Monday, July 6, 2015

"Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson

#1 Alert!
Platinum Record Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Song#:  1319
Date:  01/22/1983
Debut:  47
Peak:  1 (7 weeks)
Weeks:  24
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Here it is folks. The song that truly started "Thriller" mania and cemented Jackson's status as a pop icon. This second single from the album and its influential video remains one of the defining moments not only in the 80s, but in pop music in general. Crafted to the nth degree by Jackson, producer Quincy Jones, and mixer Bruce Swedien, the song quickly became a massive hit reaching #1 at pop for seven weeks and #1 at R&B for nine weeks. It also hit #1 in many countries around the world. The song would earn Jackson two Grammy awards for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song. The two Grammys would be part of his record-setting eight wins that year. The video for the song is largely credited as being the one that broke the racial barrier on MTV. Previously, MTV didn't think R&B artists were rock enough for their concept and any videos by non-rock artists were only played on occasion. But Jackson's video and song could not be denied and it gained heavy rotation status quickly on the new channel. The song also got Jackson another iconic television moment. His performance of the song on the "Motown 25" special introduced mass audiences to the dance move known as the moonwalk. Even though Jackson lip synced to the song, his performance was so mesmerizing that it didn't matter. It earned him an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program. There are many songs that are eventually considered classics of an era. But only a minor handful, like "Billie Jean," become historical markers on the timeline of pop music.

ReduxReview:  When "The Girls Is Mine" came out, folks were kind of I mean, it was a hit, but it gave no clue as to what would come next. Then this song came out. It prompted a friend of mine to go buy the album. I'll never forget she came into school and said "you have to go get the album - it's amazing!" I should have, but didn't. I got this single and "Beat It" before I finally bought the LP. What can really be said about this song that hasn't already been said? It's a killer track from start to finish with a hook around every corner. Jackson would go on to do so many great songs, but the legacy started right here.


Trivia:  Quad Shot!  1) Jackson and Quincy Jones had several arguments over this song. Jones thought the intro was way too long and wanted it cut. He also thought it should be titled "Not My Lover" because he thought people might mistake "Billie Jean" as being about tennis great Billie Jean King. Jones also didn't like Jackson's initial demo or the bass line. In all cases, Jackson would end up winning and getting his way. Jackson also asked Jones for a co-producing credit since the end result sounded almost exactly like his original demo. Jones balked at first but all ended up getting resolved - as Jackson wanted.  2) Jackson has said that there is no real Billie Jean. He based the character on the various groupies that he observed around his brothers in the early Jackson 5 days. Many would come up and say that they got pregnant by one of the Jackson brothers. However, there are other stories that Jackson based the song on a real-life stalker. On story has him coming home and there was a woman lounging by the pool. In another more disturbing story, he would get notes from a woman who claimed he was the father of one of her two twins (yeah, weird...). The notes got more intense until she sent Jackson a package with a gun and a letter telling him that she was going to kill herself at a specific date and time and he should do the same so they could be together. Apparently, the woman ended up in a mental institution.  3) In 2014, a teenager did a dance routine to "Billie Jean" at his school's talent show. A video of the performance was posted on YouTube and quickly got millions of views. With new chart rules in place that take into consideration plays on sites like YouTube, "Billie Jean" re-entered the pop chart for a week at #14.  4) Engineer Bruce Swedien mixed the song 91 times until it was finally approved and set for release. Normally, Swedien only needs to mix a song once.


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