“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…while being produced by Jackson and Quincy Jones….as “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….as Jackson said the lyrics were based on groupies’ claims about his older brothers when he toured with them as the Jackson 5.
“Billie Jean” reached # 1 on the Billboard Hot 100….where it remained for seven weeks….while topping the Billboard Hot Black Singles chart within three weeks….and became Jackson’s fastest-rising # 1 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 # 1 for nine weeks on the chart….as Billboard ranked it as the # 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….which makes it one of the best-selling singles of all time. It was also a # 1 hit in the UK, Switzerland and Belgium….while reaching the top ten in many other countries. “Billie Jean” was one of the best-selling singles of 1983….thus 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(as seen in this video herewith) won acclaim….and was nominated for an Emmy Award…..as it introduces a number of Jackson’s signatures….which include the moonwalk….and the white sequinned glove….which are both 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….which 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”….which also introduced a more paranoid lyrical style for Jackson…. which was 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 6th greatest pop song since 1963. In 2004, Rolling Stone placed it at # 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.