Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' (6:03)

Cover of Thriller

From Thriller and 65 other releases

Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ is a 1983 single released from Michael Jackson’s multi-platinum selling 1982 album Thriller. It was the first track on the album, and the fourth song released as a single, following “The Girl Is Mine”, “Billie Jean”, and “Beat It”.

The song was originally written in 1979 and intended for his Off the Wall album but was not recorded until the sessions for Thriller in 1982.

At six minutes and three seconds, “Wanna Be Startin Somethin’” is also the longest song on Thriller, ushering in the album in a buoyantly accessible way, and cannily showcasing the pop/funk sensibilities of Jackson and producer Jones. As usual with Jackson, who used the latest in studio technology, the opening snare hits of the song came courtesy of the Fairlight CMI, a $30,000 Australian sampler and synthesizer.

“Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” continued the trend of hit singles for Jackson, eventually peaking at number five on the Pop and on the R&B charts, and gaining time on radio playlists across the country. The song was often not played at full length, however, due to industry format standards.

One of the songs released as a single without an accompanying video, “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” nonetheless has attained a popularity rivaling its sister compositions on the album, and has become Jackson’s song of choice for opening live concerts. Not being as strictly associated with a specific dance routine as those others has arguably allowed for more flexibility in performances and staging.

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