Billie Jean is Not My Lover, It's Just the Song That I Can't Get Out of My Head

The title of the post pretty much says it all. It's not like this is a unique phenomenon; everybody gets a song stuck in his or her head once in a while. I wrote about it last time it happened to me, with Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love."

But this time was different. I heard "Addicted to Love" on the radio and then it lodged itself in my brain. Simple enough explanation. I haven't heard "Billie Jean" since ... I don't even know when. But then last night I'm just laying in bed thinking of ways to destroy all my enemies deciding what I should make for lunch tomorrow when all of a sudden I start hearing that keyboard riff. I have no idea where it came from. It was just there.

Not the worst thing in the world, of course. "Billie Jean" is an awesome song. Rolling Stone was pretty much right on when it ranked it No. 58 on its Top 500 list. ("Addicted to Love" was nowhere to be found, for shame.) So I had my little moment with it, tried my best to remember most of the words and I thought that was it. But it wasn't. That keyboard riff wouldn't go away.

Think of another song; that'll make it stop, I said to myself. So I start into some McLusky song. And that's going great. Until it slowly morphs back in "Billie Jean." Ugh!

So then I tried "Heroin." The song. I figured the lack of a real beat would help me avoid falling back into Jacko. But nope. "I ... wish that ... I'd sail the darkened seas ... on a queen from a movie scene." FAIL. It was like the worst Girl Talk mashup ever -- and that's saying something!

Based on past experiences, I knew it was pointless to fight it. So "Billie Jean" was with me until I fell asleep and remains with me today and for who knows how long. But I did figure out what makes the song so perfect, at least structurally. Yes, it's catchy and is a great vocal performance and all that. But it's that the chorus is the same as the verse and so the bridge isn't really a bridge; it's just Part B to the verse/chorus's Part A. It's just like in "Addicted to Love"! The lesson is that you only need two parts -- if that -- to make a great song and you should probably just repeat one of them over and over and over again.

MJ's web folk have done a great job of making sure all "Billie Jean" videos have embedding disabled, so if you want to join me in having this song control your brain, here you go.

By David Malitz |  February 3, 2009; 6:40 PM ET Randomness
Previous: Live Last Night: The Pretenders | Next: Live Last Night: Antony and the Johnsons


Please email us to report offensive comments.

Why is Bruce Springsteen playing a JAPANESE guitar? How many GREAT LUTHIERS are in the U.S.?
Just to name a few. Why is he playing that POS Takamine?
Did you see the guitars his band members were playing at the Superbowl? What was that BLUE THING? It looked like a cartoon guitar.
You need to write a column about this. Call him and ask him why?
Last year when we got the $600 back from the government I bought a MADE-IN-THE -USA Fender Highway One Telecaster.

Posted by: TOMHERE | February 3, 2009 6:57 PM

Ah. Now I have "She Will Only Bring You Happiness" playing in my head, and probably will for the next day or so. Thank you.

Posted by: fiendwithoutaface | February 3, 2009 7:11 PM

To kill an Ohrwurm I recommend listening to Warren Zevon's "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner". Works every time.

Posted by: wiredog | February 4, 2009 8:48 AM

Posted by: jfdulac | February 4, 2009 10:30 AM

I recommend "Rhinestone Cowboy" to get anything out of your head. Then again, you may get "Rhinestone Cowboy" stuck in your head. I have "You Met Another" from "Hee-Haw" stuck right now. Since yesterday. Maybe I need "Rhinestone Cowboy" therapy.

Posted by: polyester | February 4, 2009 11:32 AM

Don't THINK of another song, PLAY another song. Always works.

Posted by: ClarkKent1 | February 4, 2009 2:00 PM

The world was moving, she was right there with it, and she was.

Posted by: gfriday | February 4, 2009 9:01 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.


© 2010 The Washington Post Company