Five years after his death and Michael Jackson is still a force to be reckoned with. The King of Pop has dominated the charts since he debuted in the Jackson Five and continues to do so even after his death.
Proving what an influence he was and always will be, here are 11 covers of iconic Michael Jackson songs.
The Weeknd “Dirty Diana”
(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella)
Bringing his signature falsetto to Michael’s famous ode to groupies, “Dirty Diana,” The Weeknd released it on his 2011 mixtape, “Echoes of Silence.” Slowing it down and putting his own haunting twist on this cover makes it a must listen.
Alien Ant Farm “Smooth Criminal”
(Photo by George De Sota/Getty Images)
One of their biggest hits, Alien Ant Farm’s rock cover of “Smooth Criminal” originally wasn’t meant for release. According to the band, they would play a few riffs of the song while warming up for a show. Audience members would frequently request them to play the whole song and this positive feedback led to the recording of their version.
Mariah Carey “I’ll Be There”
(VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
Along with Trey Lorenz, Mariah Carey sang Jackson Five hit “I’ll Be There” for her edition of MTV Unplugged in 1992. Unoriginally not part of her set list she added it after learning many artists performed a cover for their Unplugged performances. When viewers flooded her label with requests for the song to be released as a single Mariah’s camp acquiesced and it became her sixth #1 single in the U.S.
Fall Out Boy “Beat It”
(Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for CBS Radio Inc.)
Everyone’s favorite emo pop quartet, Fall Out Boy, released their cover of “Beat It” in 2008 with John Mayer taking over Eddie Van Halen’s guitar solo. Like Alien Ant Farm, Fall Out Boy hadn’t originally planned to record “Beat It.” When lead singer/guitarist Patrick Stump started goofing around playing it at a sound check the rest of the band chimed in. After incorporating it into their live performances they decided to release it as a single.
R. Kelly “You Are Not Alone”
(Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
Michael Jackson’s last number one in the U.S. “You Are Not Alone” was actually written by R. Kelly who was elated to give it to Jackson. Jackson loved it and together they produced the track. R. Kelly later included the hit on his 10th album, “Love Letter,” as a hidden track.
The Civil Wars “Billie Jean”
(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Country/Folk duo The Civil Wars covered one of Michael’s biggest hits, “Billie Jean,” in 2012. Slowed down and folk-ed out the hit is almost unrecognizable when performed by The Civil Wars.
Adam Lambert “Black or White”
(Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images)
American Idol star Adam Lambert performed a cover of “Black or White” for the show on Michael Jackson night. His first performance in the finals, the cover proved to be a success for Lambert ensuring he wouldn’t be eliminated that night and setting the stage for his eventual run to final two.
Akon “Wanna Be Startin’ Something”
(Photo by Jim Dyson/Getty Images)
As part of the release of Thriller 25, the 25th anniversary edition of Jackson’s iconic album Thriller, “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” was remixed featuring Akon. Notable for being the last single released while Jackson was alive the tune has also been sampled by countless artists. Rihanna, Childish Gambino and Kanye West have all sampled the “mama-se, mama-sa, mama-ku-sa” line.
Tame Impala “Stranger in Moscow”
(Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)
Australian psychedelic rock band Tame Impala recently released a version of “Stranger In Moscow.” The psychedelic take on Jackson’s hit strips it of his raw emotion from dealing with his child abuse allegations and instead takes listeners on a very groovy trip.
Ian Brown (of the Stone Roses) “Thriller”
(Photo by Rob Harrison/Getty Images)
In 2007, Ian Brown of the Stone Roses covered Jackson’s biggest hit “Thriller” and completely reinvented it. The cover is devoid of Jackson’s signature sound but instead imparted with Brown’s eerie vocals creating a jarringly unique experience.
Amy Winehouse “Beat It”
(PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP/Getty Images)
With its second appearance “Beat It” shows up again on our list this time ‘covered’ by Amy Winehouse and Charlotte Church. We say ‘covered’ because we’re not sure if it counts if she doesn’t actually sing the words. Mostly she just mumbles through her verses while Charlotte Church looks on helplessly and tries valiantly to save this floundering interpretation. Take a listen and see if you can decipher Winehouse’s screeching and growling.
Did we miss any of YOUR favorite MJ cover songs? Let us know in the comments section below!
–E.J. Judge & Zach Cole/WCBS-FM
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