First Hit #1: January 23, 1988
The Way You Make Me Feel is a fun little piece of pop music, with the most common of themes – a boy talks about how amazing a girl is. It’s got a great synthesized beat, and more importantly Jackson is committed and aggressive in his delivery. It’s a Whitney Houston-effect, he takes something that’s actually pretty silly and pushes it to a degree that you have to take it seriously. Sure, unlike Houston he’s actually got a memorable melody to work with, and the song could actually be an enjoyable little trifle in the hands of another artist. Jackson’s performance pushes the song to the next level, and that’s why he was one of the defining artists of the ’80s. It’s still a trendy piece, owing a debt to girl groups of the ’60s like seemingly everything else hitting the chart in the latter part of the decade – mostly in the interplay between backing vocals and Jackson on the chorus, a fun throwback that I’m glad is getting a serious resurgence. Jackson’s image makeover with Bad was totally goofy, but he was still one of the best pop musicians out there.
It also has a kind of obnoxious video, which is linked to below. It might be the first example that Jackson might be losing his grip, just because it’s so self-indulgent and kind of creepy, but the song behind it is still great.