"Billie Jean," "Beat It," "Rock With You," "I'll Be There," "ABC…"
We'll stop our list when we get to a bad—traditional definition, meaning not good—Michael Jackson hit.
"Off the Wall," "Dirty Diana," "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough," "Say Say Say…." Wait. Stop. We have a winner loser. "Say Say Say" is not good. And it isn't deserving of being Jackson's most popular song. Except, we are unhappy to report, that's exactly what it is.
In time for the one-year anniversary of Jackson's death, the chart-keepers at Billboard have compiled the pop king's top 50 singles, solo and otherwise. And by their calculations, the No. 1-performing Jackson song of all-time is his 1983 duet with Paul McCartney, "Say Say Say."
More like, "Say Say Say It Isn't So."
"Say Say Say" isn't one of Jackson's lesser hits. It's one of his worst. In fact, we'll say it: It is the worst. At least "Torture," the overblown, atonal Jacksons number that rode Thriller's glittery coattails, led to a video that gave Paula Abdul her big choreography break. "Say Say Say" provided no similar public service. It's cheesy. It's lame. It's got La Toya Jackson in its video—and brother Michael's making eyes at her. Ick.
Now, is "Say Say Say" the worst song ever? Of course not. In fact, if it had ranked 50th or 25th or even 15th on Billboard's Jackson list, we wouldn't have noticed its presence, much less worked ourselves into an agitated state over it. But No. 1 we cannot abide.
Our gripe is not with Billboard—it was simply crunching the numbers, and, as they crunched, "Say Say Say" just so happened to have spent more time on the right charts than any other Jackson song.
Our gripe is with 1983: You suck! How dare you make "Say Say Say" a bigger hit than "Billie Jean!"
[Cleansing deep breath.]
Well, now that we've got that off our chest, we have to admit, it's refreshing to talk about, debate and argue Michael Jackson's music. And, for once, only his music.
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Remember Michael Jackson in our photo gallery, Michael Jackson: A Life.