Song of the Day #1,763: ‘Man in the Mirror’ – Michael Jackson

michael_jacksonI’m not a fan of overtly political songs in general, but I’m somewhat willing to give them a pass if they have some nuance. But painfully earnest “make the world a better place” songs — yuck!

Michael Jackson’s ‘Man in the Mirror’ is the epitome of the genre, so much so that it actually contains the lyrics “if you want to make the world a better place.” And it is painful to sit through.

Ben Folds wrote a parody called ‘Frowne Song (Feeble Anthem)’ which contains these verses: “A piano’s all I got, and I know that ain’t a lot, but music has the power to change the future. So what do you think? The message of hope, better get with the program before it’s too late, y’all.”

‘Man in the Mirror’ is worse than that (intentionally bad) song. At least that one is funny.

And setting aside the eye-rolling sanctimony of the lyrics, what is with Jackson’s delivery? Did he have the hiccups when he recorded this song?

If you want to make the world a better place, erase ‘Man in the Mirror’ from existence.

I’m gonna make a change
For once in my life
It’s gonna feel real good
Gonna make a difference
Gonna make it right

As I, turn up the collar on
My favorite winter coat
This wind is blowing my mind
I see the kids in the streets
With not enough to eat
Who am I to be blind?
Pretending not to see their needs

A summer disregard, a broken bottle top
And a one man soul
They follow each other on the wind ya’ know
‘Cause they got nowhere to go
That’s why I want you to know

I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change

I’ve been a victim of a selfish kind of love
It’s time that I realize
That there are some with no home, not a nickel to loan
Could it be really me, pretending that they’re not alone?

A willow deeply scarred, somebody’s broken heart
And a washed-out dream
They follow the pattern of the wind ya’ see
‘Cause they got no place to be
That’s why I’m starting with me

I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change

I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make that
Change!

I’m starting with the man in the mirror
(Oh yeah!)
I’m asking him to change his ways
(Better change!)
No message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make the change)
You gotta get it right, while you got the time
You can’t close your, your mind!

(Then you close your, mind!)
That man, that man, that man, that man
With the man in the mirror
(Man in the mirror, oh yeah!)
That man, that man, that man
I’m asking him to change his ways
(Better change!)
No message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make the change

Oh no, no no

I’m gonna make a change
It’s gonna feel real good!
Chime on!
(Change)
Just lift yourself
You know
You’ve got to stop it
Yourself!
(Yeah! Make that change!)
I’ve got to make that change, today!
Hoo!
(Man in the mirror)
You got to
You got to not let yourself
Brother
Hoo!
(Yeah! Make that change!)
You know, I’ve got to get
That man, that man
(Man in the mirror)
You’ve got to move! Chime on!
Chime on!
You got to
Stand up! Stand up! Stand up!
(Yeah! Make that change)
Stand up and lift yourself, now!
(Man in the mirror)
You know it!
You know it!
You know it!
You know it
(Change)
Make that change

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4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,763: ‘Man in the Mirror’ – Michael Jackson

  1. Amy says:

    Now here is one where I disagree with you completely about the song, though I agree with every word of your blog post. While I have very little use for disguised sanctimony, I think I’m a bit more willing to forgive songs that blatantly attempt to “make the world a better place.” Songs like “Imagine,” “Let it Be,” and, yes, “Man in the Mirror.” I have seen several singers cover this song on shows like Idol and The Voice, and those versions inevitably move me. When the person singing the song ISN’T Michael Jackson the sentiment is somehow even more powerful.

    Regardless, I like the song and I like the message, though I agree that I probably shouldn’t like either ;)

  2. Amy says:


    Here is an example. We saw Kris Allen originally perform the song on American Idol, but I’m sharing an acoustic performance of it that I like even better.

  3. Dana says:

    Yeah, I’m with Amy on this one. I admittedly don’t have the same disdain as you for political songs, though I don’t see this song as political anyway really. And while I should be turned off by the preachiness of this song, it somehow works for me. I’m not sure I’m proud of that fact, but what can I say?

  4. pegclifton says:

    While I’m not a fan of political songs, there are some I appreciate like Amy’s example “Imagine”, but this song and the way Michael sings it–not for me, pass the aspirin please :)

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