Billie Jean

Billie Jean

Infobox Single
Name = Billie Jean

Artist = Michael Jackson
from Album = Thriller
B-side = "It's the Falling in Love"/"Can't Get Outta the Rain"
Released = January 3 1983
Format = 7" single
Recorded = 1982
Genre = Dance-pop
Length = 4:53
Label = Epic Records
Writer = Michael Jackson
Producer = Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson
Certification = Double Platinum
Last single = "The Girl Is Mine"
This single = "Billie Jean"
Next single = "Beat It"
Misc = Extra tracklisting
Album = "Thriller"
Type = studio
prev_track = "Beat It"
prev_no = 5
this_track = "Billie Jean"
track_no = 6
next_track = "Human Nature"
next_no = 7

"Billie Jean" is a 1983 hit single from Michael Jackson's "Thriller" album. A number-one hit on the "Billboard" Hot 100, the song was also the number-one R&B single for nine weeks in the United States and is one of Jackson's most critically acclaimed songs. It was voted best single of the year in "The Village Voice" Pazz & Jop critics' poll, and received two Grammy Awards in 1984 in the categories Best Male R&B Vocal Performance and Best New Rhythm & Blues Song. It was nominated for Record of the Year and Song of the Year, along with "Beat It", at the Grammy Awards of 1984. In 2005, "Blender" magazine recognized "Billie Jean" as the greatest song since 1980. [ [] ] It's also his best-selling single worldwide, with 5.25 million copies sold, and contributed to the immense sales of the album "Thriller".

On March 6, 2006, "Billie Jean" was re-released as a single as part of "Visionary - The Video Singles" box set. It went on to become the highest charting UK "Visionary" single, reaching #11 on the UK Top 40.

Largely because of the impact of the video, and the live performance in which Jackson dressed in a black fedora, a sparkly black jacket and a single white sequin glove while performing his most famous dance step, the moonwalk, and the overall haunting nature of the song itself, "Billie Jean" is regarded by some as his signature song. The song's lyrics allude to a girl who claims that Jackson was the father of her child.

Today, "Billie Jean" is played on more than 90% of the world's radio stations, and gets more than 250,000 spins per week in clubs around the world. [cite book |last= |first= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Thriller 25: The Book |year=2008 |publisher=ML Publishing Group Ltd |location= |id=ISBN 978-0-9768891-9-9 ]


Jackson started writing the first demo of the song in his home in Wilson, North Carolina in the fall of 1981. When he presented the song to his co-producer Quincy Jones, Jones had problems with the title and wanted to call the song "Not My Lover". He thought when audiences heard it they would assume Jackson was referring to tennis superstar Billie Jean King. [ Billie Jean Songfacts] . "Songfacts". Retrieved April 26 2007.] He also had complaints about the length of the song's intro, believing it was too long; Jackson replied that the long intro made him want to dance. Jackson won both arguments: he got to keep the title of the song and the intro."Blender": [ "The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born: Number 1"] ]

The introduction of the character Billie Jean is foreshadowed by a four-line reference from the album's first track "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'," another Jackson-penned song. In the third verse, it's evident that Billie Jean doesn't have the singer's best interests at heart, "tellin' lies and rubbin' shoulders," but her dismissal is casual: "So they called her mouth a motor." However, coupled with her appearance on the second side of the album, the listener is made privy to the earliest of Jackson's lyrics to deal with the subject of celebrity suspicion of those in their periphery (media, groupies, etc.). This marked a subtle but important occasional shift in the entertainer's material toward somewhat more adult themes.

Jackson is said to have recorded his lead vocal performance on the first take. But it was Jackson's arrangements and orchestration in "Billie Jean" that helped make the song unique. Jackson had wanted to write "the perfect bass line" and has said he worked on it for a couple of weeks until he succeeded with what became the basis of the final product. He had also arranged the drum and synthesizer lines into perfect order, and with help from co-collaborator Jerry Hey on the strings and horns and Jackson's mastery at multi-tracking his voice for background vocals, completed the final production on "Billie Jean" only weeks before Epic's scheduled release of the "Thriller" album on November 30, 1982. "Billie Jean" officially became the second single from "Thriller" when it was released in January 1983.

Critical reaction to the song was overwhelmingly positive.

With the passage of time, the song has gained legendary status and is often featured on "best of" lists. "Billie Jean" was ranked #58 in "Rolling Stone"'s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (making it number four among songs of the 1980s). The song is also listed at #71 on "Billboard's Greatest Songs of all time." []

Impact of song and music video

Upon its release, critics who had given mixed reviews to the album's lead-off single, "The Girl Is Mine", were praising "Billie Jean". The song soon dominated the top of both the Pop Singles Chart for seven weeks and the R&B Singles Chart for nine weeks, both consecutively and respectively. But the hit song's impact wasn't limited to its chart success, and it would play a crucial role in defining Jackson's burgeoning crossover influence on pop culture. It also reached the top of the UK Singles Chart in 1983 (and #11 when re-released in both 1991 and 2006).

Jackson and Epic had planned to present the music video for the song to the executives of newly-formed cable network MTV, which was at the time not playing many videos by black performers except a few, such as Tina Turner, The Busboys, and Donna Summer. Since its inception, the network's playlist was predominantly white and mainly featured videos by the top rock artists of the day such as Duran Duran, Peter Gabriel, The Clash, Blondie, Journey, Pat Benatar, Genesis, and Billy Idol. In 1983, Jackson and CBS Records President Walter Yetnikoff informed MTV's President that if the cable channel didn't play Jackson's video, CBS would not allow them to play any of their white artists who were getting exposure on the network (most notably Ozzy Osbourne and Billy Joel), and would denounce them publicly as racists [ [] ] . With that ultimatum, MTV finally bowed to pressure and premiered Jackson's "Billie Jean" video on March 10, 1983.asd] This account was disputed [ [ Why it took MTV so long to play black music videos | Jet | Find Articles at ] ] by Les Garland, co-founder and originator of MTV, VH1, and The Box, saying "I called Bob (Pittman, MTV co-founder) to tell him, 'I just saw the greatest video I've ever seen in my life. It is off the dial it's so good.' We added it that day. How (the myth) turned into a story literally blew our minds."

Directed by Steve Barron, the imaginative and cryptic video loosely followed the song's narrative. It featured Jackson as a lonely, elusive figure walking the streets while the ground glowed wherever he stepped, suggesting Jackson's stardom and fame [ [ Click on "The Professor"] ] . A trenchcoat-wearing "stalker", possibly a journalist, pursues Jackson, supposedly to get the scoop on the titular love-interest, missing his opportunity when Jackson seemingly vanishes beneath glowing bedsheets with his never-seen mystery lover. Jackson himself has said the following about the "Billie Jean" video:"It's kind of surreal and it's different. I didn't come up with that concept. It was — I think a British fellow — Steve Barron — and I thought he had wonderful ideas but I let him go with it. The only part I wrote in the piece was — I said: "I just want a section." I said: "Give me a section here I could dance on." 'Cause he said no dancing in the whole piece — so the whole section where you see this long street and this billboard of these two girls, one of them Billie Jean and I'm dancing — that's the only part I contributed." [ [ Click on "The Professor] ]

The video, with its production values and dance performance by the star, was something completely new for MTV and quickly set an industry standard which even Jackson would emulate (and even more quickly re-define with the follow-up "Beat It").

Soon enough, MTV began airing the video in heavy rotation, thus making Jackson the first black performer to find stardom on the network. Producer Quincy Jones has said of the early relationship between Jackson and MTV: "... [they] rode each other to glory". Soon after, other black artists had videos on MTV, including Prince, The Pointer Sisters, Rick James, Lionel Richie and Run-DMC. Jackson was the first — and by most accounts, is still the greatest — pop megastar to emerge from the network, each benefiting by cross-interest from the other's respective audience. This paved the way for a multitude of artists like Prince, Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, and within a few years his own younger sister Janet Jackson, to also have their careers blossom in the new video arena. By the end of the year, numerous other competing outlets were also showcasing the medium, solidifying music videos as a valid form of entertainment and record promotion.Fact|date=February 2007

"Motown 25" performance

On March 25, 1983, "Thriller"s popularity reached a larger audience when Jackson debuted "Billie Jean" before a live audience during taping of the tribute special "". Having reunited with the Jackson 5 for a medley of their hits, he remained onstage for a solo performance and as he addressed the crowd they began chanting for "Billie Jean". Dressed in a glittery black jacket, sparkling silver shirt, tight black pants cuffed high to showcase white spangled socks and black penny loafers, and a single sequined glove, Jackson signalled the start of his routine by snapping a black fedora to his head. After doing some kicks with thigh slaps, Jackson signalled the midpoint of the routine by throwing his fedora towards the side of the stage, causing audience members to scream and shout. Finally, when the song was completed, he signalled the end of the routine by pointing at the ceiling before bowing to the audience.

It was during this performance that Jackson also debuted a set of physically complicated dance techniques which included the "Moonwalk" (a name which was dubbed by the media not by Jackson himself). The "moonwalk" followed by a tornado spin and an en pointe stance has since gone on to become Jackson's trademark dance piece, and is virtually synonymous with the song. Ironically, the "moonwalk" is not featured at any point during the music video.

Despite Jackson lip-syncing his song (which he usually does when performing "Billie Jean" due to its exhausting dance moves), the audience rose to their feet giving an ovation, and it is often cited as one of the greatest live performances of all time. This sealed his position as a dance legend up against the likes of Fred Astaire, who called Jackson the next day to congratulate him, and it's also said by many to match the effect on popular culture that Elvis Presley and The Beatles had when they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Upon its broadcast on May 16, over forty-seven million viewers witnessed Jackson's performance. [cite book |last=Taraborrelli |first=J. Randy |authorlink=J. Randy Taraborrelli |coauthors= |title=The Magic and the Madness |year=2004 |publisher=Headline |location= |id=ISBN 0-330-42005-4 ] The immediate result was unprecedented sales of his "Thriller" album, which as of November 2006 has sold over 104 million copies [ [ Guinness Records] ] . The "Billie Jean" single has since sold over 5 million copies worldwide and became Jackson's top-selling single.


Despite the fact that Jackson usually does not close his shows with the song, "Billie Jean" is generally regarded as the pinnacle of most Jackson performances and stage shows. The song has been the key feature of every concert, from the "Victory" tour through to the 30th Anniversary Performance at Madison Square Garden in 2001.

The structure of the live "Billie Jean" routine has remained consistent; fans have even named moves that are regularly performed. These include the "Sidewalk" (where Jackson appears to "moonwalk" sideways along the stage, by slightly raising and crossing his feet whilst sliding them sideways), the "Four-corner Moonwalk" (where Jackson rotates his heels and moonwalks in a circle), and spot spins. The most famous move that Jackson performs is his "moonwalk", which occurs always at the bridge in the song. This move is generally never performed in any other song, although slight "moonwalk" variations are also found in "Stranger in Moscow" and "Smooth Criminal".

In concert, "Billie Jean" is almost always extended for an extra two to four minutes with just the beat and sometimes the bass line, whilst Jackson improvises an array of dance steps, often popping and robotic in style. Often it starts out with the beginning dance style followed by a spotwalk and a moonwalk. The backup singers often yell noises as Jackson dances and walks around. Jackson often demonstrates his tapping ability at this point followed by a spin. At this point in most concerts, Jackson hops while pointing to each side and alternating while the back-up singers yell "hoo! hoo!" This is followed by Jackson spinning and doing the four-corner moonwalk. After some time of more dance steps, Jackson throws his fedora to the crowd while saying "Billie Jean is not my lover." In most of HIStory World Tour concerts and the last of the two 30th Anniverary concerts, Jackson also ended the song with beatboxing or scat singing prior to singing the last line and throwing the fedora. Most fans consider the fact that the song is "freestyled" to an extent with an extended ending to be why "Billie Jean" rates as a favorite above other song routines. Videos of "Billie Jean" performances are readily available on the internet, and on some released VHS/DVDs.

Also, upon live renditions, some of the introductions upon the song have changed. On the first leg of the Dangerous World Tour, the stage has two levels: an upper and lower level. On the set list, Michael usually performed Thriller before Billie Jean. For the Thriller performance, the lower level was used. At the end of the performance, a back-up dancer appearing as Michael with a mask is put into a glass coffin, which is then covered with a white sheet. The dancers lift the coffin and march with it until the end of the song, where the sheet is pulled off, revealing the disappearance of both the coffin and "Michael." Jackson is not in the coffin but actually changing for Billie Jean; he actually left and traded with the back-up dancer during the interlude of the song, although it appears he just simply put on a mask. A few seconds after the end of Thriller (where Vincent Price's voice fades out), the beginning notes of Billie Jean are heard, whereas spotlights reveal Michael to be on the upper level, as it lowers onto the main platform. This "magic trick" was removed in the second leg of the tour, but a masked back-up dancer was used once again from the transition from Thriller to Beat It in the HIStory World Tour. The last and more recent incarnation of the song (as shown on the 30th Anniversary Special) contains a sort-of reminiscing moment from Michael's standpoint: Michael is seen walking across a stage with a piece of luggage in hand, looking around as if he is conjuring up old memories of performing. He stops in the middle and places the luggage on top of a stool, opening it to remove the contents. It is unclear in what order the contents are removed, as each performance differs (Michael also opened Billie Jean this way during his previous HIStory World Tour); however, the articles remain the same: the trademark glove, jacket, and fedora. Michael would then move aside the stool and briefcase (which is later lowered through an elevator platform when the song begins), and then snap his fingers, to which a spotlight comes on, shining a circle to which he starts his dance routine.

It is important to note that the actual choreography of "Billie Jean" has not changed much since the "Motown 25" performance, but has been enhanced through continual performance and improvement.

The game show "Press Your Luck" featured a Whammy animation parodying Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" choreography.

Track listing

"Visionary" single

;CD side
#"Billie Jean" - 4:54
#"Billie Jean" (12" version) - 6:23

;DVD side
#"Billie Jean" (Music video)


#Single Version – 4:54
#Album Version – 4:53
#12" Version / Long Version – 6:23
#Instrumental – 6:20
#Tony Moran Mix (Unreleased)
#Four On The Floor Remix - 4:43
#Billie Jean 2008 (Kanye West Mix) - 4:34
#Underground Mix - 6:42
#Four On The Floor Remix - 6:28
#Pepsi Version - 1:00


*Written, arranged and composed by Michael Jackson
*Produced by Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson
*Lead and background vocals by Michael Jackson
*Drums by Leon "Ndugu" Chancler
*Bass by Louis Johnson
*Guitar by David Williams
*Emulator by Michael Boddicker
*Rhodes & Synthesizer by Greg Phillinganes
*Synthesizer by Greg Smith
*Synthesizer & Synthesizer Programming by Bill Wolfer
*Vocal, Rhythm and Synthesizer Arrangement by Michael Jackson
*String Arrangement by Jerry Hey
*Strings Conducted by Jeremy Lubbock
*Mixed by Bruce Swedien

"Thriller 25" version

Infobox Song
Name = Billie Jean 2008

Artist = Michael Jackson featuring Kanye West
from Album = Thriller 25
Released = February 8, 2008 ("Thriller 25")
Format = Digital download ("Thriller 25")
Recorded = 2007
Genre = Hip-hop/R&B
Length = 4:37
Label = Epic/Legacy Recordings
Writer = Michael Jackson
Producer = Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Kanye West, Kilhoffer

As part of "Thriller 25" (a 25th anniversary edition of "Thriller"), a remix of "Billie Jean", entitled "Billie Jean 2008 - Kanye West Mix" was included. Kanye West performs backing vocals over Jackson's original ones, and the song is slower than the original with heavy drums and beats, which are similar to the ones in Kanye West's song, "Stronger". The song has charted in some countries from download sales/radio airplay, though it is not a single.


*Original song written by Jackson
*Original recording produced by Jones/Jackson
*Remix engineered and mixed by Kilhoffer/Dromgoole/Hertwech/Wheeler/Houge
*Remix keyboards: Bhasker/Kilhoffer/Caruso
*Remix produced: Jackson/Jones/West/Kilhoffer
*Remix recorded in November 2007

Chart performance

Covers and remixes

As a Michael Jackson standard, the song has been covered by several artists. German punk band The Bates released their cover of "Billie Jean" as a single in 1995, accompanied by a video based on Alfred Hitchcock's film, "Psycho".Fact|date=October 2007 Ian Brown released the song as a single, as well as the song "Thriller".Fact|date=October 2007 Northern Irish singer-songwriter Foy Vance recorded a live version for his EP "Live Sessions and the Birth of the Toilet Tour", and is known to perform the song at all of his shows. Boy band BLACKstreet have their own R&B version of the song.

Chris Cornell debuted his version of "Billie Jean" during his "Unplugged" concert in Stockholm, Sweden as part of the promotional tour of the then-new Audioslave album "Revelations". He significantly changed the arrangement, slowing the song down, using grittier vocals and applying an alternative-rock instrumentation. A studio version of the cover (featuring a full rock band) appears on Cornell's 2007 solo album, "Carry On". It was also included on his Yahoo! internet-only album "Nissan Live Sets: Chris Cornell" with an accompanying video at Yahoo! Music. David Cook performed the Chris Cornell version on the Top Ten week of "American Idol" on March 25, 2008. The performance received unanimous praise from all three judges and is often considered one of the best performances in the show's history. ["The Top 10 Finalists Perform". "American Idol". 25 March 2008. No. 24, season 7 and is considered one of the best American Idol performances of all time.] Cook performed this song on the American Idols Live! Tour 2008, which ran from July 1st, 2008 to September 13th, 2008.

Dance groups "King of House" [Article about King of House in french Wikipedia] (France/2002) and Starzoom (Nederlands/2007) covered the song and released their cover as a single. Turkish group Dolapdere Big Gang covered the song on their first album, "Local Strangers" (2006). Neil Finn's acoustic take appears on Andrew Denton's Musical Challenge (2001). The Martini Lizards play a jazzy version of the song and released it on their album "Into The Lounge" [ [ MARTINI LIZARDS/VARIOUS - Into The Lounge ] ] (Germany/2006) with various cover songs.

The song's instrumentals were remixed with Eminem's vocals by Paul B making the remix, "Without Billie Jean". It is popular on P2P and file-sharing networks. There is also a version with DMX |vocals making the remix, "No Love for Billie Jean". P. Diddy also made a remix of the song featuring vocals from The Notorious B.I.G.. In 1983, Italian dance act Clubhouse released "Do It Again / Billie Jean", a precursor of the mashup genre mixing "Billie Jean" with Steely Dan's 1972 song "Do It Again". This was a hit record in Europe. Slingshot had a similar success in the U.S. The song was unofficially remixed by Bushwacka! in 2001, becoming a dance floor favorite after a rare CD copy was eventually pressed on bootleg white label vinyl. The rockabilly band The Moonlight Cruisers also covered this using their original instruments. The song has also been covered/sampled by notorious Death Rap/horrorcore artist Necro featuring fellow Psycho+Logical-Records artist Mr. Hyde as "Billie Jean 2005" from his mixtape Street Villains Vol. 2.

Cobra Starship covered the song in an AOL Session in 2006.

Heath Brandon's version of Billie Jean went to #1 on the iTunes France Jazz Chart in 2007.

New Zealand band Opshop performed this song in their shows during the 2008 'Big Energy In A Can' New Zealand tour.

Swedish progressive death metal band Opeth sometimes play "Billie Jean" intro on their live shows.

In 2008, Israeli Dj Offer Nissim included a remix of this song in his album "Happy People".

There is a cover of the song on the video game Karaoke Revolution.

In 2008 American artist Marc Terenzi covered the song in a much slower style and released it as the lead single from his album "Black Roses". [ [ Marc Terenzi ] ]

In World of Warcraft, the male night elf's dance is that of Michael Jackson in "Billie Jean".


*"Moonwalk" — by Michael Jackson, Edited by Jackie Onassis (Doubleday 1988, ISBN 0-385-24712-5)
*"The Michael Jackson Story" — by Nelson George (Dell 1983, ISBN 0-440-15592-4)
*"Trapped: Michael Jackson and the Crossover Dream" — by Dave Marsh (Bantam 1985, ISBN 0-553-34241-X)
*"Thriller – Special Edition" (Epic Records, 2001 — Selected Interviews)
*"Michael Jackson: The Ultimate Collection" (Epic Records, 2004 — Liner Notes)
*"Michael Jackson Visionary (
*"UK singles chart (


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