Cat Cohen's Anatomy of a Hit a Hit in 2009

This Is It by Michael Jackson

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A release from the late Michael Jackson archives shows how his writing and singing are still relevant some twenty-five years after this was originally recorded.

Song: This Is It
Artist: Michael Jackson
Album: This Is It
Songwriter: Michael Jackson, Paul Anka
Producer: Paul Anka
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Concept
Jackson's dance-pop song from the 80s shows both his strong feelings and romantic idealism.

Lyric
An impassioned plea for love, a recurrent theme in Jackson music and in his life. This is it, here I stand I’m the light of the world I feel grand And this love, I can feel And I know, Yes for sure It is real And it feels as though I’ve seen your face a thousand times And you said you really know me, yourself And I know that you got me addicted with your eye But you say you’re gonna leave it for yourself Oh, I never heard a single word about you Falling in love wasn’t in my plan I never thought that I would be your lover Come on please just understand This is it like I said I’m a light of your world Run away we can feel this is real Every time I’m in love yeah I feel

Groove
A mid-tempo 8th note groove. as this recording is an augmentation of an earlier demo, the groove is sketchy, but still very effective.

Melody
Although not one of Jackson's best songs, even this castaway shows his strong sense of craftsmanship and structure. All three sections have engaging melodies and contrast well with each other.

Harmony
Tbe chords are basically triads with an occasional 7th. Each of the three sections are two chords looped four times, which with some lesser writer would be boring, but Jackson knew how to contrast them so well, they don't get tiresome at all. I IV (loop) bVII I (loop) IV iii7 (loop)

Structure
A classic three-section Motown pop structure. If Jackson and been alive to augment this, I'm sure he would have added additional flair and contrasts. A B C A B C A B C C verse pre-chorus chorus verse pre-chorus chorus verse pre-chorus chorus chorus.

Signature
No signature, just a countoff - 1, 2, 3, 4.

Production
Not much of a production as this was a rescue from the Jackson archives. Still, even without all the bells and whistles, the song hangs together well, standing out from the relative lack of songcraft in much of today's pop music.

Performance
Jackson's voice was so unique and special he could have sung the phone book and we'd listen to it enthralled. Here he takes a semi-pedestrian song and makes it exciting.

Predicted Longevity
Certainly this is no Thriller or Billie Jean, but enjoyable nonetheless. As to whether this song has legs, I'll leave it to Jackson's countless fans to decide.

Album Cover: This Is It

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