PREVIOUSLY: Michael Jackson Vs. Prince
Who Would Win in a Michael Jackson/Prince Verzuz Battle?
With all of the Verzuz battles going on via Instagram Live, people are getting in on the fun with creating hypothetical battles of their own (I personally made my own Pharrell playlist to combat a Kanye one, what a fun time). The entertainment website Hollywood Unlocked created a match-up of epic proportions: Michael Jackson’s songs versus Prince’s songs, to see who people thought would win.
The list, composed of 20 songs each, features head-to-head battles such as “The Way You Make Me Feel” vs. “When Doves Cry,” “Human Nature” vs. “The Beautiful Ones,” and “Smooth Criminal” vs. “I Wanna Be Your Lover.” For those interested in doing the bracket on their own, there are boxes to mark off if The King of Pop won the round, The Purple One was victorious, or if it’s a tie.
I’ve heard about these “Verzuz” battles that have been taking place online, a couple of musicians log onto Instagram and take turns playing one of their songs, while viewers vote on which song is better. I haven’t watched any of them, or paid much attention to it, although it seems like it’s all in good fun and a way for celebs to entertain people during this nationwide quarantine. The only one I really read about is the Babyface vs. Teddy Riley battle, which got a lot of press because of the technical problems which canceled their first attempt. But, much like Michael Jackson and Prince, that was a comparison that I didn’t think was fully adequate. While both being primarily R’n’B musicians, I think Babyface and Teddy Riley make fundamentally different types of music, with the former being known best for his mid-tempo songs and ballads and the latter known for his uptempo “New Jack Swing” style. Neither is inherently better, it just depends on what type of music you may personally prefer or be in the mood for at a certain time. I mean, I heard that in the first round of their battle they put up TWO OCCASIONS by The Deele against THE SHOW by Doug E Fresh & The Get Fresh Crew. How could you possibly compare those two songs?!? It’s absurd.
And if you read my original post, linked to up top, you know how I feel about Michael Jackson and Prince. I love them both, I’m a little bigger fan of Michael, but I don’t think they really should even be compared, at least not on a level to judge whoever is “better.” That being said, I saw the list and I was intrigued. So I said, eff it, I’m going to play along, and give my opinion.
For the record, if I were going to stage such a public “battle” like this, I would institute a few rules. First I would only include solo songs from Michael’s adulthood, not songs with The Jacksons, just songs from Off The Wall to Invincible. No Motown songs, either by himself or with The Jackson Five, mainly because he had no control over any of those songs, he just sang and recorded whatever Berry Gordon told him to, so as good as many of those songs are, I don’t think they reflect his creativity. And whenever this debate comes up, I know the hardcore Prince fans always fall back on the argument that Prince wrote and produced (and played most of the instruments) on most of his songs, in their minds that just automatically makes him the superior artist. So, even though it would eliminate some of his best songs, I’d only list songs that Michael wrote or co-wrote, just to try to keep things as “even” as possible. I’d also do my best to match up the songs as well as I could, ballad vs. ballad, uptempo vs. uptempo, duet vs. duet, etc. I don’t think the below list does that, but so be it, this is the list we’re judging today. I’ve also pledged to myself that I wouldn’t use the “tie” option in any of the match-ups, I figure that’s a cop-out. Pick a song, dang it!
Let’s go round by round, with my picks in bold.
ROUND 1: Wanne Be Startin’ Somethin vs. Let’s Go Crazy
Right off the bat, I have to say that I don’t think this is the best match-up. I would have put Beat It up against Let’s Go Crazy since they’re both more rock than pop songs, featuring excellent guitar work. But between these two, it’s an easy choice.
ROUND 2: Beat It vs. Pop Life
Another easy choice. Pop Life is one of my favorite tracks from Prince’s Around The World In A Day album, but Beat It is an all-time classic.
ROUND 3: Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough vs. Kiss
Now the picks are getting a little harder. It should be noted that during the last years of his life Prince was known to perform some of Michael’s songs in concert, including Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough, which he would mix with “Cool” by The Time, so that was clearly one of his favorite Michael Jackson songs.
ROUND 4: Dirty Diana vs. Darling Nikki
Another easy choice for me, I never liked Darling Nikki, I know it’s infamous because of the lyrics which were funny the very first time I listened to it as a teenager, but it’s not a song I ever willingly play since then.
ROUND 5: Dangerous vs. I Would Die 4 U
Good match-up, but I Would Die 4 U is probably my favorite Prince song from Purple Rain.
ROUND 6: Rock With You vs. Take My With U
Another bad match-up, in my opinion. Since the latter is a duet, I would have put a track like I Just Can’t Stop Loving You, Michael’s duet with Siedah Garrett against it. But as it stands, this was an easy choice.
ROUND 7: Off The Wall vs. U Got The Look
Again, another solo track vs a duet. I would have put Scream with Janet Jackson against U Got The Look. But as it stands, this was a tough choice for me, as I love the title track from Off The Wall. But U Got The Look is just so darn catchy and creative, I love all the different voices Prince uses in it, and Sheena Easton is perfect on it, it’s just a great song.
ROUND 8: The Way You Make Me Feel vs. When Doves Cry.
Another mismatch, I would have put They Don’t Care About Us against When Doves Cry. But the latter is one of Prince’s most creative songs ever.
ROUND 9: PYT (Pretty Young Thing) vs. Do Me Baby
Not even close.
ROUND 10: The Love You Save vs. Rasberry Beret
This was tough because the former is such a classic, but I gotta give this one to Prince.
ROUND 11: Ben vs. Little Red Corvette
At first, this seemed like a bad match-up, but then I realized that each song has double meanings when you think about it. Michael’s singing about his friend Ben, whom you’d think is a boy but is actually his pet rat. And Prince, well, he ain’t singing about a car.
ROUND 12: Human Nature vs The Beautiful Ones
Good match-up, but an easy choice for me.
ROUND 13: Remember The Time vs. Erotic City
Damn! This was the hardest pick on this list. I love Remember The Time, I’ve written before about how awesome the video is, but Erotic City is just such a creative song, the beat, the melody, Prince’s different voices along with Sheila E., it’s just on a whole nother level. So I had to give this one to Prince. But, again, damn.
ROUND 14: Man In The Mirror vs. Diamonds and Pearls
I would have probably put a song like The Most Beautiful Girl In The World in this match-up against Man In The Mirror. But I give this one to Michael.
ROUND 15: Thriller vs. Scandalous.
No contest. Thriller is one of those songs that will live on forever. It’s the perfect “Halloween song.” Every October this song will start getting replayed on the radio, used in TV shows, people making videos dancing to it, etc., it’s iconic.
ROUND 16: I’ll Be There vs. Adore
I’ll Be There is a classic.
ROUND 17: Never Can Say Goodbye vs. Purple Rain
Two classic songs, but Prince easily takes this one. Something like Earth Song would have been a better test for Purple Rain.
ROUND 18: Billie Jean vs Insatiable
Not even close. I’m not sure which Prince song I’d put up against Bille Jean, but it’s definitely not this one.
ROUND 19: Bad vs. 1999
Of course the irony here is that Michael originally wanted Bad to be a duet with Prince. But 1999 is far ahead of this. We’re 21 years past that year now, and I still hear people talking about how they’re going to “party like it’s 1999.”
ROUND 20: Smooth Criminal vs. I Wanna Be Your Lover
This was the second-hardest for me. When I first saw the list, I was going to give it to Michael, but the more I think I about it, I have to give it to Prince, but it’s very close. The thing is, I Wanna Be Your Lover is probably the most Michael Jackson-ish song that Prince ever recorded. With the high-voice Prince uses on this one, I can hear Michael singing it. This song would have fit perfectly on the Off The Wall album.
And, so, my verdict: It’s a tie! Score 10 to 10.
Well, that sounds about right, I told you I love them both. Again, this wasn’t the best match-up of songs in my opinion, a better list may have very well gone differently for me, but that’s my score.