45. Michael Jackson – ‘Will You Be There?’ (1991)

“But they told me
A man should be faithful
And walk when not able
And fight ’til the end
But I’m only human”

Written by Michael Jackson

Produced by Michael Jackson/Bruce Swedien

Taken from the album Dangerous

Also released on The Ultimate Collection, The Essential Michael Jackson, Visionary: The Video Singles and King Of Pop

US #7, UK #8, AUS #42

Michael Jackson? Dramatic? No way. There’s just an entire section of a Beethoven symphony as an intro and then what feels like ten million gospel choirs simultaneously backing up Michael for eight minutes. I use the word “epic” like it’s going out of fashion but my god this is EPIC. CAPITAL LETTERS REQUIRED. If it wasn’t for a couple songs that actually outdo ‘Will You Be There?’, in a feat previously thought impossible, it would be the crowning achievement of his career.

Constructed as a series of movements, ‘Will You Be There?’ isn’t just over the top for the sake of demonstrating how high the budget was for Dangerous. I suppose it compares most to ‘Man In The Mirror’ before it, but ‘Will You Be There?’ comes out as something completely different, with a very singular style. After the choral introduction, we move into a piano section which includes Biblical-sounding lyrics. On the verse quoted above, the song shifts into yet another new gear, taking things up a notch or twelve. The rest of the song features a gospel choir, will Michael giving us his usual spine-tingling ad-libs.

Every time the song changes into a new movement or key, it’s a real moment, you know? Most artists would die for the power Michael has here. The song feels historical, a religious experience, and in the wake of Michael’s death, like one of his definitive messages, one of his most important works. Used with great effect during his memorial service, the last verse of ‘Will You Be There?’ stands as one of his most vulnerable, revealing, emotional pieces of writing.

“In our darkest hour
In my deepest despair
Will you still care?
Will you be there?
In my trials and my tribulations
Through our doubts and frustrations
In my violence
In  my turbulence
Through my fear and my confessions
In my anguish and my pain
Through my joy, and my sorrow
In the promise of another tomorrow

I’ll never let you part
For you’re always in my heart”

Music video:

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