Michael Jackson – Billie Jean (Lyrics Review and Song Meaning)

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“Billie Jean” was released as the second single from one of the most famous albums of all time by any artist – “Thriller” in 1983. “Thriller” is Michael Jackson’s sixth studio album and reached a immortal status among the music community. According to Wikipedia, “Thriller” is the best-selling album of all time, and “Billie Jean” was a big part of its success. Sales of the single and album continue to this day. Other notable singles from the album were “Thriller”, “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'”, and “Beat It”.

“Billie Jean” won two Grammy Awards in the R&B categories while being nominated for the prestigious “Song of the Year” award. The song also won an American Music Award for “Best Pop/R&B Song”, all in 1984. RollingStone magazine ranked the song at number 58 on its “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list. The single also spent 7 weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Who is Billie Jean?

To make a long story short, “Billie Jean” isn’t about one specific person, at least that’s the accepted theory at the moment. This theory is largely supported by Michael Jackson’s own autobiography “Moonwalk”, where he writes:

“There was never a real Billie Jean. The girl in the song is a composite of people my brothers have been tormented with over the years. I could never understand how these girls could say they wore l someone’s child when it wasn’t true…”

However, fans also theorize that this was MJ’s personal experience. In support of this theory, a story is put forward by the co-producer of this song, Quincy Jones. He said Jackson once met a woman by the pool, wearing a bathing suit and sunglasses, and accused MJ of being the father of his twins. But according to MJ, it was a common phenomenon that popular stars faced at the time. So there could have been a specific Billie Jean or it’s just a name they picked at random.

Quincy Jones and MJ had apparently argued over the title of the song. Quincy wanted to call her “Not My Lover” to avoid confusion with tennis star Billie Jean King. But we can see who won this argument.

Watch Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” Music Video


Download the single “Billie Jean” on iTunes and Amazon
Buy the album “Thriller” on iTunes and Amazon

Even the music video for “Billie Jean” has its own rich history. It was the first music video featuring an African American to gain significant television airtime. MTV, which was then accused of racism, put this video on rotation and as a result, this song is considered to have marked a turning point in the history of music videos.

In a nutshell, the clip shows paparazzi following Michael Jackson as he strolls down the street, engaged in his high-octane dance choreography. Even though the paparazzi take pictures of MJ, he doesn’t materialize in the photos. Every step MJ takes and everything he touches lights up, perhaps to show off his star power. Finally, MJ approaches a hotel where he is supposed to meet Billie Jean. Under the covers of the bed, MJ disappears and the paparazzi who followed MJ to the hotel are arrested by the police for spying on Billie Jean. The video was directed by Steve Barron.

Michael Jackson performs “Billie Jean” live and presents the “Moonwalk”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lvsBBNV-U4

Review of the lyrics and meaning of the song “Billie Jean”

We’ll skim through the lyrics knowing that this is a song about a girl named Billie Jean who tried to falsely accuse Michael Jackson of being the father of her children.

Verse 1

MJ sets the context for the story in the first verse. She was an attractive woman and she called MJ onto the dance floor for a game. “Who’s going to dance on the floor in a circle?” the line on the first verse is unclear on the meaning. It could be a simple dance offering or a sex metaphor, which would also fit the theme of the song.

Verse 2

The dance was on and she introduces herself as “Billie Jean”. It goes well until she causes a ruckus on the dance floor. All heads turn to them. Everyone has those eyes that long to be “the one” to dance with her. But MJ is “the one” in this case, which he probably regretted after the scene she caused.

Bridge

These lyrics shed light on the confusing storyline that unfolds in “Billie Jean.” Michael Jackson begins to explain what it was about.

MJ says he’s been warned about girls he’ll be dating, especially when you’re as big as Micheal Jackson-King of Pop. Everybody wants to get you, and these Billie jeans are just as bad as the rest. MJ had also been correctly warned by his mother, to be on the lookout for people you love and lose. Lies can be turned into truths.

When performing as The Jackson 5 with his brothers, Michael Jackson saw his brothers’ conquests, which he explains as;

“They called them the groupies in the ’60s. They were hanging out backstage doors, and any band that came to town had a relationship with them, and I think I wrote that from experience with my brothers when I was small. There were a lot of Billie Jeans there. Each daughter claimed that her son was related to one of my brothers.

Is this the real inspiration behind “Billie Jean”, we’ll never know.

MJ performing “Billie Jean” on his 30th birthday

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmCA3qQkqso

Chorus

The chorus lyrics find MJ pointing out that ‘Billie Jean’ wasn’t his lover or partner, and there’s no way they had a child together. MJ thinks she’s just lying with ulterior motives. “The one” that was mentioned in the previous verses appears again in the chorus. But MJ is firm that this kid is not his.

If the story of the “groupies” were true, it’s hard to deny the possibility that there were also a few accidental impregnations.

Verse 3

“Forty days and forty nights” has a certain meaning in religion and literature. Genesis 5 in the Bible talks about rain falling on the earth for forty days and forty nights. 40 days and 40 nights is also the length of a Lent.

However, it seems that Billie Jean took the matter to court which dragged on for forty days and nights. The court favored Billie Jean, which would likely have echoed her mother’s warnings, “lies become truths.”

MJ thinks he got caught up in his ‘plans and schemes’ and all they had was a ’round dance’, whatever that means! Now, MJ gives listeners some advice: think twice before getting involved with people.

Verse 4

Interesting how in the fourth verse of “Billie Jean”, Michael Jackson calls her “my” baby. He was in denial of his parentage until now. Or did the legal proceedings end with the imposition of parentage on Michael?

This ‘Billie Jean’ girl shows off a picture of her baby and MJ is surprised by the baby’s eyes which he thinks look like his. It is quite clear how lies become truths now. You speak a lie long enough and it becomes the accepted truth and even you yourself will believe the lie.

All because they decided to “dance on the floor in circles”.

Bridge-2

The song’s second and final bridge gives an interesting twist to the whole story. It seems that Billie Jean seduced him. This could very well be a flashback to the first time they danced on the floor. Do the memories come back to MJ? Did he really follow her to her room? The sweet smell of perfume, those movie star looks, and those crazy dances must have gotten MJ drunk enough to forget the night. And he also says it all happened too fast for him to grasp anything.

Either way, that last bridge makes it seem like Billie Jean was right all along and Michael Jackson made a mistake. However, he does not want to accept it.

The chorus that ends the track “Billie Jean” is almost a cry in anguish at the mistake he made. He keeps shouting that she is not his lover and that this child is not his. But the reality has already hit him too hard.

Thus, we conclude one of the most iconic songs from Michael Jackson’s vault. You can really feel the MJ touch in the lyrics, music composition, production, video and choreography of the whole song.

We had a lot of fun analyzing and interpreting this emblematic title. Let us know what you think of the song, lyrics, and music video for “Billie Jean,” and let us know if you have any different interpretations of the song and music video.

If you liked this article, be sure to share it with your friends.

Full Lyrics of “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson

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