Saturday, August 8, 2015

"Beat It" by Michael Jackson

#1 Alert!
Platinum Record Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Song#:  1356
Date:  02/26/1983
Debut:  78
Peak:  1 (3 weeks)
Weeks:  25
Genre:  Rock, R&B

Pop Bits:  If "Billie Jean" was the song that kicked off "Thriller"-mania, then it was this song that cemented the album's (and Jackson's) iconic status. Knowing that "Billie Jean" was headed to #1, the label wanted to capitalize on Jackson's soaring popularity and rush released this third single in hopes that both songs would simultaneously reside in the Top 10. This feat would be more than accomplished with the two songs almost becoming back-to-back #1's (interrupted for one week by "Come on Eileen"). The single would also reach #1 on the R&B chart. The song's cinematic video would be hugely popular and highly influential and would help to boost the single's popularity. As part of his record-setting Grammy sweep, Jackson would receive two awards for this song - Record of the Year and Best Male Rock Vocal Performance.

ReduxReview:  For me, this was the best track on "Thriller" and it quite possibly may be my favorite Michael Jackson song. Jackson takes a stab at writing a rock song and comes out a convincing winner. It didn't hurt that he got a stamp of approval from Eddie Van Halen (see below) as well. Everything about this song worked. The synth/guitar hooks, the dark tone, the solid chorus, and the hot guitar solo all added up to a perfect 4-minute explosion of genius. The video was must-see MTV back then. I remember we all wanted his J. Parks red leather jacket. A couple of folks ended up with pleather imitations. Thankfully I didn't get one. Yeesh. Glad that trend ended quickly. But we still had to contend with the Members Only fad.


Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The guitar solo was famously done by Eddie Van Halen. When producer Quincy Jones first contacted Van Halen to do the solo, Van Halen thought the call was a prank. After realizing it was not a joke, Van Halen jumped on board. He considered the work a favor and did it for free. He was often chided by his fellow band mates for doing this, but Van Halen said he just really wanted to do it. His contribution has often been included on lists of the best guitar solos in rock history. Van Halen should have been in the song's video, but he was prevented from doing so by his label.  2) Jackson's plan for the song's expensive concept video did not excite his label, Epic. They refused to pay for it. Jackson decided to flip the $150,000 bill himself. The video was shot around L.A.'s famous Skid Row district and it featured a large cast of dancers and extras, some of whom were actual L.A. gang members. It is often included on lists of the best music videos ever made.


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