Single Review: Michael Jackson “Beat It”

Beat It
Album: Thriller
Year: 1983

Michael Jackson advises a friend to get out town and not to fight a gang of men in the firm “Beat It”

An omnious keyboard, which holds one note after another for a couple extra seconds, opens the single. The drum machines pound calmly as a sound of something falling can be heard The guitar then plays the now famous hawkish riff, setting the reckless, swaggering tone for the entire single.

Jackson heard the gang’s threats to his friend. They mean buisness and aren’t bluffing. Jackson warns him not to go near that part of town. (“They told him don’t you ever come around here/Don’t wanna see your face, you better disappear/The fire’s in their eyes and their words are really clear/So beat it, just beat it”).

He tells his friend to do what he needs to do. He doesn’t want to visit him in the hospital. However, his friend is insisting on going back there. Jackson explains that pride isn’t the issue.(“You better run, you better do what you can/Don’t wanna see no blood, don’t be a macho man/You wanna be tough, better do what you can/So beat it, but you wanna be bad”). The background singers grunt. They will continue to do so after every other time.

Jackson says no one is going to back down after a few punches. They are going to throw their fanciest and most harmful jabs. The intial problem is going to be forgotten and someone will end up severely hurt or possibly dead. (“Just beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it/No one wants to be defeated/Showin’ how funky and strong is your fight/It doesn’t matter who’s wrong or right/Just beat it, beat it….just beat it, beat it”).

Jackson tells his friend the gang is looking for him and to find another city to live. He explains to his friend that he can’t be immature and needs to handle the situation like an adult. If he wants to live to see tomorrow, he has to follow his advice. (“They’re out to get you, better leave while you can/Don’t wanna be a boy, you wanna be a man/You wanna stay alive, better do what you can/So beat it, just beat it”).

Jackson tells his friend to be strong and brave. This is a real scary situation and not a game or a scene in a movie. They’ll fight dirty without a second thought. (“You have to show them that you’re really not scared/You’re playin’ with your life, this ain’t no truth or dare/They’ll kick you, then they beat you,/Then they’ll tell you it’s fair/So beat it, but you wanna be bad”).

The chorus is repeated an unbelievable and repetitive 10 times to end the single. However, a guitar solo breaks it up at about the fifth time as Jackson says “beat it.” The guitar solo starts slowly with only two short notes. Then, it builds to its fierce, sharp riff.

Jackson is convincing as the protective, assertive best friend. He’s forceful but yet clear-headed. The blend of rock and r&b is seamless. The riffs are interwoven together perfectly with the drum machines.

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