On the fifth anniversary of his death, a look back at the music that made the singer the undisputed King of Pop.
In a career that spanned almost all 50 years of his life, Michael Jackson became a mainstay on the Billboard charts. It was his dominance on the weekly Billboard Hot 100, however, that entered him into the record books: As a solo artist, 13 of his singles went to No. 1 - the most by a male artist - and an additional four songs by the Jackson 5 also topped the chart.
Here, Jackson's top singles are ranked based on a track's performance on the Hot 100. (Nielsen SoundScan started tabulating sales data for Billboard in 1991; as many Jackson songs were released before then, a measurement based on strict sales numbers would be incomplete.) Songs are ranked based on an inverse point system, with weeks at No. 1 earning the greatest value and weeks at No. 100 earning the least. (For all of the details on how this chart was compiled, scroll to the bottom of the page.)
10. "The Girl Is Mine"
Michael Jackson & Paul McCartney
Hot 100 Peak Position: 2 Weeks On Chart: 18
Surprising to some, "The Girl Is Mine" was actually the first single from Michael Jackson's 1982 "Thriller" album - not "Billie Jean" or "Beat It." A duet with McCartney, the song was released in October 1982 and quickly debuted on the Hot 100 at No. 45, eventually rising to No. 2. "The Girl Is Mine" also famously kicked off an incredible run of hits from the "Thriller" album; It was the first of seven straight Hot 100 top 10 hits from the release, the first album to yield such a streak.
The Jackson 5
Hot 100 Peak Position: 1 (2 weeks) Weeks On Chart: 13
In somewhat of a case of chart fortune-telling, it was perhaps fitting that the Jackson 5's second Hot 100 No. 1 dislodged the Beatles' second-to-last No. 1, "Let It Be, " from the top of the chart dated April 25, 1970, as arguably the most influential group in the history of pop music symbolically passed the baton to the format's future King. The Jackson 5's next leader, "The Love You Save" (see No. 11), would likewise bump the Beatles' last No. 1, "The Long and Winding Road, " from the summit in June 1970.
8. "I Want You Back"
Hot 100 Peak Position: 1 (1 week) Weeks On Chart: 19
A new era in Motown's storied history - and one of the most impressive chart resumes in Billboard's archives - began rather unassumingly. Michael Jackson's six-decade tenancy on the Billboard charts began the week of Nov. 15, 1969, when the then-11-year-old and his four brothers entered the chart at No. 90 with "I Want You Back." On Jan. 31, 1970, the song completed the first of Jackson's 17 trips to the top (four with the Jackson 5, 13 solo).
7. "Man In The Mirror"
Hot 100 Peak Position: 1 (2 weeks) Weeks On Chart: 17
When "Man in the Mirror" reached No. 1 on the Hot 100 in 1988, Jackson became the first artist in the chart's history to pull four No. 1 songs from one album - in this case, "Bad." After Jackson's death in 2009, "Mirror" re-entered the U.K. singles chart at No. 11 and peaked at No. 2. "I wrote the music, and [Siedah Garrett] wrote the words, " co-writer Glen Ballard told Billboard in 2001. "It only took a couple of hours to write."
6. "Dancing Machine"
Hot 100 Peak Position: 2 Weeks On Chart: 22
The funky, early-disco title track from the group's 1974 album danced close to the top of the Hot 100, halting at No. 2 (stuck behind Ray Stevens' "The Streak.") "Dancing Machine" was the final Hot 100 top 10 for the group on Motown Records, as the act departed the label for Epic in 1976, re-christened as The Jacksons.
5. "Rock With You"
Hot 100 Peak Position: 1 (4 weeks) Weeks On Chart: 24
Penned by British songwriter Rod Temperton of the R&B group Heatwave, Jackson's third No. 1 spent four weeks in the Hot 100's top slot, the longest of any of his singles at the time. The track ranked at No. 4 on Billboard's top Hot 100 songs of 1980, helping Jackson earn Top Singles Artist honors that year.
4. "Beat It"
Hot 100 Peak Position: 1 (3 weeks) Weeks On Chart: 25
Jackson wasted little time in achieving his second Hot 100 No. 1 from "Thriller, " with only two weeks separating the last of seven weeks on top for "Billie Jean" and the first frame in charge for "Beat It." The dancefloor gem "Beat It" also reached No. 14 on the Mainstream Rock Songs chart, thanks to Eddie Van Halen's guitar work.
3. "I'll Be There"
Hot 100 Peak Position: 1 (5 weeks) Weeks On Chart: 16
This single was the last and longest-reigning (five weeks) of four consecutive Hot 100 No. 1s in 1970 for the brothers from Gary, Ind. The group earned seven more Hot 100 top 10s by the end of its active recording career in 1989 but never again reached No. 1. Mariah Carey - who was seven months old when the Jackson 5's version of the song topped the Hot 100 - returned the composition to the chart's top spot when her version from MTV's "Unplugged" series led the list for two weeks in 1992.
2. "Billie Jean"
Hot 100 Peak Position: 1 (7 weeks) Weeks On Chart: 24
Jackson was already a superstar after earning three solo Hot 100 No. 1s - including two from "Off the Wall, " his first album for Epic - but "Billie Jean" propelled the singer to a true worldwide sensation. With seven weeks at No. 1, the song introduced the iconic "Thriller" album to the masses.
1. "Say Say Say"
Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson
Hot 100 Peak Position: 1 (six weeks) Weeks On Chart: 22
After the success of Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson's "The Girl Is Mine" duet, the former Beatle recruited the King of Pop for this collaboration on his 1983 album, "Pipes of Peace." "Paul and I shared the same idea of how a pop song should work and it was a real treat to work with him, " Jackson wrote in his 1988 autobiography, "Moonwalk."
A version of this story first appeared on Billboard.com. Click here to see the rest of Jackson's top 50 hits as ranked by Billboard.
How This Chart Was Created
The ranking of Jackson's top Billboard hits is based on actual performance on the weekly Billboard Hot 100. Songs are ranked based on an inverse point system, with weeks at No. 1 earning the greatest value and weeks at No. 100 earning the least. For example, while "Billie Jean" spent one more week at No. 1 and two more weeks on the chart than "Say Say Say, " Jackson's collaboration with Paul McCartney spent more weeks in the top 10 (13-11), the top 20 (16-12) and more weeks in the top 40 (18-17) than "Jean" did.
Prior to the Hot 100's implementation in 1991 of enhanced radio and sales information from Nielsen BDS and Nielsen SoundScan, songs had shorter reigns at No. 1 and shorter chart lives. To ensure equitable representation of the biggest hits from Michael Jackson's entire recording career, earlier time frames were each weighted to account for the difference between turnover rates from those decades and the turnover rates that have occurred since the advent of Nielsen Music data.