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As Michael Jackson memorial saturation coverage begins, here's a playlist of overlooked gems

009744_28 One of the the things I always hated about the weirdness that surrounded Michael Jackson's life was the impact it had on the public's perception of his work.

As the full court media press gears up for his memorial Tuesday, it's happening again. TV talking heads speculate on the fate of his fortune, his children, his doctors and his former home -- but not much energy left for what will be his most lasting product: his songs.

So here's my list -- compiled with help from a few friends on Facebook and Twitter -- of his most-overlooked tunes. While others are cranking Billie Jean and Thriller on Tuesday, these are the jams I'll be banging while the world's media descends to pick once more at his public image.

Michael Jackson - Invincible 2000 Watts, from 2001's Invincible:
A club jam from New Jack king Teddy Riley and his boys, overlooked mostly because the slowed-down vocal track doesn't sound much like what we're used to from MJ. If he hadn't been chasing blockbuster hits, he would have put this jam in the clubs and watched all the haters jam out to one of his best late-era dance floor workouts.

This Place Hotel, from the Jacksons' 1980 album Triumph:
Besides the fact that it's a smoking, sultry jam, this tune shines as the kind of tune that powered his solo debut, Off the Wall; a sinewy, jazz-inflected R&B jam, with his trademark, easy to overlook vocal gymnastics. Even though the hook repeats the phrase "Heartbreak Hotel," the tune's name was changed to avoid confusion with the hit by pop rock's other King.

Working Day and Night, from 1979's Off the Wall:
Rock With You and Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough were bigger hits, but the real dance floor jam in my Gary, Ind., neighborhood from Off the Wall was this song, which perfectly melded producer Quincy Jones' L.A.-style funk with MJ's muscular vocals.

Jam Jam, from 1991's Dangerous:
Much as people rave about Bad, this workout is Jackson's real attempt to really be bad -- hooking up with gangster funkster Teddy Riley to create a hip-shaking, head-nodding groove topped off with a master rap from Heavy D. Too bad the video features an odd duel with basketball king Michael Jordan.

Stranger In Moscow, from 1995's HIStory:
A textured and soulful ballad, it would have been one of his most touching slow jams -- if it hadn't been written about how he felt while touring Russia after child abuse allegations surfaced against him back in America.

Michaeljacksonpyt P.Y.T., from 1982's Thriller:
Inexplicably panned by reviewers who loved the rest of MJ's biggest record, this funky pop confection was even left off early CD versions of that classic album. Too bad, because it now stands as one of MJ's best overlooked hits.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:59pm]


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