Can you believe it’s been 7 years since Michael Jackson passed away? It feels like it was just last week. His legacy is far from gone, however, and this week, we’ll be taking a look at and celebrating what made MJ the true King of Pop.
Song demos. They’re something the general public rarely hear, since, of course, we usually get the finished product. Only diehard fans will actively seek demos out, if there are even any available. But Michael Jackson’s demos are something everybody should listen to. There’s an ample amount of them available, and a lot of them show off his unique talent of being able to sound out each note for different instruments. And not only do they show his thought process, but many of them are better than a lot of fully-produced songs out there. Here are some of the best of MJ’s demos.
Out of all his demos, “Cheater” is arguably the real gem. It was originally intended to be included in the album Bad in 1987, but it did not make the final track listing and instead was released as part of The Ultimate Collection (which has many other demos) in 2004. The song certainly has a more relaxed, yet still passionate feeling to it, compared to his finished songs, and, as one music critic put it, is “funky, loose, and alive.”
“Billie Jean” (1981 Home Demo)
When Michael wrote “Billie Jean,” he knew it was going to be a success, and listening to the demo, you can hear the raw potential for it. It’s both interesting and amazing to listen to the work-in-progress. Not only do you get to listen to Michael’s thought process for creating one of the greatest songs of all time, but you also get to hear that talent of him sounding out different background parts with his mouth.
“Scared of the Moon” (1984-85)
Another cut song from Bad, “Scared of the Moon” was written by Michael and Buz Kohan. MJ was never fully satisfied with the song, however, as it was still on an extensive to-do list found at the time of his death. Even so, “Scared of the Moon” is a hauntingly beautiful song, especially for a demo, and his voice is so soft and intimate in it that you can’t help but feel like it’s taking you on an adventure. It’s amazing to think what he could have done with it if given the time.
“P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” (1982)
Another original version of one of his classics, the demo of “P.Y.T.” has a vastly different sound from its finished product. It was initially written by MJ and Greg Phillinganes. However, producer Quincy Jones didn’t like it but kept the title, and used the title on a new version he wrote with James Ingram. The demo itself is still fantastic though, particularly with its slower, soothing rhythm and vocals, and, of course, that cowbell solo. It was remixed by will.i.am in 2008 for the 25th anniversary reissue of Thriller.