Published on July 15, 2016
“Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” is a song by American recording artist Michael Jackson. Released on May 8, 1983, by Epic Records, “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” was the fourth single from Jackson’s sixth studio album Thriller (1982). The opening track of the album, it was written, composed and co-produced by Jackson, and was produced by Quincy Jones.
The song’s lyrics pertain to strangers spreading rumors to start an argument for no good reason. Musically, “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” evokes the disco sound of Jackson’s previous studio album, Off the Wall, released in 1979. The song is characterized by a complex rhythm arrangement and a distinctive horn arrangement. “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” has been covered and sampled by multiple recording artists since its release. Aside from Thriller, the song appears on multiple compilation and greatest hits albums by Jackson.
“Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” was generally well received by contemporary music critics. The song was also commercially successful, charting within the top 20 and top 30 in several countries. It became Jackson’s fifth consecutive top 10 single in the United States on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number five, and later re-entered charts in 2008 after the release of Thriller 25. Following Jackson’s death in June 2009, the song re-entered music charts worldwide, mainly due to digital download sales. Unlike previous singles from Thriller, “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” did not have a music video to accompany it, but was performed by Jackson on world concert tours, as both a member of The Jacksons and as a solo artist.
As part of the release of Thriller 25, a remix of “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'”, entitled “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ 2008 with Akon”, was recorded with Akon, and released as the second single from the album. The song was commercially successful, mainly charting within the top 10 in six countries, as well as the top 20 in several territories worldwide and top 40 in Canada. The song was more successful internationally than in the United States, having peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 at number 81, which was the song’s lowest charting position.