Michael Jackson’s 1993 Mexico Deposition Videos Prove His Songwriting / Music IQ Were Off The Charts
The elements of songwriting are simple to some: compose a melody, get some words together and turn it all to form. For those who are songwriters in today’s mainstream music industry, assembly line pop music doesn’t necessarily count. A majority of songwriters today write songs just to get spins on the radio; which means basic song structure consisting of easily-caught melodies and words. But then there are some songwriters who are so gifted at their craft, it’s just mind-blowing on how they come up with their particular composition in terms of structure and rhythm. Michael Jackson, the late great king of pop, was, of course, a renowned entertainer whose talent was limitless in terms of the art. But it was his knowledge of musical song structure, which further pushes his claim into the songwriting Mount Rushmore.
It’s known that Jackson’s songwriting was a strong suit of his, but he never exactly went in depth into a step-by-step guide of how he takes the composition from step one to completion. At last, and ironically, amidst a deposition in Mexico which he was being questioned for a plagiarism suit, he explained in excellent detail how he composed the song “The Girl is Mine” that was featured on the Thriller album. To keep in mind, Michael Jackson didn’t physically write music, he recorded what was in his head into a tape recorder. But never mind why he was there and what exactly he composed his music on, it was his knowledge on song construction that, to me, impressed and made me cherish the gift that he had even more. He explained in the Deposition video he could compose the bass, percussion and drums all in his head. He structured the rhythm of the slow, catchy groove of The Girl is Mine; he explained how he composed the string lines of the song, he knew exactly when the bass section of the song would change into keyboard’s bass section, and he also explained that he used “musical counter lines that could go against the main part. It could be a keyboard, it could be a flute, and it could be a string part. It’s a tapestry of sound, which is what the law of music is.”
The point that he had no formal musical composition training: besides learning from his fellow Motown label mates as a member of the Jackson 5, makes his songwriting gifts a rarity. And it’s safe to assume he was only 23 at the time of the composition, which was a prelude to the strong body of work that would originate from years to come. From the self-composed numbers of “Billie Jean”, “The Way You Make Me Feel”, “Leave Me Alone”, “Heal the World”, “Stranger in Moscow”, and “Earth Song”, the musical composition talent Michael Jackson possessed is a constant reminder of the creativity that flowed through him.
While of course, no one is exactly taught to have sounds that would be in popular music, not everyone understands the magnitude and importance of each musical instrument, the melody, structure and arrangement of a song. It should make the musical mind wonder if there are any tapes of how he exactly composed his landmark songs such as “Billie Jean” and “Earth Song” and the others I named previously. Musical Geniuses may not be born, but some come with the pre-loaded craft to mold and build. Michael Jackson’s musical IQ was a rare but brilliant ability that some musicians and classically trained musicians/singers do not possess. I’ll end with a quote from Michael Jackson about letting a song create itself:
“Don’t write the song, don’t write anything. Let the song create itself. Let the strings tell you what to do and where it should come. Let the piano tell you what chords to hit. Let the bass tell you what it should be doing.”