Bachelor en sciences de la Communication
Extremely popular and influential artist in the landscape of global pop-culture, Michael Jackson has undoubtedly revolutionized the way of experiencing music and entertainment. The aim of this research is an analysis of a thematic field that often recurs in his catalogue with a historical, sociological and communicative contextualisation: the ambivalence of the female figure, seductive and fascinating on one hand, source of anguish and paranoia on the other. Through the analysis of five songs, “This Place Hotel (a.k.a. Heartbreak hotel)“, “Billie Jean“, “Dirty Diana“, “Dangerous“, “Blood on the Dance Floor“, the research has analyzed methods and dynamics exploring the phonological, syntactic and pragmatic dimensions: the characteristic non-verbal vocalizations and his distinctive way of singing, which have become one of his trademarks, a parallelism between the founding elements of linguistic syntax and musical syntax, a narratological and textual overview, as well as the staging during live performances. The research aimed to reconstruct an in-depth journey in the conflicts described by Jackson. In addition to accredited sources, the research is enriched by the attestations of two professionals who have shared the stage with Jackson for over a decade, guitarist Jennifer Batten and dancer and choreographer LaVelle Smith Jr. The research’s methodology is based on the direct use of all Jackson’s artistic products, starting from musical to audio-visual products (albums, short films, official documentaries, direct interviews, etc.) and accredited sources, such as journals’ archives, scientific articles, monographs and music history books, websites, etc.
Keywords: Michael Jackson; phonology; syntax; pragmatics.
Michael Jackson is undoubtedly one of the greatest mass phenomena that the world has ever known: amazing singer-songwriter, outstanding dancer, composer of unbelievable depth, attentive and kind philanthropist, he has revolutionized the way of experiencing music and entertainment.
This study focuses on the following songs: This place hotel (a.k.a. Heartbreak hotel), taken from the Jacksons’ release, Triumph (1980) ; Billie Jean, taken from Thriller (1982) ; Dirty Diana, taken from Bad (1987) ; Dangerous, taken from the homonym album (1991) ; Blood on the dance floor, taken from Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix (1997).
The dimensions taken into account are: Phonology – Voice, screams and hiccups ; Syntax – The musical text ; Pragmatics – The performance.
This place hotel (a.k.a. heartbreak hotel)
This Place Hotel opens with a foreboding instrumental prelude, a gothic cello, that introduces a nightmarish evocation, and a terrifying scream, typical of the best horror movies. The “intention was to have the dream only begin, to make the listener wonder whether it was a dream or reality”. The frightful funk of the song is dominated by bass, drums and electric guitar and foreshadow in its darker tone and theme later classics here analyzed like Billie Jean. As Nelson George observed, the song is one of the first examples of “a cinematic use of sound effects, horror film motifs, and vocal trickery to convey a sense of danger in his work”. The lyrics dealt with paranoia, revenge and fear: in a ghoulish but futuristic background, “as if walking through a door to a parallel world […], Jackson lead the listener into a haunted mansion, where the lost souls of those who had been murdered by tragic love stories roamed”. Jackson wrote, arranged, produced the song but also sang all the harmonies beyond the lead vocal track, dividing his voice into several lawyers and doubling or tripling them, to make the result sound fuller. The dynamic guitar solo featured in the middle of the song and the repetition of chorus accompanied by dramatic shoutings represent the highest point of the auditory and thematic climax, that later descends gradually until the comforting piano ending.
The ‘whoo-hoos’ that would become one of his trademarks are in place, used as transitions between lines in verses and occasionally before or after choruses. Hiccups are employed liberally on the song, as the trademark ‘he he hees’. Just as the song’s paranoid subject matter and production point toward Michael’s future, so does Michael’s vocal approach, which make this performance a preview of greatest hits to come.
Categorized as a horror story, the song is about a hotel run by some wicked women who make their own laws persecuting the narrator. As a recurrent theme in MJ’s songs throughout the years, the female is synonymous with vice, a danger to men, someone willing to stop at nothing to get what she wants. The “cinematographic universe, like the soundtrack of a horror movie unfolding in the listener’s head” has been reached through a pioneering work, with special effects created by Gene Corso (Roots, 1974, Star Wars, 1977). Jackson “let his imagination run wild and laid the solid groundwork for a style he would never stop perfecting“: at the time Michael was very scared of the world going beyond the stage, so much that he always said he felt well only while performing. A slow piano and cello coda ended on a positive note to reassure the listener: “there’s no point in trying to scare someone if there isn’t something to bring the person back safe and sound from where you’ve taken them“. The song is about revenge: Michael was curious about this concept, but he couldn’t understand it. The idea of making someone pay for something they have done or simply imagined was totally alien to the singer. Heartbreak Hotel was performed live until 1989, until the end of the Bad World Tour. A spoken word and synth recording preceded the song on the first leg of the Bad tour. Those worried words were: “My footsteps broke the silence of the pre-dawn hours, as I drifted down Bleaker Street. Past shop windows, barred against the perils of the night. Up ahead, a neon sign emerged from the fog. The letters glowed red hot, in that way I knew so well, branding a message into my mind. A single word. Hotel“. Immediately after this moment, Jackson’s silhouette appeared projected on a huge white cloth. He danced dominated by a vertical electric “Hotel” sign. It is not clear what the words refer to; they may refer to the type of girls or incidents that are described in the two songs, but surely, they are able to give a scary image of the situation represented. Then the cloth was removed, the stage was lighted up and the music started. The song was progressively made faster and more rhythmic through the years, with two cuts after the first line of each of the two verses, and more and more rock, losing that original groove of its sound in favor of a more angular and metallic sound. This reflected the change in Michael’s clothing look, increasingly militaristic and metallic with buckles, badges and belts. The rhythm was frenetic, the protagonist is anguished remembering moment when he took his girlfriend to a hotel for a romantic night, only to find out that it was designed specifically to break couples up. Michael wasn’t able to be consoled, sang and danced in order to express all the shades of his agitation.
Billie Jean is one of the most iconic songs in history: a multileveled sound sculpture and the perfect case of auditory identity. Its immediately recognizable instrumentation, with a shuffling solid beat, a vibrant bass line, tells the story of a woman who stalks the narrator. The interjection “t-k-tch-tch” and the voice-made “ooh-ooh” sequence at the beginning of a song quickly became an instant mean of identification for the audience. The very personal and disturbing characterization of experiences are underlined by the skillful use of voice: through hiccups, especially between one line and another, Michael expresses his strong desire for control over something that is natured uncontrollable.
All his asides and flourishes are so well placed that they sound like wordless pleas for help, conveying exasperation and discomfort, fear and frustration. […] Part of the magic of the supporting harmonies is that many of them were sung through a mail tube, adding a sense of distance. But that passionate lead vocal was recorded in one hot-blooded take.
The song is first and foremost, a reflection of his highly unusual everyday life. “In the song, the artist tackles the subject of groupies, who enter his apartment or hotel room and then invent love stories or even children. Billie Jean is one of these young women”.
The lyric encapsulated years of fear for women, from girls tearing at his clothes when he was a kid, to his brothers having raw sex with groupies, to his being aggressively pursued by women throughout his young adulthood. The theme of the devouring, man-eating woman is as old in American songs as the blues, as essential to rock as the electric guitar, and lives on with misogynistic gusto in hip-hop’s DNA. […] Whatever he had been personally experienced with women, whatever he had been advised by the older women in his life, Billie Jean suggested that his understanding of the opposite sex was very much a work in progress. And maybe that’s one reason it works Billie Jean, he actually revealed his own insecurity and wariness of sex, opposite and otherwise.
In the track there is no resolution, “the Billie Jean of the title represents fear, distrust and deception; she embodies the seductions and trappings of fame”. The first live rendition of Billie Jean took place at the Motown 25th anniversary show, in 1983.
Jackson, with a costume […] consisting of a secret agent-style black felt hat, a black but sparkling jacket covered in sequins, black trousers but which ended up high at the ankles so as to reveal the white socks covered with sparkling rhinestones that contrasted at the top with the trousers and, at the bottom, with the black loafers, so as to highlight, with a stylistic touch, the movement of the legs in the dance steps, performed […] inspired by break dance, hip hop, European body mime culture, as well as the movements of Fred Astaire, Charlie Chaplin, […] producing a show of truly unique singing and choreographic expression. […] Jackson launched the moonwalk for the first time, a very personal dance step that sees the subject sliding backwards while the body movements suggest a walk forward, producing an effect as if the body of the dancer no longer had any weight, as if he were suspended in the air while sliding in fluid movements recalled by music: a dance step certainly inspired by some details of Bill Bailey’s performances, by aspects of the New York streets’ break dance, by the great works of Etienne Decroux on the body mime, but it is undeniable that Jackson has transformed all this into a one-of-a kind show, an absolutely original and very personal choreography, of an exceptional fluidity, spectacularism and beauty (in which every smaller part of the body collaborates in the harmony of the general movement), which remains an exemplary case in contemporary world dance.
His costume, made largely of sequins, created continuous lighting effect, “dematerializing and projecting him into a fairy, surreal dimension“. In his 1988-autobiography Michael told that the night before the show he stood there letting the song tell him what to do. He let the dance create itself, feeling almost compelled from it. Billie Jean has always been present in the artist’s live concerts. The presentation substantially remained the same but something slightly changed during the various concerts, enriching it more and more with new particular movements in order to give the impression of a weightless, dreamy and evanescent body.
With Dirty Diana, Michael comes back in cinematic territory. The opening sound effects are tense, coiled, dramatic: the ominous effects were reached thanks to the Synclavier, an early digital synthesizer and polyphonic digital sampling system. The synths’ subtle textures, and the sound effects produced by this diabolical machine made the song “a plaintive ballad full of bitterness and built around three rotating chords that increased in pressure, culminating in a rage-filled refrain”. The song was intended to be the respectable successor of Beat it, or more accurately, to be stronger and edgier. A crowd noise consisting of screaming fans was added at the beginning of the song, before Michael starts singing, to give the track a more natural and live mood. From the thematic point of view, he prosecuted the territory already known in the previous analyzed songs. Lyrics are about guilt, fame and seduction and is structured as a dramatic dialogue, a conflict between lust and rationalization. Jackson interprets perfectly the internal conflict and between the verses complains several times “Oh no…”. It’s in the final minute that the singer unleashes his mournful cries and contrasting yells “Come on”, surrounded by ray gun lasers and, again, screaming fans, adding even more dramatic intensity to the song. Unlike Billie Jean, where the woman is totally rejected by Jackson, victim of the woman’s attempts to deceive, here the Dirty Diana groupie is so irresistibly attractive that he cannot refuse her, “a really difficult sphere to manage for a man formerly sentimentally engaged (as the protagonist suggests to be)“. The fraught dynamic between artist and fan is painted; the girl “who waits at backstage doors ” and a man, who though engaged, cannot resist her:
he knows he shouldn’t give in, but does anyway. Jackson executes the internal conflict of temptation to perfection, capturing the sexual tension, frustration, guilt, excitement, anger, and pain of an affair. The song’s subject matter was perhaps his most risqué to date. Some critics argued that it was misogynistic because it depicted the woman as predatory and labeled her Dirty Diana. Others speculated about whether Diana was based on a real woman and a real experience. Fan theories claimed it was about a secret love affair the artist had had with Diana Ross and Jackson simply tweaked the lyrics to make it seem like it was about a groupie (Jackson never revealed any specific biographical details relating to the song).
In the case of Dirty Diana there has never been a clear distinction between studio and live. The screaming audience inserted in the background on the final of the album version and the official video-clip that simulates a live performance of the song are elements in favor of this statement. Jackson performed the song only in 1988 and 1989. In these performances, “Jackson is neither dressed nor colored as in the past, nor all black […], but black and white; in the dark only a few lights appear, to create an atmosphere of contrasts” and put the temptation at the center, dialectical synthesis between the two poles of seduction and rationalization. In concerts, the star comes from a cage placed on the side of the stage, used by him for the clothes change, as well as a clever stratagem to further increase the curiosity and interest of the audience. “Jackson’s body language is among the most engaging of all time: on the one hand he is gritty, nervous, quick, to express that tension in which the protagonist is, but on the other side, despite that negativity expressed in tension, he manages always maintaining an unparalleled artistic-aesthetic beauty, which is the artist’s signature“. On some nights, Steve Stevens was called, who had played the solo on the record and was at the time guitarist of Billy Idol, to keep company with Jennifer Batten, official guitarist of the MJ tours. The result was one of the best rock performances ever. Theatrical, dramatic.
The scene turned into a heavy and urban atmosphere with Dangerous in which Jackson decided to speak the verses, somewhere between rap and slam (rap poetry). The long intro’s sounds give the impression of entering an enormous steel mill or factory, in the depth of a fiery furnace. Jackson, meanwhile, narrates in a low whisper, as if the listener was being let in on a secret or the facts seemed like a distant memory. The pre-choruses raise the tension with a crescendo toward the chorus: his indecision explodes into the one-word, liberating him from this tormenting woman. The song builds as the metallic pounding gradually grows closer and louder and when the final finally hits, it hits with force. There is lust, trepidation, fear and even anger in Jackson’s vocal track and the gasps and percussing breath confirmed the tendency of the singer to modulate the emission of the voice on the rhythm of the drums. “The snare drum, compressed and forceful, added that striking contrast which made the rhythm even more aggressive and insistent”. The theme of predatory lover and noir style are reprised here: the breath and low whisper are used as a kind of sonic principle, the basis of the whole song. Initially born as an outgrowth of the song Streetwalker, “his confession is about a woman who has seduced and entrapped him. […] Like Billie Jean and Dirty Diana, the tension is in Jackson’s indecision. He is torn“. It is like a retreat from reality, from real world’s problem into theatricality: “the implication seems to be that while life might contain glimpses of relief, even ecstasy, the danger is never far removed. It is always encroaching, threatening his peace. The title track represents this danger in the form of a femme fatale, but for Jackson it seems more about navigating the fraught world outside his Neverland gates“. Dangerous captures Jackson’s knack for the dance-heavy pop of new jack swing. Although it was never officially released as a single, Dangerous was performed by Jackson on several occasions. Five versions can be distinguished, each of them according to the occasion. The song was first performed in January 1993 at the American Music Awards. Over the years the performance has gradually become more and more elaborate, containing fragments of You want this and Let’s dance by Janet Jackson, soundtracks from James Bond films and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Another version of the song was inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, with some new sounds and dance moves. Starting from this version, the song would always start with the appearance of a charming girl dressed in black, with black spikes and stiletto heels. The last version was never performed live, but only during the rehearsals of the This Is It concerts between April and June 2009. It was performed by Jackson’s dancers in 2011, at the Carnival Dance Showcase, and is similar in part to the 1995/1997-version but it contains some fragments of Jackson’s songs Morphine, 2000 Watts, Heartbreak Hotel and Stranger in Moscow, as well as a fragment of the soundtrack of the film Psycho. The main constant is the extreme versatility: media are skillfully combined with other ones and themselves giving an interesting overview of Jackson’s art. Again, everything is carefully researched. LaVelle Smith Jr. has told about it: “Dangerous is special to me because it’s a song I got to choreograph and dance for and with Michael. We created it at Neverland which was such an easy place to work but the work itself was hard because I knew it was very important to Michael to reach the best it could be. So, we worked and worked, tried different things until we found just the right step for each part of the music and the rest is history”.
Blood on the dance floor
An urban mood is present also in Blood on the Dance Floor, that is in classic Michael Jackson style: a high-energy, thumping rhythm track with mystery, intrigue and a hammering chorus section. The narration is clipped, raspy; verses are sung in a strongly gruff style; the mood is aggressive, ominous, menacing. He lets the listener perceive that there is a danger, there is violence, but leaves the listener suspended in understanding what he is talking about. The catchy melody and the syncopated verse combined in an ethereal refrain had fortune in many of his previous songs. Violence is at the heart of the scene, as if even music and dance no longer managed to constitute a form of defense. “The beat cracks out of the speakers like a whip, and the hook is irresistible”. According to Jennifer Batten,
Blood is one of the funkiest tunes he ever wrote. […] The way he treats his voice with a percussive whisper in the verse gives a secretive atmosphere that is a bit evil. […] The chorus is brought to a crescendo with killer vocal harmonies. In the lead chorus vocal he uses a quality of his voice that few people can duplicate. He’s screaming as he does in the tag of Earth Song like he’s testifying in church. Only the strongest of singers could pull that off. It helps communicate the message where lesser vocal techniques would fail”.
There is a thumping and Latin infused beat. There is the grit and growl of Michael’s vocals. There is the violent tone of the subject matter: the song had its genesis in 1990 but was finally released only seven years later. As for Billie Jean, the subject is noir and disturbing; Michael is playing the role of a man attracted to a woman with a deadly reputation. He flirts with her and dances with her, but is he going to be stabbed in the back by her – whether physically or emotionally? – in the place where he suspected the least, the dance floor. Jackson’s rasping vocals evokes a sense of premonition and the electro-industrial sound reminds of a modern urban environment. Telling Susie’s story, a woman who was first seduced and then probably abandoned, he sings in the pre-refrain in first person, as if he were her victim, while in the verses and in the refrain in the second person, as if asking himself how it feels to know that now “she is out for kill“. It speaks to something primeval in our psyche, intended as the “earthy, solar-plexus dwelling, dangerous thinking that arises from our inner depths. […] It’s Michael speaking directly to our deepest, darkest hidden desires. We’re not talking about enduring, sentimental love here“. The story, based on passion and lust without any excuses, is the antithesis of heartfelt ballads like I Just Can’t Stop Loving You and You Are Not Alone. “The singer lets us perceive that there is a danger, there is violence, but leaves the viewer as if suspended in understanding what we are talking about. Violence is as in the essence of the scene, as if by now even music and dance, dimensions in which Jackson had always taken refuge, could not constitute a form of escape, fight against violence. In essence Jackson questions all forms of escapism: sex, dance, music, art, drugs and, perhaps, even the innocence in which he used to take refuge. All these fascinating, seductive escapes from reality, just like Susie, can then prove dangerous“. Blood on the dance floor was performed only on selected dates of the second leg of the HIStory World Tour, in 1997. The performance is strictly linked to the original recording, as the sound that Michael wanted had to be as close as possible to the one on the CD. In this perspective, the structure of the song kept unchanged, original song’s multi-tracks were used for the musical arrangement and some rock-styled guitar lines were played toward the ending. Almost always, crowd showed great enthusiasm for the song, rhythmically clapping hands or singing and going wild.
The research’s aim is first of all to provide an in-depth analysis of the conflicts reported by Jackson. He becomes the interpreter par excellence of the anxieties of our time, between vulnerability and vitality. The text is configured as a journey into a recurring vein of the King of Pop’s musical narratology, overcoming the frequent prejudice that characterizes the musicological and semiotic analysis of the pop product: it is considered “light”, of entertainment, so devoid of really meaningful forms of expression and content. There is still a for its own sake contrast between a commercial pop music and an elitist and traditionalist “high culture”. Jackson aimed to achieve with his songs a pure transcendence: a total interpenetration between rhythm, instruments, meanings and purity of music, developing an unmistakable style and dictating trends that would dominate for years.
The methodology used for the research consists of two approaches:
- analysis of direct products (songs, short films, text by Michael Jackson)
- analysis of indirect products (accredited sources, critical texts, archives, interviews, attestations of MJ collaborators)
In particular, Jennifer Batten (guitarist in MJ solo tours) and LaVelle Smith Jr. (dancer in MJ solo tour and co-choreographer for Dangerous and Ghosts) have been interviewed.
As a frame, a fifteen-year immense interest from the author.
The first feature spotted during this study is the strongly encyclopedic character of the figure of Michael Jackson. He has his own rules and aesthetics, without any personal judgment: he spoke to everyone, with no limits, in a multi-sensory experience in which nothing is left to chance.
In the phonologic dimension, all the songs chosen for this study feature sounds that evoke something gloomy, mysterious, disturbing. The range of emotions, textures and colors that the voice, “symbol of the self”, especially for singers, is able to convey is very wide. He is able to convey meaning and emotion beyond the use of language: his non verbal vocalizations, the trademark gulps, gasps, cries and exclamations; his beatboxing, percussing accents, scatting, and James Brown-like staccato; the way he stretches and contorts words until they are barely decipherable . So, this makes the expressive universe of Jackson extremely rich and interesting. According to many musicians and critics, like Rod Temperton, (songwriter of Thriller, Off the wall), Michael has a “rhythm-driven” voice, characterized by great technical-expressive abilities. In addition to the brilliant, high-pitched performances of his voice, which are featured in many of the artist’s hits, even the lower notes have been explored, often in important and recognizable choruses, backing vocals, and harmonies.
In terms of dynamics, timbres and tones, Jackson presents a very complex vocal universe, often deep and difficult to photograph, given the expressive richness shown in so many songs. There was a constant desire to sacrifice diction in favor of sonorous, phonetic and emotional possibilities produced by the voice. […] Many of the exclamations present within the records, for example, reach the highest points of the American singer’s vocal range: always intentional, strongly desired by the performer, these exclamations, often sung in falsetto but sometimes even in full voice, are crisp, very clear in their singing exposition. […] Naturally characterized by a quality of androgyny ,
the greatness and the uniqueness of Michael’s voice, although the average listener can mistakenly consider it as fragile and tenuous, takes the shape of an extension of 3 and a half octaves: cultivating all along his career the melodic, clear and expressive vocality of a tenor but also of a baritone, Jackson can be considered once again as a “manual” towards a totalizing artistic expression, also thanks to the huge versatility of his voice.
In the syntactic dimension, a dark connotation of the female figure emerges from the songs. Where there is a woman, there is anguish. It should be noted, however, that this characterization represents only a small part of Jackson’s vision on this topic. It is not about misogyny, but about the fact that during his childhood he had had some disturbing experiences: the father who repeatedly cheated on his mother, his older brothers who had sexual experiences with teenagers. Michael, the smallest of the Jackson Five, as well as the most sensitive, must have internalized these events, developing a vision that inspired him for numerous songs. Obviously, the songs are not necessarily exclusively autobiographical; their content could be mixed, partly fictional, partly true, or else, which takes various experiences and combines them, embroidering a story on them. Female is a synonym of conflict: live and sin, lie and truth, a two-edged sword, sincere and intolerable. In any case, it seems that the stories constitute a pretext to build performances, intended both as live performances and short films.
In the pragmatic dimension, the cornerstone of Jackson’s creativity was entertainment, in its most global meaning. MJ was the director of his own shows: they were perfectly built on Michael’s essence and symbolized almost as an extension of his figure. “Michael Jackson’s body was a syncopated cry of pain in a child’s voice. MJ was a total performer because he created a crossroads of signs ranging from movement to makeup, from costume to lights, from voice to stage space, from text to percussive rhythmic scanning, from muscle to soul… “.
In addition to the high artistic level, […] he perfectly cut on himself his choreographic creations, for his instincts, for his longings. It was precisely these that enriched and completed, as only he knew how to do, the show; they made him free of moments and /or empty spaces. For Michael Jackson, rehearsing the choreography was only to be in time with the dancers, otherwise he could have done without any preparation, improvising a show that was however exceptional. His dance was himself. Her most instinctive movements created her, and these same made her, at all times, absolutely unique.
“In Jackson’s performances he doesn’t act. He lives. He enters the scene to live and convey emotions through a total fusion – both Apollonian in design and Dionysian in interpretation – of the various arts“. The result is a show in which preparation coexists with improvisation and the artist is carried away by the music, as if in a state of trance.
David Brackett, Interpreting popular music, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1995.
François Allard & Richard Lecocq, Michael Jackson: All the songs. The Story Behind Every Track, Cassell, 2018.
Gianni Sibilla (20181), I linguaggi della musica pop, Firenze-Milano, Strumenti Bompiani, 2003.
Isabelle Stegner-Petitjean, “The Voice in the Mirror”. Michael Jackson: from a vocal identity to its double in sound, http://journals.openedition.org/volume/3851, accessed 10 May 2021.
John Randy Taraborrelli, Michael Jackson: The Magic and the Madness, London, Pan Books, 2004.
Joseph Vogel, Man in the music. The creative life and work of Michael Jackson, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2019.
Kerry Hennigan, What is it about “Blood on the Dance Floor or: Michael Jackson as alpha male. URL : https://kerryhennigan.wordpress.com/2016/06/30/what-is-it-about-blood-on-the-dance-floor-or-michael-jackson-as-alpha-male/, accessed 04 June 2021.
Luca Izzo, Michael Jackson. Analisi del fenomeno artistico, estetico e sociale, Salerno, Albatros Edizioni, 2011.
Luca Izzo & Michelangelo Iossa, Michael Jackson. La storia e l’eredità artistica, Roma, Arcana, 2019.
Michael Jackson, Moonwalk, New York, Cornerstone Digital, 2010, .
Michael Jackson, Dancing the dream, Asti, Quantic Publishing, 2010, .
Nelson George, Thriller. The musical life of Michael Jackson, Da Capo Press, 2010.
Richard Middleton, Reading Pop: Approaches to Textual Analysis in Popular Music, Oxford University Press, 2000.
Simon Frith, Performing rites. On the value of popular music, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1996.
Simon Frith & Andrew Goodwin, On record. Rock, Pop and the Written Word, London-New-York, Routledge, 1990.
 Michael Jackson, Moonwalk, New York, Cornerstone Digital, 2010, Chapter Four.
 Nelson George, Michael Jackson: The Ultimate Collection, Sony, 2004, compact disc. Liner notes, p. 23.
 Richard Lecocq, François Allard, Michael Jackson: All the songs. The Story Behind Every Track, London, Cassell, 2018, Triumph.
 Nelson George, Thriller. The Musical Life of Michael Jackson, Da Capo Press, 2010, Audio/Visuals II.
 Richard Lecocq, François Allard, op. cit., Triumph.
 Michael Jackson, Moonwalk, op. cit., Chapter Four.
 Michael Jackson, Bad World Tour, spoken intro for Heartbreak hotel, 1987
 Nelson George, Thriller. op. cit., “Billie Jean”.
 Joseph Vogel, Man in the Music. The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson, Vintage Books, New York, 2019, Chapter 2: Thriller (1982).
 Luca Izzo, Michelangelo Iossa, Michael Jackson. La storia e l’eredità artistica, Arcana, 2019, p. 58-59.
 Luca Izzo, Michael Jackson. Analisi del fenomeno artistico, estetico e sociale, Salerno, Albatros Edizioni, 2011, La performance di Billie Jean.
 Richard Lecocq, François Allard, op. cit., Bad.
 Luca Izzo, Michelangelo Iossa, op. cit., Arcana, 2019, p. 101-102.
 Michael Jackson, Dirty Diana, Epic, 1987.
 Joseph Vogel, op. cit., Chapter 3: Bad (1987).
 Luca Izzo, Michelangelo Iossa, op. cit., p. 102.
 Richard Lecocq, François Allard, op. cit., Dangerous
 Joseph Vogel, op. cit., Chapter 4: Dangerous (1991).
 Email interview given by LaVelle Smith Jr. to Fabio Pastore, 23rd June 2020
 Joseph Vogel, op. cit., Chapter 6: Blood on the Dance Floor (1997)
 Email interview given by Jennifer Batten to Fabio Pastore, 14th June 2020
 Michael Jackson, Blood on the dance floor, Epic, 1997.
 Kerry Hennigan, What is it about “Blood on the Dance Floor or: Michael Jackson as alpha male, URL: https://kerryhennigan.wordpress.com/2016/06/30/what-is-it-about-blood-on-the-dance-floor-or-michael-jackson-as-alpha-male/.
 Luca Izzo, Michelangelo Iossa, op. cit., p. 180-181.
 Joseph Vogel, op. cit., Introduction: A Great Adventure
 Luca Izzo, Michelangelo Iossa, op. cit., p. 247-248
 Luca Izzo, op. cit., Prefazione. Dal muscolo all’anima.
 Ibid., ebook, chapter: Musica, danza, scena.