The video version of Michael Jackson's Number Ones was released simultaneously with its audio counterpart, although its contents differed. Number Ones the album contained 18 tracks, 14 of which were present on Number Ones the video. "I Just Can't Stop Loving You," "Break of Dawn," the newly recorded "One More Chance," and a live version of "Ben" did not make it onto the video, while "Blood on the Dance Floor," which was on the video, was not on the album. Like the album, the video contained several songs -- "Thriller," "Smooth Criminal," "Earth Song," and "You Rock My World" -- that were not number ones. While Jackson included the full-length version of "Thriller," at a running time of 13-minutes-and-43-seconds , "Smooth Criminal," which also had been presented initially in long form, was here truncated to the length of the song, and rendered as a blurry stop-action mess to do so. Less surprisingly, the controversial "Black or White" video was presented without the crotch-grabbing, windshield-smashing coda that was part of it on first broadcast. "You Rock My World," on the other hand, appeared as a 10-minute-and-26-second short film, that featured such actors as Marlon Brando and Chris Tucker. Watching these videos in order meant experiencing Jackson over a time span of 21 years, and that was an increasingly bizarre experience. For one thing, there were Jackson's physical changes. The 21-year-old African American who bounced up and down earnestly in "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" and "Rock with You" metamorphosed over time. As of the "Bad" video, he suddenly had a prominent dimple in his chin; by the time of "You Are Not Alone," his skin was whiter than that of his wife, Lisa Marie Presley; in "You Rock My World," he was strangely hidden, subject to few close-ups and wearing a fedora low over his face. A messianic theme ran through many of the videos, from the relatively modest "Beat It," in which the skinny, yelping singer somehow turned rival gangs into a dance troupe, to "Earth Song," in which he restored ravaged rain forests and even brought the dead back to life. Number Ones was released at what appeared to be the end of Michael Jackson's long, troubled reign as a pop star, and it contained many clues to both his success and his downfall.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann