6 Hit Songs You Didn’t Know Michael Jackson Wrote Solo

Michael Jackson was known during his lifetime as “The King of Pop.” He earned that title over decades, first as a performer with his family group the Jackson 5, and then as a solo artist. He is also known for his close partnership with music icon Quincy Jones.

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However given Jackson’s excellence combined with his history of working with big-name collaborators, many might not know that he wrote many of his songs on his own.

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In order to highlight the pop star’s genius, we wanted to dive into six songs that you likely didn’t know Michael Jackson wrote solo.

1. “Dirty Diana

Written by Michael Jackson

One of Jackson’s most gritty songs, this track was released on the artist’s 1987 album, Bad. It also features a skillful, rock-centric guitar performance by Billy Idol’s six-string player Steve Stevens. Produced (though not co-written) by Quincy Jones, the subject matter for the track has to do with a conniving groupie who has her own best intentions in mind but not those of the singer. Though perhaps not one of the first songs that come to fans’ minds from The King of Pop, it did hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts upon its release. On it, Jackson sings,

You’ll never make me stay
So take your weight off of me
I know your every move
So won’t you just let me be
I’ve been here times before
But I was too blind to see
That you seduce every man
This time you won’t seduce me

2. “The Girl is Mine”

Written by Michael Jackson

From Jackson’s 1982 album, Thriller, this song was also produced by Quincy. Though it features two of the biggest names in music history, Jackson and former Beatle Paul McCartney, the song was not written by the two together. Instead, it was all Jackson. “The Girl is Mine” wasn’t the first time the two got together. They previously cut songs like “Say Say Say” and “The Man.” On “The Girl Is Mine,” McCartney and Jackson fight over a common love interest. Jackson sings as the song opens,

Every night she walks right in my dreams
Since I met her from the start
I’m so proud I am the only one
Who is special in her heart

3. “Bad”

Written by Michael Jackson

The title song from the 1987 album of the same name, this track was written by Jackson and co-produced by him and Jones. The track, which hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, is a smack-talking song all about the singer’s attitude, strength, and prowess. It serves notice to anyone listening: don’t mess with me. Humorously, the music video for the song was supposed to feature Jackson’s 1980s music rival, Prince— who upon hearing the opening lyric, backed out. Jackson begins the song:

Ah, your butt is mine, gon’ tell you right, ah
Just show your face in broad daylight, ah
I’m tellin’ you on who I feel, ah
Gonna hurt your mind, don’t shoot to kill

4. “Billie Jean

Written by Michael Jackson

Released on the iconic 1982 LP, Thriller, this may be Jackson’s most famous song. Written by him and co-produced with Jones, this song brought to life a legendary music video with signature dance moves. When Jackson performed the song at the Motown 25 celebration, he busted out his now-famous sequin glove and moonwalk moves. This is another song about distance from groupies. On it, Jackson sings:

She was more like a beauty queen from a movie scene
I said don’t mind, but what do you mean, I am the one
Who will dance on the floor in the round?
She said I am the one, who will dance on the floor in the round

She told me her name was Billie Jean, as she caused a scene
Then every head turned with eyes that dreamed of being the one
Who will dance on the floor in the round

5. “Beat It

Written by Michael Jackson

Another hit from Jackson from his Thriller album, this song was also co-produced by him and Jones. The song has roots in rock, especially so thanks to lead guitar playing from one of the greats at the time, Eddie Van Halen. This was another track from Jackson to feature an iconic music video, one with battling gangs, reminiscent of West Side Story. On the song, Jackson sings:

They told him, “Don’t you ever come around here”
“Don’t wanna see your face, you better disappear”
The fire’s in their eyes and their words are really clear
So beat it, just beat it

You better run, you better do what you can
Don’t wanna see no blood, don’t be a macho man
You wanna be tough, better do what you can
So beat it, but you wanna be bad

6. “Smooth Criminal

Written by Michael Jackson

The famous tracks just keep coming! From Jackson’s 1987 LP, Bad, this was yet another iconic song with another iconic music video, cementing Jackson’s status as the unparalleled center of pop culture at the time. This song tells the story of someone attacked by a “smooth criminal.” But more than a sad tale, it’s almost like a compelling mobster movie. The video for the song includes the singer’s “anti-gravity” move, yet another eye-popping dance move. In the song, Jackson sings, with epic delivery:

As he came into the window
It was the sound of a crescendo
He came into her apartment
He left the bloodstains on the carpet
She ran underneath the table
He could see she was unable
So she ran into the bedroom
She was struck down
It was her doom

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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