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"Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" is a song by American pop musician Michael Jackson, featured on his 1982 sixth studio album Thriller. Released as the fourth single from the album on May 8, 1983, the song peaked at number five on the American Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, topped the American Hot Black Singles and Hot Dance Club Songs charts and reached number eight on the UK Singles Chart. "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" was re-recorded with R&B artist Akon for the 2008 reissue album Thriller 25 under the title "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' 2008" and was released as a single, charting at number 48 on the Billboard Pop 100 in the United States. It also appears in Grand Theft Auto Vice City on Fever 105.


"Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" was written by Jackson and recorded for Thriller, the album on which it was released. The song is about rumors and contains a reference to "Billie Jean". The lyrics read in part:

I took my baby to the doctor

With a fever, but nothing he found

By the time this hit the street

They said she had a breakdown

Someone's always tryin' to start my baby cryin`

Talkin', squealin', lyin'

Sayin' you just wanna be startin' somethin'

The song is often cited as an example of the darker flavor of Thriller as compared with Off the Wall, and it includes references to the sometimes unhealthy nature of fandom:

Still they hate you, you're a vegetable ...

They eat off of you, you're a vegetable

At six minutes and three seconds, "Wanna Be Startin Somethin'" is also the longest song on Thriller.

"Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" continued the trend of hit singles for Jackson, eventually peaking at number five on the Pop and on the R&B charts, and gaining time on radio playlists across the country. The song was often not played at full length, however, due to industry format standards.

African chant

The song ends with a chorus repeatedly singing "Mama-se, mama-sa, ma-ma-coo-sa". The chant is a riff on one first used by Cameroonianmarker saxophonist Manu Dibango, who broke into the American market in 1973 with his classic "Soul Makossa". "'Soul Makossa' was a big hit, in Africa, in Europe, and in America, where it came to be seen as one of the first disco records," says Kelefa Sanneh of The New Yorker magazine. Sanneh adds that, "[Dibango] named his song after the makossa, a Cameroonian dance, but he stretched the word out, [and] played with it [so that it sounded like]: 'Ma-mako, ma-ma-ssa, mako-makossa'."

Jackson's version of the Dibango chant has since been sampled and incorporated into other songs, including an interpretation by Rihanna on her 2007 single, "Don't Stop the Music", and the hook was also been sampled in D12 and Obie Trice's song "Doe Rae Me". Charles Hamilton makes a reference to the chant in his song, "Brooklyn Girls".

Performance and choreography

One of the songs released as a single without an accompanying video, "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" nonetheless has attained a popularity rivaling its sister compositions on the album. Not being as strictly associated with a specific dance routine as those others has arguably allowed for more flexibility in performances and staging.

Two notable occurrences that happened during live performances were the physically complicated "stop/start" dance technique that brought Jackson and his dancers to a frozen stop several times, and the sing-along between performer and audience during the bridge.

"Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" was also used on every set list of Jackson's tours, from the Victory Tour in 1984 through the HIStory Tour in 1997. Jackson performed the song on the Jacksons Victory Tour, Bad World Tour, Dangerous World Tour, and HIStory World Tour. Jackson would have performed it during the This Is It concert series, but the concerts were canceled due to his sudden death.

Track listing

United States version
  1. "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" (7" edit) – 4:17
  2. "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" (instrumental) – 6:30

United Kingdom version
  1. "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" (album version) – 6:02
  2. "Rock with You" (live with The Jacksons) – 3:58


  • Album version – 6:03
  • 12" version – 6:30
  • Instrumental – 6:30
  • 7" edit – 4:17
  • Brothers in Rhythm House Mix – 7:40
  • Tommy D's Main Mix – 7:35
  • "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' 2008 with Akon" - 3:45
  • "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' 2008 with Akon" (Johnny Vicious Radio Mix) - 3:36
  • "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' 2008 with Akon" (Johnny Vicious Full Club Remix) - 9:03
  • "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' 2008 with Akon" (Johnny Vicious Warehouse Thrilla Dub) - 7:23
  • "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' Tribute" (With Rihanna) (mash-up with Don't Stop The Music)


Backing vocalists
  • Julia Waters
  • Maxine Waters
  • Oren Waters
  • James Ingram
  • Bunny Hull
  • Becky Lopez
Additional personnel

Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' 2008 with Akon

In the United Statesmarker, "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' 2008 with Akon" was released as the first downloadable single (although "The Girl Is Mine 2008" was the first release internationally) from Jackson's latest album Thriller 25 on January 23. It is a re-worked, updated version featuring Akon on lead vocals and Michael Jackson on backing vocals. However, it was also played in full at least a week earlier on the Bristol and South Wales station Kiss 101 part of the Kiss Network, and it had leaked on the internet in late 2007 (a demo version without background vocals including Jackson's part also exists).

In the U.S., the single premiered on the Providence, Rhode Islandmarker-based Top-40 station WPRO-FMmarker. The single had its physical release in Germany on March 21, 2008 (2-track, 3-track CDs + 12" Vinyl) and in France on March 25, 2008. In France, a special edition of the 2-track CD with a picture of Jackson and Akon on the cover was released on April 7, 2008.

The single received its official premier UK radio play on GCap Media's Music Control radio show presented by Kevin Hughes across The One Network on January 24, 2008. The song was officially released in the UK on June 16, 2008 despite the fact that it has already entered the singles chart once already at number 69. The song was certified gold in Australia for sales of 35,000 copies.

The song has a music video; it features clips of Michael Jackson's older music videos and performances and clips of Akon singing his parts.


  • Original song written by Jackson
  • Original recording produced by Jackson/Jones
  • Remix written by Akon/Tuinfort/Jackson
  • Remix instrumentation and additional programming: Akon/Tuinfort
  • Remix mixed by Mark "Evil" Goodchild
  • Remix produced by Akon/Jackson/Tuinfort

Cover versions and samples

Jackson's elder sister La Toya Jackson has covered the song several times including: to open her set at 1993's Sopot Song Festival, on MDR in the 1990s, and in 2009 in the Celebrity Big Brother house.

Björk sang some lines of the song while performing "I Go Humble" during her Homogenic Tour. The performance can be heard on her album Homogenic Live.

On their 2009 East Meets West Tour with Ratt, the hard rock band Extreme closed their sets with their own version of the song.

A sample of the song was featured in Rihanna's song Don't Stop the Music.

The lyrics to Mama Sé are used in a song called MaMaSé by K3 as a tribute to Michael Jackson.

In late 2009 Canadian artist J.Flo released a cover version of the song as a tribute to the late artist.

Chart performance

Chart (1983) Peak
Australian Singles Chart 25
Dutch Top 40 3
UK Singles Chart 8
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 5
U.S. Billboard Hot Black Singles 1
Chart (2008) Peak
Australian Singles Chart 8
Belgian Singles Chart 15
Canadian Hot 100 32
Czech Republic Singles Chart 50
Danish Singles Chart 29
European Hot 100 Singles 87
French Singles Chart 10
German Singles Chart 63
Greek Singles Chart 10
Italian Singles Chart 20
Japan Hot 100 52
Luxembourg Singles Chart 23
Macedonian Radio Chart 4
New Zealand Singles Chart 4
Swedish Singles Chart 3
Swiss Singles Chart 30
UK Singles Chart 69
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 81
U.S. Billboard Pop 100 48
Chart (2009) Peak

Swiss Singles Chart 37
UK Singles Chart 57
U.S. Billboard Hot Digital Songs 20
  • 1983: Michael Jackson
  • 2008: Michael Jackson with Akon
  • 2009: Michael Jackson


Version Country Certification Sales
2008 Australia Gold 35,000+

End of year charts

Year Country Chart Ranking
2008 Australia ARIA #65


  • Moonwalk — by Michael Jackson, edited by Jackie Onassis (Doubleday 1988, ISBN 0-385-24712-5)
  • The Michael Jackson Story — by Nelson George (Dell 1983, ISBN 0-440-15592-4)
  • Trapped: Michael Jackson and the Crossover Dream — by Dave Marsh (Bantam 1985, ISBN 0-553-34241-X)
  • Thriller – Special Edition (Epic Records, 2001 — selected interviews)
  • Michael Jackson: The Ultimate Collection (Epic Records, 2004 — liner notes)
  • Music Control Radio


  1. Sanneh, Kelef. "Michael Jackson". The New Yorker, 9 July 2009.
  2. [1]
  3. Music Control
  5. [2]
  9. h8p://
  10. Australian ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart. ARIA Charts. Retrieved on February 4, 2008.
  11. - Michael Jackson with Akon - Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' 2008
  12. - Charts - Singles - Canadian Hot 100
  13. Čns Ifpi
  14. Denmark singles chart
  15. Europe singles chart
  16. France singles
  17. germany
  18. Ελληνικό Chart
  19. Japan Singles Chart
  20. ELDORADIO, LUXEMBOURG'S HITRADIO – 105.0 & 107.2 MHz FM - Music / Chartbreaker
  21. Antenna5
  23. Chart Stats : UK Singles Chart
  24. - Artist Chart History - Michael Jackson
  25. [3]

External links

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