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15 Mind-Blowing Michael Jackson Demos

Celebrate MJ's legacy with these unearthed tracks from the King of Pop's vast back catalog.

Michael Jackson (Photo by KMazur/WireImage)
KMazur / WireImage

On May 13, a new posthumous album from Michael Jackson arrives. Dubbed Xscape, the record takes eight vocal demos recorded over his lengthy career and modernizes them with the help of Justin Timberlake, D'Angelo, Questlove, Timbaland and more. 

Most of these are polished versions of tracks that have floated around the Internet for years. But if the first song "Love Never Felt So Good" is any indication, the collection will be spit-shined in a way that does his legacy proud and gives fans reasons to salivate.

As you gear up for the release of Xscape, check out these Michael Jackson demos for insight into his recording process. Some have been on official re-releases, some just found their way to our digital world and some were reportedly not good enough to make the final cut. But honestly, all of these are pretty great.

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Before "Thriller" became a worldwide smash, it existed in an earlier, different form. "Starlight" is the song recorded with the original music but different words. While it's cool, an amazing video featuring a werewolf Michael Jackson would never have emerged if this had stuck. 

2 / 15

"Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'"

We'll start off with a stripped-down version of Jackson's hit "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'." This demo is a tad sparser than the original, where Jackson's vocals are a bit more front and center. Just how we like them!

3 / 15

Michael Jackson and Freddie Mercury's "State of Shock"

Queen's Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson were friends in the early '80s and recorded songs together. Surviving Queen member Brian May recently stated their sessions will see the light of day soon, but until then, here's a loose guitar jam called "State of Shock" which has an impressive number of "whoos," "hee-hee's and "yeah, yeahs!"

4 / 15

Mercury & MJ's "There Must Be More to Life Than This"

Here's a Mercury-Jackson duet that's probably more what you'd expect: a Queen-esque power ballad that's totally sappy and finds the two belting out lyrics about finding meaning in life when there's so much death around. Fun!

5 / 15

"Hot Street"

Another song recorded for Thriller, "Hot Street" was yanked by Quincy Jones reportedly because it wasn't strong enough. The beat is funky and Jackson's vocals are on fire, but ultimately, we agree. It's a bit too pedestrian, but still makes for a groovy four-and-a-half minutes.

6 / 15

"I Am a Loser"

No one wants to associate the word "loser" with the King of Pop. But in this case, Jackson is talking about being a loser after a failed love affair. That's more like it...?

7 / 15

The Beatboxing "Beat It"

For some reason this track made the Internet rounds back in late March 2014 despite appearing on the 2009 DVD compilation This Is It. Why did people freak out? It's two minutes of Jackson doing this rough and tough song with just his vocals. And it's fantastic. 

8 / 15

The "Billie Jean" Home Demo

This early version of "Billie Jean," recorded in 1981 and featured on the 25th anniversary edition of Thriller, is an excellent example of Jackson's vocals in the early steps of a song. The music is all there, but his vocals meander at the beginning before he finally kicks the chorus in. 

9 / 15

LL Cool J and MJ's "Serious Effect"

In 1991, Michael Jackson teamed with LL Cool J for this funky tune called "Serious Effect," which ultimately got scrapped from the final Dangerous track list. It's a lighthearted song that has LL taking it rather easy with his verse—not once did he mention wanting to knock something out

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"Al Capone"

You don't see too many angry sides of Michael, but this tune from the Bad sessions is totally riled up. Just listen to those growly verses! 

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"She's Got It"

Here's a song where Michael references a girl with a nose ring! It was originally supposed to appear on Dangerous, but never made it. Check out this rough version where you can hear him asking about the arrangement in the beginning.

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The "Don't Stop" Home Demo

Here's an early sketch of one of Jackson's pre-Thriller solo hits, "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough." Dig the cowbell!

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"Groove in Midnight"

The recording is spotty, but MJ's vocals sound effortless. The song was said to be recorded during the Bad sessions. 

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"She's Out of My Life"

"Can we do it one more time? I sung the wrong lyrics."

With that, Michael starts up this sparse, acoustic version of "She's Out of My Life," from 1979's Off the Wall

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Lost My Heart on the "Carousel"

We'll close with this sultry Thriller demo called "Carousel." A song like this is the nostalgia trip Jackson fans love to take—it's about losing your heart to a circus gal. 

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