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03 June 2007

Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'

"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" (a duet with Paul McCartney), "Billie Jean", and "Beat It", the latter two songs having both achieved number one on the Billboard Hot 100.

History

Probably most remembered is the chanted refrain "Mama-se, mama-sa, ma-ma-coo-sa", featured prominently during the song's final bridge. With regard to this chant, writer Mark Anthony Neal says: "The lyrics (utterings really) were taken directly from the music of Cameroonian saxophonist Manu Dibango who broke into the American market in 1973 with his classic 'Soul Makossa'."

At six minutes and three seconds, "...Startin Somethin'" is also the longest song on Thriller, ushering in the album in a buoyantly accessible way, and cannily showcasing the pop and soul music sensibilities of Jackson and producer Jones.

"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.

Performance and Choreography

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.

Two notable occurrences during live performances are the "stop/start" choreography that brings Jackson and his dancers to a frozen stop several times, and the sing-along between performer and audience during the bridge.

Startin' Somethin' was also used on every set list of Jackson's tours, from the Victory tour in 1984, right the way through to the HIStory tour in 1997.

Credits
  • Written, arranged, and composed by Michael Jackson
  • Produced by Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson
  • Lead vocals by Michael Jackson
  • Backing vocals by Michael Jackson, Julia Waters, Maxine Waters, Oren Waters, James Ingram, Bunny Hull, and Becky Lopez
  • Rhodes and synthesizer by Greg Phillinganes
  • Synthesizer by Michael Boddicker and Bill Wolfer
  • Guitar by David Williams
  • Bass by Louis Johnson
  • Percussion by Paulinho da Costa
  • Trumpets and fl├╝gelhorns by Jerry Hey and Gary Grant
  • Sax and flute by Larry Williams
  • Trombone by Bill Reichenbach
  • Bathroom stomp board: Michael Jackson, Nelson Hayes, and Steven Ray
  • Vocal arrangement by Michael Jackson
  • Rhythm arrangement by Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones
Lyrics

Said you wanna be startin' somethin', ya gotta be startin'somethin'.
I said you wanna be startin' somethin', ya gotta be startin'somethin'.
It's too high to get over and too low to get under,
You're stuck in the middle and the pain is thunder.

I took my baby to the doctor with a fever but nothin' he found.
By the time this hit the street they said she had a break down.
Someone's always tryin', start my baby cryin',
Talkin' squealin' lyin', say'n' you just wanna be startin'somethin'.

I said you wanna be startin' somethin', ...
It's too high to get over and too low to get under.
You're stuck in the middle and the pain is thunder.

Billie Jean is always talkin' when nobody else is talkin'.
Tellin' lies and rubbin' shoulders so they called her mouth amotor.
Someone's always tryin' to start my baby cryin',
Talkin' squealin' spyin', sayin' you just wanna be startin'somethin'.

I said you wanna be startin' somethin', ...

You're a veg'table, you're a veg'table,
Still they hate you, you're a veg'table.
You're just a buffet, you're a veg'table.
They eat off of you, you're a veg'table.

If you can't feed you baby, then don't have a baby,
And don't think maybe if you can't feed your baby.
You'll be always tryin' to stop that child from cryin'
Hostlin' stealin' lyin' - now baby's slowly dyin'.

I said you wanna be startin' somethin', ...
It's too high to get over and too low to get under. ...

Lift your head up high and scream out to the world,
I know I am someone and let the truth unfurl
No one can hust you now, because you know what's true,
Yes, I believe in me, so you believe in you.
Help me sing it: Mama se, mama sa, mama coo sa. ...
Mama se, mama sa, mama coo sa, mama se, mama sa, mama coo sa,...

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