones cover variant is? :giveup: The off the wall one is my favorite. He’s so handsome 

The iconic toe stand for me, but I love the Bad one too

love like an ache in the jaw
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I said you wanna be startin’ somethin’
You got to be startin’ somethin’

—‘Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’’ (1982)

Let’s go!


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20 ONE MORE CHANCE – average 6.92
The highs: 10 x 1 [@Jeroen Bloeming]
The lows: 3 [@Cruelty :stalkga:]

Composed by the writer of “You Are Not Alone”, “One More Chance” was released in November 2003 as the single to promote Number Ones. This was the last original single Michael Jackson released during his lifetime, and it performed moderately across Europe (top 5 in the UK, who knew?!) but faltered in America.

Personally, I find this an insipid, forgettable stain on the compilation to be honest. It’s inoffensive but utterly uninteresting; the sort of song that would be acceptable from any other artist, but never on a Michael Jackson greatest hits compilation!! Although I did spend most of the next day singing the chorus in my head so that’s a kii. Intriguingly, this was MJ’s third “One More Chance” (two other unrelated songs had been recorded by the Jacksons, but I can’t be bothered to listen to those and tell you which one is best. What a chilling thought that it might be this one). A predictable early out.

Voter 2 I liked this song, it’s catchy and vibey. Very uplifting and light
@PartySick A bittersweet final single in his discography, if you don’t count posthumous releases. The video always seemed like a bit of a love letter to the fans by putting them on stage instead of Michael.

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19 I JUST CAN’T STOP LOVING YOU – average 7.20
The highs: 11 x 1 [@EdX]
The lows: 4 x 2 [@M i K E Y @androiduser]

“I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” truly sounds celestial. This syrupy ballad foregrounds some beautiful shimmering 80s keyboards, building up to the most memorable, euphoric, feelgood chorus, as the poise of the verses breaks into an explosion of affection. Following rejections from Barbra Streisand and Whitney Houston, Jackson’s duet partner on the track is the fantastic Siedah Garrett, who had previously written “Man in the Mirror” and would later join him to perform the song on tour. Jackson recorded a spoken introduction for the song whilst lying in bed; mercifully, this has been cut from most versions of the song these days.

This is a slight tangent, but: I once read an absolutely fascinating article, which was actually about how “Liberian Girl” (also from the Bad album) uses clichés of Orientalism to construct a unique place for MJ at the intersection of American and African-American culture. But it juxtaposed that song against “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”, illustrating just how traditional, how mainstream, how Western, how American the latter is. And it’s true – it’s the perfect white love song, sung by two Black performers. It’s in C major, statistically the whitest key; musically inoffensive and lyrically unadventurous; and allows Jackson to stake a claim within the landscape of white 1980s power balladry.

As Bad’s lead single, therefore, it makes a lot of sense, and indeed it became the first of the album’s record-breaking five Billboard Number 1s. However, the unbridled euphoria of “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” might also be its downfall, as that can so often read as ‘cheesy’. I also think it’s very much a song of its time, hence the low placement from our voters.

Voter 2 One of my lesser MJ ballads
Voter 6 Cute song but was never my favorite
@PartySick The Spanish version is better! But this one is still nice.
@M i K E Y This song was never my favorite


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18 BEN (LIVE) – average 7.40
The highs: 10 x 2 [@Franch Toast @Werewolves Wanted]
The lows: 4 x 2 [Voter 2 @Little Monstera]

Written for the 1972 film of the same name, “Ben” was Michael Jackson’s first solo number 1, which is why it’s on the collection (albeit a tastefully chosen 1981 live version). And it’s… about a rat. The film Ben is about an evil rat who befriends a lonely child and forms an army of violent rodents who are eventually exterminated with flamethrowers and shotguns. No, really.

So anyway. The song itself is an evocative morsel of 70s Motown balladry, endearing enough to be nominated for an Oscar and to win a Golden Globe. Our voters couldn’t seem to summon much enthusiasm for this song, although its perfectly respectable score of 7.40 is testament to the quality of basically all of Michael Jackson’s musical output.

Voter 2 I understand why they included it (somewhat) but it never served a large purpose to me. I can appreciate it for what it is though
@PartySick It’s always cool to hear him sing his childhood songs with his adult voice. Ben was also his first #1 so it’s a good closer to this collection.

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17 BREAK OF DAWN – average 7.52
The highs: 11 x 1 [@TheSine]
The lows: 4 x 2 [Voter 2 @androiduser]

Let’s use this opportunity to talk about Michael Jackson’s final studio album, 2001’s Invincible. It was produced by hitmakers including Teddy Riley and Darkchild; it covers familiar MJ lyrical themes including love, the media and societal harmony; it took four years to produce, in the process becoming the most expensive album ever made; and its stylistic range encompasses R&B, gospel, pop, rock and dubstep. So… why does nobody like it? Maybe that’s a little unfair (as @PartySick points out, in 2009 it was incomprehensibly voted Billboard readers’ favourite album of the decade), but the album is certainly not remembered fondly, if at all, by the general public.

Jackson’s refusal to tour Invincible certainly didn’t help it to create a longlasting worldwide cultural impact; neither did Sony’s decision to abruptly stop promoting the album after 9 months. However, Jackson retaliated by launching an ill-advised campaign alleging that Sony Music CEO Tommy Mottola was a racist “devil”, which drew all attention away from the album. And yet Invincible’s problems do begin with the music itself which, to be blunt, is not good enough. There’s certainly a lot to love, but the record is overstuffed at 77 minutes, notably light on hits, and leans into late-stage MJ’s worst impulses towards mawkish balladry, often pastiching earlier hits to diminishing returns. 

“Break of Dawn”, however, is a highlight of the album. To answer the inevitable question, it’s on the Number Ones album because Jackson still held out hope that it could be released as a single, and he’s right to be proud of it. A slice of buttery, sensual R&B, the song Jackson tells a simple tale of making love all through the night, texturing his longing with a lush canopy of backing vocals. Ultimately never released as a single, the song feels unfortunately out of place on Number Ones, and so was never going to trouble the top spots.

Voter 2 
Never understood the inclusion of this song but I could never get into it
@PartySick It's songs like this that made Billboard listeners vote Invincible as “album of the decade” for 2000-2010. This track is smooooth.
@Jeroen Bloeming The fact that this song is a #1 hit? The taste is nowhere to be found…
@dimitristhe So underrated. Michael’s voice is amazing in this one. The song is so fluid, sensual and irresistible.


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16 BLOOD ON THE DANCE FLOOR – average 8.24
The highs: 11 x 1 [@Jeroen Bloeming]
The lows: 1 [@RAMROD]

The funky “Blood on the Dance Floor” sees a return to the slamming industrial beats and paranoid lyrics of the Dangerous album. Over a barrage of whooping organs and phenomenal vocal percussion, Jackson sings of a life-or-death encounter with the femme fatale Susie. The song is the lead single and title track from Jackson’s 1997 remix album, which paired 5 genre-breaking new tracks with a selection of remixed hits from his previous album HIStory. This was a savvy combination, which led to Blood on the Dance Floor becoming the best-selling remix album of all time. It’s well worth a listen; the new songs are some of Jackson’s best, massively underrated magnum opuses, deeply invested in moving into the future and in exploring and redefining what ‘Michael Jackson’ could mean as a musical entity (one day I’ll write the full essay on this). The remixes still stack up today, with my favourite being the “History Lesson” which massively improves its original. “Superfly Sister” is also on this album.

As multiple voters pointed out, “Blood on the Dance Floor” was originally intended for the Dangerous album; in fact, it was Michael’s favourite of the initial group of tracks brought to him by Teddy Riley. Finally finished in 1997, the song became the remix album’s title track. More than any other track on the compilation, there’s a deep regional split at work with this one: in America it peaked at 42, so it’s only familiar to the MJ diehards, whereas it was a number one hit in several European countries. 

The Number Ones album is arranged chronologically; for me, this is the first track that doesn’t really feel essential, and the collection never really recovers afterwards. You guys seem to love the production (the word ‘banger’ cropped up multiple times), although I think it needs something extra in the low end. Ultimately, I think this is inessential but exciting, and that explains its position rounding out the bottom quarter of the leader-board. Statistically, it’s the most divisive song in the rate, thanks to a 1 from @RAMROD who gives their excuse below.



Voter 2 Imagine if this has always stayed in the Dangerous era vault? What a banger
@RAMROD This version is a no. Always got me soured each time I heard it, it brings me back to the first time I got the album and hate it immediately, cos the version is not the one on MV (refugee cam mix), it is the same sour feelings as when TLC’s No Scrub version in the album is not the MV version with Left Eye’s rap on it. 👎👎
@PartySick A Dangerous era track that MJ refused to give up on. An absolute banger and the title track to the best selling remix album of all time.
@Jeroen Bloeming In my opinion, one of his best dance tracks. The production is so good on this song.
@Werewolves Wanted Susie is a telephone operator
@dimitristhe I really love his vocals in the chorus. A very catchy song and very well produced.

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15 YOU ROCK MY WORLD – average 8.28
The highs: 11 x 1 [@Little Monstera]
The lows: 5 @androiduser]

Released in August 2001 as the lead single from Invincible, “You Rock My World” earned Jackson his 28th Top 10 hit. Darkchild’s technically excellent production sees satiny disco strings float over a thumping R&B beat, whilst the 13½-minute music video—which sees MJ, Chris Tucker and Marlon Brando going around town being a bit seedy—was the recipient of an NAACP Image Award. The song was also performed at Jackson’s thirtieth anniversary concerts, held in New York to coincide with the release of Invincible. The song is lyrically unadventurous, but gorgeously produced, and has stood the test of time as an inessential but fondly remembered addition to Jackson’s catalogue.


Voter 2 The best song on Invincible along with Threatened and Whatever Happens
@PartySick The song is a groove but I always think of Chris Tucker’s crazy ass when I hear it. He always had MJ cracking up and I love his stories about his time with Michael. Be it his first trip to Neverland where MJ tricked him into thinking a lion was loose or when they were hanging out with Barry Gibb (and his dog) and MJ and Barry were singing “How Deep Is Your Love” before Chris ruined it by joining in haha
@dimitristhe His most underrated lead single. A banger!


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