First Hit #1: January 31, 1970
Michael Jackson is eventually going to become one of the defining artists of a decade, but not this decade. He is the eighties, so it’s interesting to trace his career and see his forceful entry into relevance back in the seventies, with his brothers and their first four singles. I Want You Back, the first of the set, is a song that makes you realize that whoever it is singing, they’re a force to be reckoned with, even though right now they’ve yet to enter puberty.
It’s amazing that someone so young could basically dominate a song while surrounded by several older, more mature voices, but in spite of there being five Jacksons you’re only paying attention to one. Michael takes over from the first note, and his tuneful near-shouting has the passion required to sell a song about winning back a neglected lover. Don’t take the near shouting as an insult, it’s a distinct style and one that compliments the material in the song. It sounds like something to play under that ex-lover’s window as she’s trying to ignore him, and it is only one component of the boy’s range. It’s an energetic and fun song, but what really sells it is this little kid at the front just dominating all comers.
A kid fronting a band could be seen as a poor novelty act, but Michael forces you to ignore the novelty factor with the sheer power of his vocals. His life may have been unfortunate tabloid fodder, but you can’t argue with that voice.