Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson – Say Say Say

First Hit #1: December 10, 1983

In the documentary DiG, Dandy Warhol’s frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor uttered the infamous line “I sneeze and hits come out.” Turns out that wasn’t really the case for Mr. Taylor-Taylor, but for the two men behind Say Say Say, that’s completely accurate. We’ve got two of the pillars of pop music, the creators of some of the most beloved songs to ever grace the pop charts. They could sneeze and have a hit. One might say Paul McCartney did just that when he wrote Pipes of Peace, arguably his worst album.

Still, McCartney is at his best when he’s pushed, and even if Say Say Say isn’t the best song either he or Jackson recorded it is by far the best of the songs on Pipes of Peace. Jackson didn’t push McCartney hard, you can almost hear the young man being excited just to work with one of his heroes. They both put in a good performance and they have plenty of fun both on the song and in the video, an elaborate production about snake oil salesmen.

It’s a collaboration that is more notable for who is on it than what the content actually is. That’s not really surprising, Jackson might be at the top of his powers but McCartney didn’t exactly have the most artistically fruitful ’80s. It is a pretty fun little number and they’re enjoying themselves, and I appreciate the song a little bit more now than I used to.

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One Response to Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson – Say Say Say

  1. Robert Berman says:

    The changing of the guard is illustrated in the way this song was a relatively major 80s hit for McCartney but a minor one for Jackson, not even making it onto his “HIStory” retrospective in the mid 90s. McCartney too left it off his two disc retrospective of several years ago, but probably for a different reason: He was fuming that when the Beatles publishing catalog came up for auction, Michael Jackson outbid him for his own songs.

    Jackson and McCartney had collaborated already on “The Girl is Mine” for Jackson’s Thriller album. That song was mellow and playful, where this one aims for a little more angst (“Look at my face/ These tears ain’t drying”) and funk– but just a little more. It has an interesting rhythmic thing goign on in the first half of the verse at least.

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