Sunday, April 29, 2012

Song #175 of 9999 - Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' by Michael Jackson

Song #175 of 9999

Title: Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'
Artist: Michael Jackson
Year: 1982
Album: Thriller

There are seriously so many good songs from 1982 that I could easily do another week. Once I'm done with this year-long review, I'll go back and grab great tracks from Prince, Springsteen, XTC, Marvin Gaye, Thomas Dolby and more. But tonight, I have to acknowledge the Thriller LP from Michael Jackson.

I honestly think "Billie Jean" is the best song from the album, but "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" is just so....weirdly evocative. The groove is infectious and almost trance-inducing. There are only two chords in the entire tune (D/E E), yet the arrangement and performance (primarily the latter) keep it interesting for six full minutes! There's something primal about the call-and-response lyric about spreading rumors and...who knows what else, really. By the time he starts singing "You're a vegetable/And they eat off you," you know this isn't your average pop song.

Interestingly, the super cool ending chant ("Mama-say mama-sah ma-ma-coo-sah") was directly lifted from the 1972 song "Soul Makossa" by Cameroonian saxophonist Manu Dibango. (Click here to check it out for yourself.) Dibango sued Jackson, who settled out of court for one million francs.

See you tomorrow in 1992!


  1. Oh... at first I thought you were implying there was someone named "Micheal Jackson" who plagiarized "Michael Jackson's" tune and album... Way to spell check!

  2. Oh Erin....this is about the time I crushed you at Scramble, isn't it? :P

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