596. ‘I Just Can’t Stop Loving You’, by Michael Jackson with Siedah Garrett

It would make a good pub quiz question: what was Michael Jackson’s only UK #1 single to be released from ‘Bad’…

I Just Can’t Stop Loving You, by Michael Jackson (his 3rd of seven #1s) with Siedah Garrett

2 weeks, from 9th – 23rd August 1987

For it wasn’t ‘Smooth Criminal’, ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’, or the title track. It was this smoocher. And why was this the lead single from his first album in five years…? Who would listen and think, yes, this is the one to launch the most anticipated album of the year? Sure, whatever single they chose would probably have topped the charts; but that makes it all the more frustrating that the other, better songs missed out…

Anyway. We haven’t even got onto the music and I’ve made my feelings pretty clear. It’s not a terrible song, but it’s proper syrupy, glossy, eighties lite-soul. The intro, with its tinkly percussion, sounds like the love-theme from a Disney film. Like it should be sung by an animated teacup, or a doe-eyed princess; not the world’s biggest pop star. Whispers at morning, Our love is dawning… Heaven’s glad you came… And then there’s the fact that I can’t help feeling a bit icky hearing Jackson croon a love song, knowing what we know now… (The album version is even worse, opening as it does with MJ whispering I just wanna lay next to you for a while… and I just want to touch you…)

Much better were he whooping and squealing his way through ‘Bad’… Who’s bad? You Michael, we know that now. At least the chorus here has a bit of beef to it. My life ain’t worth living, If I can’t be with you… Boom… It doesn’t completely redeem the song, but it offers a glimpse as to why it was seen as a potential lead single.

It’s quite easy to miss the fact that this is a duet, as Siedah Garrett has a very similar voice to Jackson. Apparently he wanted Whitney Houston or Barbra Streisand, but both turned him down. Garrett was an interesting choice, as she had largely been a club singer and backing vocalist (though she did co-write ‘Man in the Mirror’) and her biggest hit prior to this had peaked at #45. Still, she sings it well, though I do think a duet is more effective with two more differing voices.

Compared to his last chart-topper, ‘I Just Can’t Stop Loving You’ feels like the beginning of MJ Part II. The vocal tics, breaths and whoops are much more pronounced, and his voice feels softer and higher (though that might just be because he’s signing such a syrupy ballad). Meanwhile, I never noticed before how white he looks on the ‘Bad’ album cover, compared to ‘Thriller’.

In the US, this made number one, along with the four following songs from ‘Bad’, a record that’s since been matched but never beaten. In total he released a ridiculous nine of the ten tracks from the album as singles, and while they’d give him six more UK Top 10s none of them would make it to the top. Next time we’ll meet Michael Jackson it will be with the lead single from his next album. He’ll have gone from ‘Bad’ to ‘Dangerous’, make of that what you will…

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10 thoughts on “596. ‘I Just Can’t Stop Loving You’, by Michael Jackson with Siedah Garrett

  1. I don’t even remember this…that is something. You mentioned eighties lite-soul…that is the problem…there is no soul…every bit was polished out. I did like one song off of his next album…Black and White. Not liking it and buying it…but liking it meaning not ripping the radio knob off when I heard it.

  2. I loved the album, extremely varied, and every track a Greatest Hits in waiting. I bought it first week on sale and this was rather a low key set up. Not even a video for it. Me, i love a great melody, and i love a duet, so ticked my boxes but it got some stick when it came out. In retrospect man In The mirror should have been the lead track, it stiffed in the UK outside the top 20, but its one of his greatest and most popular tracks. It would have needed a video but it would have been more meaningful as a lead.

    Lets not forget the first single off Thriller was the really naff The Girl Is Mine, and one might have thought he would have learned from his mistake. Bad outsold Thriller in the UK and at one time held the top selling album record. I am however still bitter that i bought the vinyl edition not knowing the CD version had a bonus track, later single Leave Me Alone. So it wasnt really 9 singles. It was 8 and a bonus track that i never bought cos im stroppy that way! I hate being stiffed by record labels just so they can make you buy something twice with extra tracks not on the actual original album. Still an annoying practice.

  3. A very balanced comment on a pretty lame piece of ‘product’. OK, it was his first album for five years, but I think that by this time all the hype, the oversell, the ludicrously expensive videos and the like were getting to me, and the records were now increasingly MJ-by-numbers, manufactured to a formula – although he wasn’t the first artist to employ that trick. And it was indeed ridiculous of Epic to milk an album of so many singles as they did this one.

    • Of course eight/nine singles from one album is ridiculous, but its also very much a power play i.e. look how good this album is. And they were all Top 20 hits (or thereabouts), so it made commercial sense, I suppose.

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