SoulBounce’s Top 50 Michael Jackson Songs: #4 ‘Billie Jean’

So take my strong advice
Just remember to always think twice

The song that song that irreversibly cemented Michael Jackson as the most influential pop musician of the late 20th century, "Billie Jean" is the perfect combination of all the elements that made him the genius artist and troubled introvert he was in his adult life. His ingenious musical sense bursting through make the song truly irresistible. His dark lyrics of paranoia and mistrust make it more telling than most.

It was this dichotomy, the dark and the light, the groove and truth, that made him who he was and made "Billie Jean" such a prescient statement so early in his solo career. Allegedly about a crazed fan who threatened his life, it was more generally a response to a life of distrust fueled by lifelong megastardom. He was at his prime on Thriller, not yet on the descent into tabloid fodder, and it shows.

He managed to turn a song about groupies, about deceit, about blackmail, about a life the vast majority of us will never witness, into one of the most electrifying, universally-loved and critically-acclaimed dance grooves of the last thirty years. One that transfixed tens of millions people as he first moonwalked across the stage at Motown 25 in 1983. One that continues to define the pop ethos of an entire generation of performers. The intro bass line backed by his soft "whoo-whoo'" alone deserves a lifetime achievement award.

Michael left it all out there for us, as much as he could. "Billie Jean" was his challenge for us to go there, to glimpse the darkness with him and leave it on the dance floor. And we still do. No one could have realized how dark it would get, but as soon as those unmistakable first notes of the song pour from the speakers we are brought back to where he wanted us to be and where he was most comfortable: in the groove.

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11 Responses

  1. I LOVE this song, it is the greatest ever, I thought it would be #1, I can't wait for the rest of the countdown!!

  2. Avatar

    I love this man!!!!!!!

  3. This song may be the most significant & most impactful song in the history of popular music.....(Yes its that serious). First of all, its an incredible song....from the vocal melody to the instrumentation, its a pure masterpiece. Its funny how some people hear the first couple seconds of this song and automatically think of "The Moonwalk," A lot of people seem to overlook just how great a song it is. Both singers and dancers have been heavily influenced by the Motown 25 performance.....How many professional dancers started dancing after seeing that performance......Wade Robson is one, and there's a whole lot more......THATS how ridiculous this song is
    But anyway, if u take into account the quality of the song, add the Motown 25 performance, add "The Moonwalk" again as its own entity, & then times that by the fact that 90% of artists in the last 20 years have mentioned that Motown 25 performance as the "moment they knew that they wanted to be entertainers", you get Billie Jean as the most significant song of popular music history.

  4. so what are the chances baby be mine sneaks into the top two? 😉

  5. Eddie said it all.

  6. The opening bass line belongs in the Smithsonian. An effing national (no international) treasure. I thought this would be number 1. It's THE song, whose energy artists are STILL trying to duplicate. What people forget about MIke and his brothers is that -- THEY WERE FUNKY; and this solo effort highlights that.

  7. Probably the most influential song EVER! my favorite song is Human Nature. I love the video, real men wear pink.
    This song was written about crazy fans who could come by the house and accuse michael's brothers of having their child.

  8. THE SONG - Yes, Eddie said it brilliantly.
    Excuse me for pointing this out, but personally I didn't like the "tabloid fodder" reference or the "how dark it would get". Sorry but - it looks as though you are suggesting something that was not Michael, but was always (still is sadly, maybe always will be) the media's doing. The freaky cartoon character never existed, Michael Jackson was someone else. Someone I'll regret losing until my final day, and not just for the artistic amazeness. Thank you for your really good work, peace.

  9. Yes. In the groove is where Michael was the most comfortable and the happiest. Just witness the sweet smiles at the end of performances during "This Is It". He truly lived through his music. He loved what he did.

  10. This song is almost 30 years old and I still lose my breath every time I hear it. I was probably 3 when this song came out, today I am 30 and I still feel the SAME excitement every time I hear the song or see the video.
    Michael killed this performance on the Dangerous Tour Bucharest DVD. Eddie summed it up the best - the opening of this song is a national treasure. Hyped just typing about it.

  11. i thought this is going to be no. 1...wonder what is no. 1? luv this quote hehe.... The intro bass line backed by his soft "whoo-whoo'" alone deserves a lifetime achievement award. aha ...agreed!