"Billie Jean" is a song by American singer Michael Jackson, released by Epic Records on January 2, 1983, as the second single from Jackson's sixth studio album, Thriller (1982). It was written and composed by Jackson and produced by Jackson and Quincy Jones. "Billie Jean" blends post-disco, rhythm and blues, funk and dance-pop. The lyrics describe a woman, Billie Jean, who claims that the narrator is the father of her newborn son, which he denies. Jackson said the lyrics were based on groupies' claims about his older brothers when he toured with them as the Jackson 5.
UK picture sleeve
|Single by Michael Jackson|
|from the album Thriller|
|Released||January 2, 1983|
|Studio||Westlake Recording Studios (Los Angeles, California)|
|Length||4:54 (album/single version)|
6:23 (12" version)
|Michael Jackson singles chronology|
Side-A label of the American 7-inch vinyl single
"Billie Jean" reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100, where it remained for seven weeks. "Billie Jean" topped the Billboard Hot Black Singles chart within three weeks, and became Jackson's fastest-rising number one single since "ABC", "The Love You Save" and "I'll Be There" in 1970, which he recorded as a member of the Jackson 5. It remained at number one for nine weeks on the chart. Billboard ranked it as the No. 2 song for 1983. "Billie Jean" is certified 6x Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The song has sold over 10 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling singles of all time. It was also a number one hit in the UK, Switzerland and Belgium and reached the top ten in many other countries. "Billie Jean" was one of the best-selling singles of 1983, helping Thriller become the best-selling album of all time, and became Jackson's best-selling solo single.
Jackson's performance of "Billie Jean" on the TV special Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever won acclaim and was nominated for an Emmy Award. It introduced a number of Jackson's signatures, including the moonwalk and white sequinned glove, and was widely imitated. The "Billie Jean" music video, directed by Steve Barron, was the first video by a black artist to be aired in heavy rotation on MTV. Along with the other videos produced for Thriller, it helped establish MTV's cultural importance and make music videos an integral part of popular music marketing. The spare, bass-driven arrangement of "Billie Jean" helped pioneer what one critic called "sleek, post-soul pop music". It also introduced a more paranoid lyrical style for Jackson, a trademark of his later music.
"Billie Jean" was awarded honors including two Grammy Awards and an American Music Award. In a list compiled by Rolling Stone and MTV in 2000, the song was ranked as the sixth greatest pop song since 1963. In 2004, Rolling Stone placed it at number 58 on its list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and was included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll. Frequently listed in magazine polls of the best songs ever made, "Billie Jean" was named the greatest dance record of all time by BBC Radio 2 listeners.
- 1 Background
- 2 Production
- 3 Composition
- 4 Reception
- 5 Music video
- 6 Motown 25 performance
- 7 Pepsi commercials
- 8 Cover versions
- 9 Notable mashups and remixes
- 10 Legacy
- 11 Personnel
- 12 Charts
- 13 Certifications
- 14 See also
- 15 References
- 16 External links
Jackson said that "Billie Jean" was based on groupies he and his brothers encountered while they performed as the Jackson 5. "They would hang around backstage doors, and any band that would come to town they would have a relationship with, and I think I wrote this out of experience with my brothers when I was little. There were a lot of Billie Jeans out there. Every girl claimed that their son was related to one of my brothers."
According to Jackson's biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli, "Billie Jean" was inspired by letters Jackson received in 1981 from a woman claiming he was the father of one of her twins. Jackson, who regularly received letters of this kind, had never met the woman and ignored those claims. However, she continued to send letters stating that she loved him and wanted to be with him, asking how he could ignore his own flesh and blood. The letters disturbed him to the extent that he suffered nightmares.
Eventually, Jackson received a parcel containing a photograph of the fan, a gun, and a letter instructing him to kill himself at a particular time. The fan would do the same once she had killed "their" baby, so they could be together in the "next life". To his mother's dismay, Jackson had the photograph of the woman framed and hung above the dining room table of their family home.[clarification needed] The Jacksons later discovered that the fan had been sent to a psychiatric hospital.
Jackson said he felt "Billie Jean" would be a success as he was writing it: "A musician knows hit material. Everything has to feel in place. It fulfills you and it makes you feel good. That's how I felt about 'Billie Jean'. I knew it was going to be big when I was writing it." He explained that, listening to it in his car, he was so absorbed that he did not realize his car had caught fire until a passing motorcyclist informed him.
Jackson disagreed with the producer, Quincy Jones, about the song. According to some reports, Jones felt it was too weak to be included on Thriller, but Jones has denied this. Jones disliked the demo and did not care for the bassline, and wanted to cut Jackson's 29-second introduction. Jackson, however, insisted that it be kept. According to Jones, he conceded when Jackson said it made him want to dance: "And when Michael Jackson tells you, 'That's what makes me want to dance', well, the rest of us just have to shut up."
Jones also wanted to change the title to "Not My Lover", as he believed that people would think the song referred the tennis player Billie Jean King. Jackson refused to change the title and asked Jones to give him co-producing credits for the track, as he felt that the finished product sounded close to his demo. In addition, Jackson wanted extra royalties. Jones granted him neither and the two fell out for several days.
Jones had Jackson sing his vocal overdubs through a six-foot cardboard tube. Jackson's lead vocal was performed in one take; he had received vocal training every morning throughout the production of the song. Jazz saxophonist Tom Scott played the lyricon, an electronic wind instrument. Bassist Louis Johnson played his part on every bass guitar he owned, before Jackson settled for a Yamaha bass.
Engineer Bruce Swedien mixed the song 91 times—unusual for Swedien, who usually mixed a song just once. Instructed by Jones to create a drum sound with "sonic personality" that no one had heard before, Jones constructed a platform for the drum kit with special elements including a flat piece of wood between the snare and hi-hat. He said: "There aren't many pieces of music where you can hear the first three or four notes of the drums, and immediately tell what the piece of music is. But I think that is the case with 'Billie Jean'—and that I attribute to sonic personality."
"Billie Jean" blends post-disco, rhythm and blues, funk, and dance-pop. The song opens with a standard drum beat along with a standard hi-hat, and joined two bars later with a shaker. After two more bars, a repetitive bassline enters. Each time it passes through the tonic, the note is doubled by a distorted synth bass. This accompaniment is followed by a repetitive three-note synth, played staccato with a deep reverb. The defining chord progression is then established. Jackson's quiet vocals enter, accompanied by a finger-snap, which comes and goes during the verses, as the rhythm and chord progression repeats. Greg Phillinganes, who played keys, said of the song: "'Billie Jean' is hot on every level. It's hot rhythmically. It's hot sonically, because the instrumentation is so minimal, you can really hear everything. It's hot melodically ... lyrically [and] vocally. It affects you physically, emotionally, even spiritually."
According to Jones, Jackson "stole" notes from the Jon and Vangelis song "State of Independence"; Jones had produced Donna Summer's cover of the song, and Jackson had sung backing vocals. According to Jon Anderson, "They took the riff and made it funky for 'Billie Jean' ... So that's kinda cool, that cross-pollination in music." According to Daryl Hall of Hall & Oates, Jackson told him he had taken the "Billie Jean" groove from their 1981 track "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)". Hall told him "Oh Michael, what do I care? You did it very differently."
According to Inside the Hits, the lyrics refer to the commotion created by Billie Jean on a dance floor. She entices the crowd with a seductive come-on before luring the narrator to her bedroom, through the fragrance of her perfume. Jackson's vocal range spanned from a high baritone to a falsetto and he usually wrote melodies to show this range. However, in the verses of "Billie Jean", his vocals range from a tenor to a low falsetto. A four-note falsetto is showcased in the chorus and, during the last line, Jackson peaks at a full octave. The song has a tempo of 117 beats per minute and is in the key of F♯ minor. Following the first chorus, a cello-like synth eases in at the beginnings of both the third, and later, the fourth, verses. Upon the announcement that the baby's eyes resemble the narrator's, a voice laments, "oh no". This is met with Jackson's signature falsetto "hee hee". The bridge debuts the strings, and holds a pedal tone tonic with the exception of two lines and a chord leading into the chorus. Violins are then played, followed by a four-note minor guitar part. During the guitar part, vocal shouts, screams and laughs are added. Throughout this, the chord progression remains unaltered and is laced with Jackson's vocal hiccups. All the musical and vocal elements are then brought together in the final chorus. In the fade, Jackson repeats the narrator's denial of fathering Billie Jean's child.
On November 30, 1982, Thriller was released to critical and commercial success. On January 2, 1983, "Billie Jean" was released as the album's second single; it follows Jackson's successful duet with Paul McCartney on "The Girl Is Mine". The song reached number one on Billboard's Hot 100 chart, where it remained for seven weeks. Billboard ranked it as the No. 2 song for 1983. "Billie Jean" topped the R&B chart within three weeks, and became Jackson's fastest-rising number one single since "ABC", "The Love You Save" and "I'll Be There" in 1970, which he recorded as a member of The Jackson 5. It remained at number one for nine weeks on the R&B chart, being preceded by The Gap Band's "Outstanding", before the single was eventually succeeded by George Clinton's "Atomic Dog". "Billie Jean" peaked at number 9 on the Adult Contemporary chart. It was also number one in the UK Singles Chart. "Billie Jean" and Thriller topped both the singles and album charts in the same week. This occurred on both sides of the Atlantic simultaneously, a feat very few acts have ever achieved. The song was the third best selling single of 1983 in the US and ninth in the UK. "Billie Jean" also reached number one in Switzerland and Belgium, and the top ten in Austria, Italy, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden.
In a Rolling Stone review, Christopher Connelly described "Billie Jean" as a "lean, insistent funk number whose message couldn't be more blunt: 'She says I am the one/But the kid is not my son'". He added that the track was a "sad, almost mournful song, but a thumping resolve underlies [Jackson's] feelings". Blender stated that the song was "one of the most sonically eccentric, psychologically fraught, downright bizarre things ever to land on Top 40 radio". They added that it was "frighteningly stark, with a pulsing, cat-on-the-prowl bass figure, whip-crack downbeat and eerie multi-tracked vocals ricocheting in the vast spaces between keyboards and strings". Overall, the magazine described the track as "a five-minute-long nervous breakdown, set to a beat". Stylus said of the song, "It's one of the best representations of film noir in pop music, ending with no resolution except a single mother and selfish, careless scumball." In a review of Thriller 25, AllMusic observed that "Billie Jean" was "startling" in its "futuristic funk". The track also won praise from Jackson biographers. Nelson George stated that Jerry Hey's string arrangement added danger to "Billie Jean", while J. Randy Taraborrelli added that it was "dark and sparse" by Quincy Jones' production standards.
"Billie Jean" has been recognized with numerous awards and honors. At the 1984 Grammy Awards the song earned Jackson two of a record eight awards; Best R&B Song and Best R&B Male Vocal Performance. It won the Billboard Music Award for favorite dance / disco 12" LP, and the magazine's 1980's poll named "Billie Jean" as the "Black Single of the Decade". The American Music Awards recognized the track as the Favorite Pop/Rock Single, while Cash Box honored the song with the awards for Top Pop Single and Top Black Single. The track was recognised with the Top International Single award by the Canadian Black Music Awards, and awarded the Black Gold Award for Single of the Year. "Billie Jean" has also been awarded for its sales. It won the National Association of Recording Merchandisers Gift of Music award for best selling single in 1984. By 1989, the standard format single was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, for shipments of at least one million units. The digital sales of "Billie Jean" were certified gold in 2005, for shipments of at least 500,000 units. The digital sales of "Billie Jean" were certified 5x Platinum in US on August 23, 2018. In May 2014, a viral video of a high school-aged teenager imitating Jackson's Motown 25 performance of the song helped the song re-enter the Billboard Hot 100 at number 14, with much of its chart performance was 95% credited to streams of the viral video.
The "Billie Jean" music video debuted on March 10, 1983 on MTV. It brought MTV—until then a fairly new and unknown music channel—to mainstream attention. It was one of the first videos by a black artist to be aired regularly by the channel, as the network's executives felt black music was not "rock" enough. Directed by Steve Barron, the video shows a photographer who follows Jackson. The paparazzo never catches him, and when photographed Jackson fails to materialize on the developed picture. He dances to Billie Jean's hotel room and as he walks along a sidewalk, each tile lights up at his touch.
After he performs a quick spin, Jackson jumps and lands, freeze framed, on his toes. Upon arrival at the hotel, Jackson climbs the staircase to Billie Jean's room. Each step lights up as he touches it and a burnt out "Hotel" sign illuminates as he passes. The paparazzo then arrives at the scene and watches as Jackson vanishes under the covers of Billie Jean's bed. Trailed by the police, the paparazzo is then arrested for spying on Billie Jean. Jackson sported a new look for the video; Jackson's clothes, a black leather suit with a pink shirt and a red bow tie, were copied by children around the US. Imitation became so severe that, despite pupil protests, Bound Brook High School banned students from wearing a single white glove like Jackson had on during the performance of "Billie Jean" at Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever.
Walter Yetnikoff, the president of Jackson's record company CBS Records, approached MTV about playing the "Billie Jean" video, which MTV had not ever played in spite of Jackson's success as a musical artist. Yetnikoff became enraged when MTV refused to play the video, and he threatened to go public with MTV's stance on racial discrimination. "I said to MTV, 'I'm pulling everything we have off the air, all our product. I'm not going to give you any more videos. And I'm going to go public and fucking tell them about the fact you don't want to play music by a black guy.'" MTV relented and played the "Billie Jean" video in heavy rotation. After the video was aired, Thriller went on to sell an additional 10 million copies. The short film was inducted into the Music Video Producers Hall of Fame in 1992. In a 2005 poll of 31 pop stars, video directors, agents, and journalists conducted by telecommunications company 3, the music video was ranked fifth in their "Top 20 Music Videos Ever". The video was also ranked as the 35th greatest music video in a list compiled by MTV and TV Guide at the millennium.
Motown 25 performanceEdit
Jackson performed "Billie Jean" on the television special Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever, broadcast on May 15, 1983. The performance is considered a watershed moment in popular culture history. The special was recorded on March 25 as a celebration of Motown Records' twenty-fifth anniversary (though Motown, launched in 1959, was technically 24 years old in 1983). The event featured many popular Motown acts, past and present. Jackson initially refused an invitation to reunite with the Jackson 5 for a performance, but reconsidered after a visit from Motown founder Berry Gordy, whom Jackson respected. Jackson asked to also perform "Billie Jean", to which Gordy agreed. Following performances by Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, and Mary Wells, the Jacksons sang a medley of their early 1970s hits. Jermaine Jackson was on stage with the group, marking the first time that the original Jackson 5 lineup had performed together since they left Motown in 1975. After the group performed "I'll Be There", they left Michael alone on stage.
Jackson wore black pants, leather penny loafers, a black sequined jacket, and a single white rhinestone glove. He addressed the audience, and then "Billie Jean" started playing. (Jackson lip-synced the entire song, because organizers feared that the evening's backing band could not replicate the sound of the recording.) To begin his performance, Jackson snapped a fedora to his head and struck a pose—his right hand on his hat and his left leg bent. During an instrumental interlude, he executed a move that many believe sealed his status as a pop icon. Jackson glided backwards to perform the moonwalk, before he spun on his heels and landed en pointe. It was the first time Jackson had performed the moonwalk in public; he had practiced it in his kitchen prior to the show. The performance has been shown on television numerous times. It is also featured on the DVD HIStory on Film, Volume II and the bonus DVD of Thriller 25.
Many, including Jackson biographer Steve Knopper, have speculated that Jackson's "Billie Jean" costuming and choreography were specifically inspired by a dance routine performed by Bob Fosse in the 1974 musical film The Little Prince. In that film, Fosse, playing "The Snake", sings the song "A Snake in the Grass" and performs an accompanying dance that Fosse himself choreographed. The dance includes a variety of techniques that seemed to be echoed in Jackson's routine, including trademark Fosse elements such as hip thrusts, bent knees, shoulder isolations, jazz hands and kicks, as well a brief moonwalk. Jackson openly acknowledged Fosse as a dance influence, having told Fosse himself that he had amassed a complete home collection of Fosse's choreography work in film and television, which he watched frequently. However, Jackson never specifically cited the "Snake in the Grass" routine as an inspiration.
Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever was watched by 50 million people and Jackson's routine earned him an Emmy nomination. With the performance, Jackson reached a new audience and increased the sales of Thriller, which eventually became the best-selling album of all-time. The day after the show aired, Jackson was called by his childhood idol Fred Astaire, who commended him. Another childhood idol, Sammy Davis, Jr., had admired Jackson's black sequined jacket during the performance and later received it as a gift.
Jackson stated at the time that he was disappointed in his performance; he had wanted to remain on his toes longer than he had. Jackson subsequently said that "Billie Jean" was one of his favorite songs to perform live, but only when he did not have to do it the way he had on Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever. "The audience wants a certain thing—I have to do the moonwalk in that spot," he later said. "I'd like to do a different version."
In a Top 100 list compiled by VH1 and Entertainment Weekly in 2000, Jackson's performance was ranked as the sixth greatest rock 'n' roll TV moment. Five years later, Entertainment Weekly named Jackson's Motown 25 performance as one of the most important pop culture moments in history. "It was a moment that crossed over in a way that no live musical performance ever had. There was a messianic quality to it", Entertainment Weekly editor Steve Daly commented. David Moynihan of NME wrote in 2009 that "Jackson's status as the world's biggest superstar was confirmed" by the Motown 25 performance. The performance has been shown on television numerous times. It is also featured on the DVD HIStory on Film, Volume II and the bonus DVD of Thriller 25.
In 1984, Pepsi sponsored the Jacksons' Victory Tour. In return, Michael and his brothers were to star in two commercials for the company. Jackson had reworked "Billie Jean" for the commercial and titled it "Pepsi Generation". The song was used as the official jingle for the commercials and released as a 7" promo single. The launch of "The Choice of a New Generation" campaign in February 1984 was attended by 1,600 people who were issued with a programme and the 7" single. During the filming of the second commercial, a firework in the rear of the set was prematurely detonated, setting Jackson's hair ablaze. The incident necessitated reconstructive surgery. The commercials were premiered at the Grammy Awards, the same night he collected a record eight awards.
The Bates versionEdit
|Single by The Bates|
|from the album Pleasure + Pain|
|The Bates singles chronology|
In 1995, German band The Bates covered "Billie Jean" on their album Pleasure + Pain. The cover was also successful although intricacies of the original were not included in the cover. The music video parodies Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho.
- Billie Jean – 4:25
- Tonight (Remix) – 3:45
- Love Is Dead (Part II) – 3:22
- Yeah (Acoustic Version) – 1:06
|Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)||40|
|Germany (Official German Charts)||21|
|Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)||10|
|UK Singles (Official Charts Company)||67|
Ian Brown versionEdit
English musician Ian Brown took "Billie Jean" to number 5 on the UK charts in 2000. It was the B-side of "Dolphins Were Monkeys". Brown said, "I love Jackson. I want to do a Jackson EP with 'Thriller', 'Beat It', 'Billie Jean' and 'Rockin' Robin' or 'ABC' on it. Hopefully I'll get it done". Brown later covered "Thriller" on Golden Gaze, from his second solo album, Golden Greats.
The Sound Bluntz versionEdit
|Single by The Sound Bluntz|
Canadian group The Sound Bluntz also recorded a cover which peaked at No. 17 on the Australian charts during March 2003. It also reached No. 17 in Belgium, No. 14 in Finland, and No. 53 in the Netherlands.
- CD-Maxi Kontor 14305-5 (Edel)
- Billie Jean (Beat Radio Mix) – 4:00
- Billie Jean (Beat Clubb Mix) – 6:50
- Billie Jean (Full Effect Mix) – 7:34
- Dura Dura (Reprise) – 1:36
|Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)||17|
|Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)||24|
|Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)||14|
|Germany (Official German Charts)||74|
|Netherlands (Single Top 100)||53|
|Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)||93|
|UK Singles (Official Charts Company)||32|
Other notable coversEdit
"Billie Jean" was recorded by American rock musician Chris Cornell for his Carry On album in 2007. Cornell said of his cover, "I didn't plan on it. It just sort of happened organically. I changed the music quite a bit, I didn't touch the lyrics." He added, "And it's not a joke. I took a completely different approach to it, musically." Cornell had previously performed the song live in Europe, including an acoustic set in Stockholm, Sweden in September 2006. He later said, "I was getting ready to do some acoustic shows on a promotional tour for Revelations and I just wanted to have fun with it." The cover received favorable reviews from critics. MTV noted the "bluesier, more pained and impassioned feel" which stripped away "any pop elements of the original". Los Angeles Times described the track as "a grim, spooky take" on Jackson's "Billie Jean", and added that it was "amusing enough, even if it sounds a lot more like Metallica's 'Nothing Else Matters'". The newspaper concluded that "Jacko's mega hit [survived] the stunt translation". In 2008, Cornell's version was performed live by David Cook on the seventh season of American Idol, and this version charted on Billboard's Hot 100 at No. 47.
Notable mashups and remixesEdit
In 1983, Italian studio group Club House recorded what would now be known as a mashup of "Billie Jean" and the 1972 Steely Dan song "Do It Again", titled "Do It Again Medley with Billie Jean". The song was a top ten hit in Belgium, Ireland and the Netherlands. American band Slingshot recorded a note-for-note remake of the song later that same year; this version hit number one on the Billboard Dance/Disco charts.
A DJ named Linx created a mashup of "Billie Jean" and the 1987 Eric B. & Rakim song "I Know You Got Soul" from the original recordings, releasing it in 1997 as "Billie Jean (Got Soul)". This mashup peaked at number 34 in Sweden.
Scottish bhangra group Tigerstyle's song "Nachna Onda Nei" includes the backing tracks of both "Billie Jean" and "Under Pressure" by Queen and David Bowie, with new vocals by Kaka Bhaniawala. In May 2011, dance act Signature used "Nachna Onda Nei" on Britain's Got Talent in their audition and again in their final performance.
"Billie Jean 2008"Edit
|"Billie Jean 2008 (Kanye West Mix)"|
|Song by Michael Jackson and Kanye West|
|from the album Thriller 25|
Michael Jackson's original version of "Billie Jean" was remixed by Kanye West for Thriller 25, a 25th anniversary reissue of Jackson's Thriller. Titled "Billie Jean 2008", the remix garnered a mixed reception; most critics felt that it was impossible to improve upon the original. Pitchfork Media's Tom Ewing stated that the remix would have benefited from a guest verse by West, which "might have added dynamics to the mix's clumsy claustrophobia".
Mike Joseph, in a review of Thriller 25 for PopMatters, described the track listing of the reissue as "pleasant" but that West's "lazy" remix was the only exception. He added, "You've been given the opportunity to remix the most iconic single from one of the most iconic albums of all time, and all you can do is stick a drum machine on top of the song's original arrangement?". Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone disliked the removal of the original bassline, and compared it to "putting Bobby Orr on the ice without a hockey stick". IGN's Todd Gilchrist praised West's remix and stated that it was a "pretty great track". He added, "it almost overplays the track's originally understated drama, his additions enhance the song and demonstrate that in a contemporary context."
"Billie Jean" aided Thriller in becoming the biggest selling album of all time and has been referenced by the performers such as Justin Timberlake, Chris Brown and Usher. The song and accompanying performances contributed to Jackson's status as a legendary pop icon.
It was popularly believed that "Billie Jean" was an autobiographical song, referring to someone who claimed Jackson was the father of her child. Based on this theory, Lydia Murdock wrote the song "Superstar", which was a minor hit in 1983, intending this song as a criticism of Jackson's purported denial of paternity.
Frequently listed in magazine polls of the best songs ever made, "Billie Jean" was named the greatest dance record of all time by BBC Radio 2 listeners. In a list compiled by Rolling Stone and MTV in 2000, the song was ranked as the sixth greatest pop song since 1963.
Rolling Stone placed the song at number 57 on its list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in 2010. "Billie Jean" was voted number 2 in The Nation's Favourite Number 1 Single, a British TV program airing on ITV on 21 July 2012. In a similar poll in 2015 the song was voted by the British public as the nation's second favorite 1980s number one.
In 2013, WatchMojo.com ranked "Billie Jean" as the best Michael Jackson song. Users of the site cast their votes online. Host Rebecca Brayton commented, "Its perfect blend of dance, pop and R&B cemented Jackson's place in music history while its video helped popularize MTV and shatter racial boundaries."
In an interview, Pharrell Williams stated that "Billie Jean" was one of his favorite songs. "It is hard to say if there is a greater song than 'Billie Jean'. I think there will never be a song like this one again, with this bassline, with this kind of effect, this eternalness, this perfection." The song has featured in the film Charlie's Angels and the 2002 video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City on the fictional in-game radio station "Flash FM". When re-released as part of the Visionary campaign in 2006, "Billie Jean" charted at No. 11 in the UK. It remained in the top 200 for over 40 weeks and was the most successful reissue by some distance. To date, "Billie Jean" is still in heavy rotation; it receives more than 250,000 spins per week in clubs around the world.
- Michael Jackson – lead and backing vocals; Yamaha CS-80 synthesizer; songwriting; composition; vocal, rhythm, synthesizer and string arrangements
- Leon Ndugu Chancler – drums
- Louis Johnson – bass guitar
- David Williams – guitar
- Tom Scott – lyricon
- Michael Boddicker – E-mu Emulator
- Greg Phillinganes – Rhodes piano, synthesizer
- Greg Smith – synthesizer
- Bill Wolfer – synthesizer, synthesizer programming
- Jerry Hey – string arrangement
- Jeremy Lubbock – string conducting
- Bruce Swedien – mixing, engineer
|Canada (Music Canada)||2× Platinum||200,000^|
|Denmark (IFPI Denmark)||Platinum||90,000^|
|New Zealand (RMNZ)||Gold||10,000*|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Platinum||1,440,000|
|United States (RIAA) (Digital)||5× Platinum||5,000,000|
|United States (RIAA) (Mastertone)||Gold||500,000^|
|United States (RIAA) (Physical)||Platinum||1,000,000^|
*sales figures based on certification alone
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