9. "Black or White"
A call to racial unity that practiced what it preached by seamlessly combining classic-rock swagger and R&B drive, "Black or White" is the best song Jackson recorded during the Nineties. "I thought his rock stuff up to that point had been kind of cartoonish," said Bill Bottrell, who co-wrote and co-produced the song. Its Stones-y riff came from Jackson, who hummed it to Bottrell one day in the studio. "I turned it into a Southern-rock thing, a real gutbucket tune," Bottrell recalled. Jackson also came up with the idea for the hard-hitting rhythm track. "I set about adding loads of percussion, including cowbells and shakers," Bottrell said, "trying to get a swingy sort of groove." Rather than call in a top hip-hop MC, Jackson let Bottrell handle the consciousness-raising rap on the song's bridge. But it is Jackson's incisive vocals that make the song, a tour de force of pop polish and raw energy. The performance was actually a scratch vocal. But Jackson – a sonic perfectionist who constantly rerecorded undeniably excellent takes – knew it was good enough to keep as is.