This Is It (Michael Jackson song)

"This Is It" is a song co-written by American singer-songwriter Michael Jackson and Canadian singer-songwriter Paul Anka. The song was recorded by the former and featured as a track on the album of the same name which accompanies the 2009 concert documentary Michael Jackson's This Is It.

"This Is It"
A picture of a man with dark hair pointing with his right hand to his right. The man is wearing a black jacket with a red shirt and black pants. Behind him, there is a black background with the words "MICHAEL JACKSON" in white print and, underneath it, "THIS IS IT" written in pink.
Promotional single by Michael Jackson
from the album Michael Jackson's This Is It
ReleasedOctober 12, 2009 (2009-10-12)
  • 1980 (original)
  • 2009 (reworked)
StudioMarvin's Room (Hollywood)
  • 3:37 (album version)
  • 4:55 (orchestra version)
  • 3:43 (single version)
Audio sample
"This Is It"

It was premiered worldwide on Jackson's official website on October 12, 2009, four months after his death on June 25, 2009. Although Sony Music Entertainment referred to the song as a "new single" during its promotion, it was later confirmed that the song would only be sent for airplay, and not be available to buy as a single release. According to Anka, the song was recorded in 1980 and intended to be a duet between him and Jackson on Anka's Walk a Fine Line album under the title "I Never Heard", but these plans fell through. Thereafter, Sa-Fire recorded the track for her album, I Wasn't Born Yesterday (1991). The duet version of the song was featured in Anka's 2013 Duets album. While putting together the This Is It album, Jackson's demo version of the song was found. His brothers' vocals and additional instrumentation were then added to the recording.

A pop ballad, the instrumentation includes piano, guitar, percussion, and strings. Jackson's version, styled as a pop ballad, was his first song to chart on Billboard's Hot Adult Contemporary Chart in over seventeen years. The song was generally well received by critics and enjoyed good chart performances globally. It became a top twenty hit on charts in Japan and Spain, and peaked at number 18 on both Billboard's US Adult Contemporary and R&B/Hip-Hop song charts. In 2011, it received a Grammy Award nomination. The song was also accompanied by a music video, directed by Spike Lee, which consisted of footage of Jackson as a child, clips of him throughout his career, and footage of tributes from Jackson's fans around the world.


Although it shared its name, the song was not intentionally made for the 2009 concert documentary Michael Jackson's This Is It. "This Is It" was written by recording artists Paul Anka and Michael Jackson,[1][2] and a demo version of the song was recorded by Anka and Jackson in 1980 at Anka's California recording studio.[3] The song was intended to be added as an album track on Anka's 1983 duets album Walk a Fine Line that he was in the process of recording at the time.

Soon after the alleged theft in the '80s, Anka threatened to take legal action if the recordings were not returned.[1][4] Jackson's version of "This Is It" was reportedly found in a box of tapes with only Jackson's voice and a piano accompaniment, the song was described as having been a "bare-bone" recording.[2] Jackson subsequently returned the tapes, although Anka insisted that Jackson had made a copy of the recordings of "I Never Heard" and retitled the track with his voice to "This Is It."[3] In 1990, Anka allowed the Puerto Rican R&B recording artist Sa-Fire to record "This Is It",[2] which she did under the original title "I Never Heard" on her second studio album I Wasn't Born Yesterday in 1991.


On September 13, 2009, it was reported that a "secret Michael Jackson single" was being produced to promote the film Michael Jackson's This Is It, so that the song's release would coincide with the release of the film. It was shelved until producers in Los Angeles, California decided to remix the vocals with an orchestral accompaniment. On September 23, Sony Music Entertainment announced they were planning on releasing a song entitled, "This Is It" as a single.[5] The song was to feature backing vocals by several of Jackson's brothers and would be included in a two-disc album, This Is It.[5][6] It was also confirmed that the song would be featured during the end credits of the movie production.[4][6] Sony said, in response to the reports, that it was a coincidence that his upcoming concert series was also titled "This Is It", explaining they had no evidence that he had planned to release the song.[7] However, John McClain and John Branca, two representatives of Jackson's estate said, in a prepared statement, that "This Is It" was "picked because the lyrics were appropriate because of the name Michael [Jackson] gave his tour" and that they were "thrilled to present" the song.[2][8]

Although Sony did not release the track as a single, it was confirmed that "This Is It" would be released to radio stations for airplay, but that it would not be downloadable. Sony chose to release the song as an album-only track as part of a strategy to encourage fans to buy the entire album.[9] McClain, also a co-producer of the This Is It album said, "This song only defines, once again, what the world already knows -- that Michael [Jackson] is one of God's greatest gifts."[10][5] "This Is It" premiered, as scheduled, on Jackson's official website on October 12 at midnight.[11][12]

Within the day of the song's release, via World Wide Web, listeners, unaware of the song's background, drew comparisons of the song to Sa-Fire's "I Never Heard."[13][14] Soon after, media outlets The New York Times and informed Anka of the similarities between the songs.[2] In response, Anka told the New York Times, that "This Is It" was "exactly the same song" as "I Never Heard" and only the titles were different.[15] He also stated that he was planning on taking legal action against Jackson's estate. Soon afterwards, Jackson's estate acknowledged that Anka was a co-writer on the song and agreed that Anka would receive 50 percent of the publishing rights from it.[2][13][15] Anka said the estate "did the right thing", and that he felt that he did not think "that anybody tried to do the wrong thing" and it was "an honest mistake".[2][15] Anka further stated "They realize it's a mistake, they realize it's my song, they realize it's my production of his vocal in my studio and I am getting 50 percent of the whole project, actually, which is fair".[10]

Rob Stringer, the chairman of the Epic Label Group, stated that at the time of the song's release he did not know when Jackson's original tape had been recorded or of its similarity to Sa-Fire's version until it was discussed online over the weekend by Jackson's fans.[14] Prior to the estate and Anka reaching an agreement, Sa-Fire's manager, Sal Abbatiello, stated that he was contemplating filing a lawsuit on behalf of his client, commenting "This is a terrible mistake [...] I’m pretty sure Paul Anka has a big case. I don’t know if Sa-Fire has any legal right as the artist. I’ll have to contact my lawyers. But, hopefully. They’re advertising this movie everywhere."[15] Abbatiello also criticized Sony for not researching the possibility that the song might have had been previously released before releasing it.[14]


"This Is It" is a pop ballad[16] with a simple mid-tempo keyboard[17][18] that lasts three minutes and 36 seconds.[19] The song begins with Jackson singing, “This is it, here I stand / I’m the light of the world, I feel grand / Got this love I can feel / And I know yes for sure it is real” and then he tenderly hits his signature high notes about a new lover he feels he's known "since 1,000 years."[16] Jackson's brothers Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Randy (credited as The Jacksons)[5] are featured as background vocals throughout the song.[16] Background music includes fingersnaps, a "soaring chorus," big-build strings[17] and "bubbly guitars."[18] The song is played in the key of Bb major.[20] Throughout the song, Jackson's vocal range spans from F3 to C5.[20] The song's tempo is moderate, and its metronome speed is 96 beats per minute.[20] According to the music published on by Alfred Music Publishing and the Winnipeg Sun, the song is written in common time.[18][20] The lyrics "toggle between grandiosity" ("This is it, here I stand / I'm the light of the world, I feel grand") and "shy, romantic yearning" ("I never heard a single word about you / Falling in love wasn't my plan").[18] Darrly Sterdan of the Winnipeg Sun felt that Jackson's voice and the background music sounded "like a demo that's been fleshed out with overdubs and doowoppy backup vocals from his brothers."[18] Anthony McCartney, of the Associated Press felt that the finger-snap percussion "echoes" that present in Jackson's 1982 song "The Girl Is Mine" with Paul McCartney.[7]

Critical receptionEdit

The track gained average-to-positive reviews and a nomination for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance at the 2011 53rd Grammy Awards.[21] Gary Trust of Billboard reported that "response among radio programmers to the song has been almost universally positive."[22] Among these were Jay Lustig of The Star-Ledger, who felt it was a "sweet, mid-tempo love song" that, with "orchestral strings" and "creamy backing vocals" by Jackson's brothers, gave it a "crisp beat."[23] In contrast, Darryl Sterdan of The Winnipeg Sun gave it a 3 out of 5 rating, saying, "This may be something, but it's not 'It'... On the whole, it's a sweet little number -- but it doesn't live up to its authoritative title."[18] Todd Martens, of the Los Angeles Times's Pop & Hiss music blog, called "This Is It" a "trifle" and while the track "certainly won't embarrass Jackson's legacy or break the hearts of fans eager to hear Jackson's voice again" it does "bring the fallen pop icon a little back down to earth."[24] Jessica Robertson, an AOL music editor, said, "It's a safe, mid-tempo pop ballad that features what his fans love: his trademark breathy vocals and confident delivery. I don't think it will set the world on fire, because it's missing what fans and critics love most about his songs, which is a strong and powerful groove to carry it."[24]

Many reviewers noted similarities in the song to earlier Jackson songs. Caryn Ganz of Rolling Stone felt musically, "This Is It" sounded similar to Jackson's 1987 song "I Just Can't Stop Loving You,"[16] and Leah Greenbatt, of Entertainment Weekly thought "some listeners may pick up shades" of Jackson's 1993 single "Will You Be There."[17] Cori Murray, an entertainment director at Essence magazine, described the track as "not bad," and felt that it sounded "like something" Jackson "could have put on an album."[24] Dan Aquilante, of the New York Post, who described the song as "an optimistic, R&B ballad with an upbeat, percolating rhythm that has all the bombast and power of the New Jack Swing period of the early '90s."[24] James Montgomery, of MTV News, felt that the song was the "perfect MJ tune" and that Jackson "was a hell of a singer."[25] He also stated that he felt that Jackson had a "wonderous voice," and the song "a prime showcase for Jackson's prodigious pipes."[25] Montgomery went on to say that when he ignored the negative elements surrounding the song and focused, that he felt it was "wonderful":

Ignore the trilling strings, and the soft-jazz/light-funk backing track (which sort of make[s] the song sound like Off the Wall's "I Can't Help It.") Block out the hype surrounding the song's release and the drama surrounding Jackson's death. Focus on those vocals — the way Jackson counts it in with a boyish "one, two, three, four," the way he glides from verse to verse with breathless, effortless phrasing, the lean-yet-heavy falsetto, the hint of gravel (and gravitas) is the verses, the soaring choruses — it's all there, untarnished by time or tabloids. And it's all wonderful.[25]

Chart performanceEdit

"This Is It" gave Jackson his first song to chart on Billboard's Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks in over 17 years.

Despite being a non-downloadable album track, the song appeared on many charts due to radio play alone.[26] Gary Trust of Billboard acknowledged that without "This Is It" having a digital (distribution) component its chances on making an impact on the Billboard Hot 100 would not be likely.[26] During the week ending October 21, 2009, "This Is It" debuted at number 19 on Billboard's Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks.[27] "This Is It" returned Jackson and his brothers to the chart for the first time since 1970, when, billed as The Jackson 5, the group marked its sole previous entry, "I'll Be There," which went on to peak on the chart at number 24.[27] Its charting ended a 13-year, seven-month absence Jackson had from the chart; his prior entry was "You Are Not Alone," which wrapped a 26-week run on the list dated March 16, 1996.[27] This song is also Jackson's 26th charted Adult Contemporary title, making him the seventh male artist to score a top 20 Adult Contemporary single in each decade since the 1970s.[27] Eventually, the track peaked at number 18 on the Adult Contemporary chart.[28] Also in "This Is It"'s first week of release, the song debuted on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Chart at number 43.[26] "This Is It" went on to peak at number 18 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Song-genre chart.[28] "This Is It" also charted on the Adult R&B Songs chart, peaking at number 9.

"This Is It"'s most successful charting country was Japan, where the song placed within the top ten, peaking at number five on Japan's Hot 100 chart.[29] Also, it peaked at number 30 on the Slovakian airplay chart,[30] at number 22 on the Dutch singles chart,[31] and at number 27 on the Czech airplay chart.[32] The song peaked on the Canadian Hot 100 chart at number 56[28] but was quite successful in Spain: The track peaked at number 18 on the Spanish singles chart.[31] According to Billboard, within the first 24 hours of release the song had over 800 radio plays in Europe.[33] Another commercially successful territory for "This Is It" was China. It debuted at number one in Hit FM, China Radio International's western music radio's airplay charts, "Top 20 Countdown" on October 24, 2009.[34] It held the top position for four consecutive weeks until Beyoncé Knowles's "Broken-Hearted Girl" superseded it on November 21.[35] However, the track bounced back to the top position of the chart on November 28.[36]

Music videoEdit

On December 27, 2009, the song's official music video was released.[37] It was directed by Academy Award-nominee Spike Lee,[38] who had previously worked with Jackson directing the video for "They Don't Care About Us" for his HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I (1995) album.[39][40] The video for "This Is It" premiered on the webpage of Lee's production company 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks.[38] The video, almost five-minutes long, features various scenes of Jackson's hometown and former residence in Gary, Indiana, along with photos and videos of him and tributes from his fans around the world.[37]

This sign (pictured) was shown several times throughout the video, a reference to the public's negativity towards Jackson because of the controversies during his life.

The video opens with a clip of a poster in Gary pointing fans toward Jackson's childhood home, at the corner of 2300 Jackson Street and Jackson Family Boulevard and the sound of a vintage recording of one of Jackson's siblings yelling "Michael" repeatedly.[37] An image, that is shown several times during the video, shows a one-way traffic sign near Jackson's old house that is covered in graffiti honoring Jackson, including "we luv yuh Michael."[37] Images, shown as a slide-show, of Jackson performing as a child are mixed in with shots of play sets, baseball bats and Gary's gritty industrial skyline.[37] A central image captured by Lee is a 'plea' for tolerance etched onto a stop sign in Gary, where someone had written the message "This Is It" above the word "Stop" under which they've added "hatin'."[37] Interspersed is archival footage of Jackson throughout his career and of him greeting his fans in various parts of the world. There are also shots of the musician's fans paying tribute in their own Jackson memorabilia to him following his death. At one point in the video, one of the lyrics from the song, "I never heard a single word about you," floats up out of the concrete, fading into two more shots of fan tributes from around the world and multiple flowers and messages laid at the gates of Jackson's Neverland Ranch. The video, several times, shows a single red balloon floating in the air and empty swings swaying in the breeze.[37] Towards the end of the video, there is footage of Jackson doing one of his signature dance moves, the moonwalk. It ends with footage of a black stool with Jackson's trademark black fedora and silver glove on top of it under a spotlight in front of his family's Gary residence at night.[37][40]

George Merchan of felt that the video was "clearly" a "loving patchwork of documentary footage, graphics, and original location shoots."[41] Simon Vozick-Levinson of Entertainment Weekly described the video as being a "heart felt tribute" and said that, due to the circumstances of Lee having no footage of Jackson performing the song to work with, felt the director did a "very nice job" with it.[40] A negative review came from Jim Farber, the music critic for the New York Daily News. He felt the video was a "mini retrospective" of Jackson's life and criticized the "Stop Hatin'" stop sign, feeling that it was promoting press censorship and discussion about the darker aspects of Jackson's life.[42]


  • Lyrics Written by Michael Jackson. Music by Paul Anka
  • Produced by Michael Jackson, John McClain and Mervyn Warren
  • Lead vocals by Michael Jackson
  • Vocal & track arrangements by Mervyn Warren
  • String arrangement by Clare Fischer
  • Background vocals by The Jacksons
  • Bass vocals by Alvin Chea
  • Piano by Greg Phillinganes , Paul Anka
  • Guitar by Paul Jackson, Jr.
  • Percussion by Raphael Padilla
  • Recording Engineer: Jon Nettlesbey
  • Recorded at Marvin's Room in Hollywood, California
  • Mixed by Allen Sides
  • Assistant Engineer: Wesley Seidman
  • Mixed at Oceanway Coordination Studios
  • Mastered by Alan Yoshida
  • Mastered at Oceanway Mastering
  • A&R Direction: John Doelp
  • Production Coordination: JoAnn Tominaga
  • Accounting Services: Martha Rindels


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Kaufman, Gil (October 13, 2009). "Michael Jackson Estate Admits Paul Anka Co-Wrote 'This Is It'". MTV. Viacom. Retrieved June 6, 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g McCartney, Anthony (October 13, 2009). "Anka Gets Credit for Co-Writing Jackson Single (Page 1)". ABC News. The Walt Disney Company.
  3. ^ a b Anka, Paul (August 8, 1983). "I never heard / Anka, Jackson". United States Copyright Office. Retrieved June 22, 2022.
  4. ^ a b Michaels, Sean (October 13, 2009). "Michael Jackson's 'new' song has already been released ... by someone else". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved July 3, 2011.
  5. ^ a b c d Herena, Monica (September 23, 2009). "New Michael Jackson Song, Album Due In October". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. Retrieved June 6, 2011.
  6. ^ a b "New Jackson song to be released". BBC News. BBC. September 23, 2009. Retrieved June 6, 2011.
  7. ^ a b McCartney, Anthony (October 13, 2009). "Anka Gets Credit for Co-Writing Jackson Single (Page 2)". ABC News. The Walt Disney Company.
  8. ^ Martens, Todd (October 12, 2009). "Michael Jackson's single 'This Is It' dates to a 1983 collaboration with Paul Anka". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 3, 2011.
  9. ^ "'New' Jackson song to miss charts". BBC News. BBC. October 16, 2009. Retrieved June 6, 2011.
  10. ^ a b Serjeant, Jill; Goodman, Dean (October 13, 2009). "'New' Michael Jackson Single Written In 1983". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. Retrieved June 6, 2011.
  11. ^ Labrecque, Jeff (September 23, 2009). "New Michael Jackson song and album due next month". Entertainment Weekly. Times Warner Inc. Retrieved June 6, 2011.
  12. ^ Carr, Edward R. (October 9, 2009). "New Michael Jackson Single Will Debut Online". NBC. NBCUniversal. Retrieved June 6, 2011.
  13. ^ a b Sisario, Ben (October 13, 2009). "Anka Given Credit for Jackson Song". The New York Times. Retrieved June 6, 2011.
  14. ^ a b c Collins, Clark (October 12, 2009). "Michael Jackson single controversy: 'This Is It' is 'exactly the same' as song he wrote with Paul Anka". Entertainment Weekly. Times Warner Inc. Retrieved June 6, 2011.
  15. ^ a b c d Kreps, Daniel (October 13, 2009). "Paul Anka Strikes Deal With Michael Jackson's Estate Over "This Is It" Rights". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media LLC.
  16. ^ a b c d "New Michael Jackson Song, "This Is It," Premieres Online". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media LLC. October 12, 2009.
  17. ^ a b c Greenblatt, Leah (October 12, 2009). "Michael Jackson's new single, 'This Is It': Stream it here". Entertainment Weekly. Times Warner, Inc. Retrieved June 6, 2011.
  18. ^ a b c d e f Sterdan, Darryl (October 13, 2009). "This may be something, but it's not 'It'". Winnipeg Sun. Sun Media Corporation. Retrieved June 6, 2011.
  19. ^ " : This Is It : Michael Jackson: Music"., Inc. Retrieved June 6, 2011.
  20. ^ a b c d "This Is It - Michael Jackson Digital Sheet Music (Digital Download)". Alfred Publishing Co. Inc. 2 December 2009. Retrieved June 6, 2011.
  21. ^ "Grammy Nominees 2011". AOL. Time Warner Inc. December 1, 2010. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  22. ^ Trust, Gary (October 13, 2009). "Michael Jackson Returns To Radio". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. Retrieved June 6, 2011.
  23. ^ Lustig, Jay (2009-10-12). "This Is It: New Michael Jackson song heard on Web". New Jersey On-Line LLC. Retrieved 2010-01-14.
  24. ^ a b c d Jones, Steve (October 13, 2009). "Michael Jackson's 'This Is It': Consensus is 'it's not bad'". USA Today. Gannett Company, Inc. Retrieved June 6, 2011.
  25. ^ a b c Montgomery, James (October 12, 2009). "Michael Jackson's 'This Is It': The Past, The Present, A Perfect MJ Tune". MTV. Viacom. Retrieved June 6, 2011.
  26. ^ a b c Trust, Gary (October 15, 2009). "Chart Beat Thursday: Michael Buble, Michael Jackson, Kiss". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. Retrieved June 6, 2011.
  27. ^ a b c d e Trust, Gary (October 21, 2009). "Chart Beat Wednesday: Michael Jackson, Taylor Swift, Norah Jones". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  28. ^ a b c d e f "allmusic ((( Michael Jackson > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles )))". allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  29. ^ a b "Japan Hot 100: Week Of November 21, 2009". Billboard. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  30. ^ a b "Radio Top 100 Official - Jackson Michael - This Is It" (in Slovak). International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  31. ^ a b c d "Michael Jackson - This Is It - Music Charts". Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  32. ^ a b "Radio Top 100 Official - Jackson Michael - This Is It" (in Czech). International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.
  33. ^ Paine, Andre (October 13, 2009). "Jackson's 'This Is It' Rules U.K. Airplay". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. Retrieved June 6, 2011.
  34. ^ "China Radio International Hit-FM Countdown TOP20 (2009/10/24)" (in Chinese). Hit FM. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  35. ^ "China Radio International hit-FM Countdown TOP20 (2009/11/21)" (in Chinese). Hit FM. Retrieved June 6, 2011.
  36. ^ "China Radio International hit-FM Countdown TOP20 (2009/11/28)" (in Chinese). Hit FM. Retrieved June 6, 2011.
  37. ^ a b c d e f g h Kaufman, Gil (December 28, 2009). "Michael Jackson's 'This Is It' Video, Directed By Spike Lee, Premieres". MTV. Viacom. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  38. ^ a b Kreps, Daniel. "Spike Lee Reveals Video for Michael Jackson's "This Is It"". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media LLC.
  39. ^ High, Kamau (December 28, 2009). "Michael Jackson: Spike Lee Directs New Video for "This Is It"". Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company. Retrieved June 6, 2011.
  40. ^ a b c Simon Vozick-Levinson (December 28, 2009). "Michael Jackson's Spike Lee-directed 'This Is It' video: Watch it here". Entertainment Weekly. Times Warner Inc. Retrieved June 6, 2011.
  41. ^ Merchan, George (December 29, 2009). "Spike's This Is It". JoBlo Media Inc. Retrieved June 6, 2011.
  42. ^ Farber, Jim (December 28, 2009). "Spike Lee's video for Michael Jackson's 'This Is It' is mini retrospective of singer's life". New York Daily News. Mortimer Zuckerman. Retrieved June 6, 2011.
  43. ^ "Michael Jackson Chart History". RÚV. 2 May 2016. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  44. ^ "Promusicae (Week: January 1, 2010)" (PDF). Retrieved July 13, 2010.
  45. ^ "Michael Jackson Chart History (Bubbling Under Hot 100)". Billboard.
  46. ^ "Éves összesített listák - MAHASZ Rádiós TOP 100 (súlyozott)" (in Hungarian). Mahasz. Retrieved June 7, 2011.

External linksEdit