Michael Jackson Tried to Sound Like Another Singer When He Sang ‘Man in the Mirror’

"Man in the Mirror" singer Michael Jackson wearing blue

Music

Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” is powerful because the King of Pop had an incredible singing voice. Despite that, he was trying to sound like another 1980s singer.

Part of why Michael Jackson‘s “Man in the Mirror” is so powerful is that the King of Pop had an incredible singing voice. Despite that, he was trying to sound like another 1980s singer. That singer revealed what she thought when she learned Jackson was trying so hard to sound like her.

The writer of Michael Jackson’s ‘Man in the Mirror’ tells her story

Siedah Garrett co-wrote “Man in the Mirror,” which might be Jackson’s most famous ballad. During an interview with Blue Railroad, Garrett said that Jackson wanted to sound like Garrett when he recorded the song. “That was such a high compliment,” Garrett said. “We’d finished the part we had to fix on the duet so I was getting ready to leave. I was packing up and he said, ‘Where you goin?’ I said, ‘Aren’t we done? Isn’t this history, dude?’

“He said, ‘No. We’re getting ready to do ‘Man in the Mirror’ and I need you to stay because I want to sing it like you,’” she added. “It was great. I stayed. It was like I was producing.” The credited producers for the song were Jackson himself and Quincy Jones.

The same writer worked on albums by Michael Jackson, Alanis Morissette, and Katy Perry

Garrett co-wrote “Man in the Mirror” with Glen Ballard, who later worked on seminal albums such as Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill and Katy Perry’s One of the Boys. Ballard has expertly dabbled in alternative rock, gospel, pop, and so much more. Garrett was asked if she and Ballard wrote the song together all at once. “Actually, yes,” she said. “It all came at once. Usually, it goes in stages. 

“We have an initial writing session in which we come up with all these ideas and deviations of ideas from musical variations,” she recalled. “And we also start a lyric idea from that point. Then I take it home and embellish the lyric and Glen embellishes the music. Then we meet again and put all the parts together.”

‘Man in the Mirror’ was 1 of 5 chart-topping singles from ‘Bad’

“Man in the Mirror” topped the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks. It stayed on the chart for 17 weeks. It became one of five No. 1 singles from the album Bad. The others were the album’s title track, “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You,” “Dirty Diana,” and “The Way You Make Me Feel.” “Man in the Mirror” was No. 1 for longer than all of those songs except for “Bad.”

Bad was a huge hit in its own right. It was No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for six weeks. Aside from Thriller, none of Jackson’s albums were No. 1 on the charts for a longer period of time. Bad spent a total of 171 weeks on the Billboard 200. 

Aside from Thriller, Bad is probably Jackson’s most beloved and acclaimed album. Rolling Stone ranked Bad No. 194 on their list of the 500 greatest albums ever. The publication praised Jackson for delving into darker themes on that album with songs like “Dirty Diana” and “Smooth Criminal.”

“Man in the Mirror” is one of the best easy-listening ballads of the 1980s and it wouldn’t be the same without Garrett’s vocal talents.

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