"Billie Jean" is one of Michael Jackson's most recognizable songs. His apparel choice for the "Billie Jean" music video included a shimmering black blazer, black pants, dress shoes and one shiny white glove. This outfit is replicated all over the world for talent shows, Halloween costumes and impersonations. There are many opinions about the meaning behind "Billie Jean," and conflicting interview explanations haven't helped to clarify matters.
She's Not My Lover
The lyrics to "Billie Jean" suggest that Michael Jackson impregnated a woman named Billie Jean, but he denies the affair with her in the song. In a Q Magazine interview with video producer Quincy Jones, Jones claimed that Michael said the song was about a girl who climbed over the wall of his home and made herself at home at his outdoor pool. She claimed that Michael was the father of only one of her twins. A separate interview in Thailand with Jackson himself indicated that the song described the many women that had intimate relations with his brothers. These women claimed to have been impregnated by male Jackson children other than Michael, and he shaped the lyrics around the experiences of Jackie, Tito, Jermaine and Marlon Jackson during the Jackson 5 era.
"Billie Jean" was the second released song from Michael Jackson's 1983 "Thriller" album. Quincy Jones, the album's producer, doubted that the song would be successful, but Michael insisted the song be released, and it topped the Billboard charts. In 2009, more than 15 years after its release, "Billie Jean" was the number one song in France, in ringtones and on Japan's Hot 100, according to Billboard.
Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" was the first video by an African-American artist to air on MTV. The budget was for the video was low, but director Steve Barron and Michael both wanted extravagance. Barron wanted Michael to refrain from dancing, but this idea was overruled by Jackson. The "Billie Jean" video featured Michael walking and dancing down a stretch of "concrete" sidewalk squares that lit up when he stepped on them. Mark Goodman, an 1980s MTV video jockey, stated that during the walking/dancing portion of the video, they only had enough money to make selected pavement tiles light up. Despite the budget constraints, the video became legendary, and Michael's fame skyrocketed.
Beyond Billie Jean
This song was remade for a Pepsi commercial, and the lyrics were changed to promote the fizzy beverage. After the release of "Billie Jean," Michael Jackson did the first-ever moonwalk to the song during the televised "25 Years of Motown" special. In an article in Rolling Stone, Jackson stated that he developed the back beat to "Billie Jean" on his home drum machine and recorded the lyrics in only one take.
- Song Facts: "Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson
- Billboard: Billie Jean: Michael Jackson
- YouTube: No Dancing in Billie Jean Video? Mark Goodman's Favorite Michael Jackson Stories on Sirius XM
- The Michael Jackson Fan Club: Director Talks About Making Billie Jean
- Michael Jackson Costumes; Michael Jackson Billie Jean Costume; June 28, 2010
- Classic Motown: Jackson 5