Listen to the recording of the tune by clicking the attached mp3 file

RaR38 – Billie Jean


Listen to the recording of the tune by clicking the attached mp3 file. This will open the recording in a new window or tab. Listen and follow along with the listening guide in the book.
Read the liner notes below.
Read the information “What to Listen For”
Respond to the Rate-A-Record/Questions by clicking on the assignment link and then click on on the button “Write Submission” (to the right of Text Submission) to record your response. Do not use the comments field.

Billie Jean by Michael Jackson

In the 1980s Michael Jackson was unquestionably the King of Pop. In the early part of the decade, no other artist so completely dominated the charts and the airwaves.

By 1980 Jackson was a seasoned veteran of the R&B and pop charts and had been a professional musician for eighteen years. His first solo album, recorded when he was only fourteen, produced three Top Ten hits, but his other outings did not do as well, particularly as compared to his records with the Jacksons and the Jackson 5. He might never have recorded another solo album, but his role as the scarecrow in the black film musical The Wiz (with Diana Ross) in 1977 invested him with so much celebrity that he was persuaded to return to the studio with producer Quincy Jones. The result, Off the Wall, launched Jackson’s mature career; it went platinum and sent four songs to the Top Ten. It also cemented a partnership between Jones and Jackson that lasted for over a decade.

By the time Jackson released his follow-up album in 1983 the video era was just dawning, and he quickly grasped the possibilities of this new medium. He convinced his label to invest in elaborate videos with structured narratives that were more like short movies than standard promotional clips. The thirteen-minute-long video for “Thriller” was a miniature horror film directed by John Landis (American Werewolf in London) that had voiceovers by Vincent Price and an elaborate dance number with Jackson and a troupe of rotting zombies. “Beat It,” staged as a hip-hop West Side Story and “Billie Jean,” a less narrative but visually captivating video, helped Jackson find mainstream acceptance in middle America. Those without MTV (which was still carried in limited markets) discovered Michael Jackson on a television special celebrating Motown’s twenty-fifth anniversary on May 16, 1983. After performing with his brothers he sang “Billie Jean” and introduced the “moonwalk,” a step taken from the street art of break dancing. By May 17 Jackson was an American superstar.

The moonwalk demonstrated that despite his long career and sheltered existence, Jackson retained ties to popular developments in the black community and a commitment to its artistic heritage. His dance-intensive performances (and break dancing as a whole) were modeled after James Brown; his falsetto hollers evoked not only Little Richard but the entire gospel heritage of rock and roll; and his early ’80s “look”—pants that were inches too short and a single white-sequined glove—was homage to the pioneering rapper Mellie Mel.


A fantastic example of simple verse-chorus form.
There is only one King of Pop. Amazing singing!
Awesome groove driven by a great backbeat and bass line.
Unique vocal sounds and harmonies.
A great hook/chorus!


Most people have seen this video. It is the ultimate reason for MTV to exist back in the 1980s. Here’s the link if you have not seen it or want to watch it again.
This piece is the epitome of what MTV was all about. How is this so? What are some things that you hear that support this statement?
Give it a rating: 0 = Bad, 100 = Awesome. Defend your number.

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Listen to the recording of the tune by clicking the attached mp3 file


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