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Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson - Say Say Say (1983)

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  • 80's Score80's Score80's Score 80's score: 2.6
  • Find this song on: Music Stack

"Say Say Say" is a song written and performed by English musician Paul McCartney and American singer Michael Jackson, ...

"Say Say Say" is a song written and performed by English musician Paul McCartney and American singer Michael Jackson, released in October 1983 as the lead single to McCartney's 1983 album Pipes of Peace. Produced by George Martin, the song was recorded during production of McCartney's 1982 Tug of War album, about a year before the release of "The Girl Is Mine", the pair's first duet from Jackson's album Thriller (1982).

After its release in October 1983, "Say Say Say" became Jackson's seventh top-ten hit inside a year. It was a number one hit in the United States (his sixth number-one single there), Canada, Norway, Sweden and several other countries, reached number two in the United Kingdom, and peaked within the top ten in Australia, Austria, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Switzerland and over 20 other nations. In 2013, Billboard magazine listed the song as the 41st biggest hit of all time on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. It has also been voted the ninth best collaboration of all time in a Rolling Stone readers poll.

The single was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America in December 1983, representing sales of one million copies. The single was promoted with an influential music video directed by Bob Giraldi. The short film centres around two con artists called "Mac and Jack" (played by McCartney and Jackson).

Music video

The music video (or "short film") for "Say Say Say" was filmed in October 1983 and was directed by Bob Giraldi, who had previously directed Michael Jackson's music video for "Beat It". Cameo appearances in the video are made by McCartney's then wife Linda, as well as Jackson's older sister La Toya.

Rolling Stone (magazine) quoted Bob Giraldi who recounted McCartney's nervousness about the project:

"Paul was terribly insecure about appearing next to Michael, in terms of dance" ... "And who wouldn't, if you're going to go onstage and be choreographed next to Michael Jackson?" "In all my years of working in film and commercials, I've worked with some of the worst divas and superstars of all time," said Giraldi. "Paul and Michael were not that."

According to LaToya Jackson, during filming of the video, the McCartneys were staying at a property named Sycamore Valley Ranch, five miles from the town of Los Olivos, California in the Santa Ynez Valley. Jackson visited them and expressed interest in someday buying the property. In 1988, he would do so, renaming it Neverland Ranch. The saloon portion was filmed at the 1880 Union Hotel in Los Alamos. McCartney flew in specifically for the filming. The video cost $500,000 to produce.

In the short film, the duo play "Mac and Jack", a pair of medicine show conmen who sell a "miracle potion". The salesman (McCartney) offers Jackson the potion, and claims that it is "guaranteed to give you the strength of a raging bull". Jackson drinks the potion and challenges a large man to arm-wrestle. Unbeknownst to a watching crowd, the man—along with Linda—is also in on the scam. After Jackson wins the rigged contest, the crowd of people surge forward and buy the potion. Mac and Jack then donate all of the money earned from the scam to an orphanage. After this scene, McCartney and Jackson star as vaudeville performers who sing and dance at a bar. On stage, the duo appear in clown makeup at one point and quickly go through a number of costume changes. Jackson flirts with a young woman portrayed by his real-life sister La Toya. When law-enforcement officers appear at the back of the venue, Mac quickly starts a small fire onstage and Linda hollers "FIRE!", emptying the venue and allowing the group to escape via backstage (yet somehow finding time to change into tuxedoes first). The video ends with Paul, Linda, and Michael as they drive off into the sunset. La Toya, who was handed a bunch of flowers by McCartney, is left at the roadside.

Giraldi said of Jackson and McCartney, "Michael didn't outdance Paul, and Paul didn't outsing Michael". He added that production of the video was hard work because "the egos could fill a room". The video introduced both dialogue and storyline, an element extended upon in Michael Jackson's Thriller. In a 1984 study of music videos conducted by the National Coalition on Television Violence, the Jacksons were rated "very violent", citing Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean", "Thriller" and "Say Say Say" as well as Jermaine Jackson's "Dynamite" and the Jacksons' "Torture". In a list compiled by Billboard at the end of 1984, the music video was named the fourth best of the year, and the rest of the top four were also short films by Jackson.

The Manchester Evening News later described the "Say Say Say" video as an "anarchic caper" that "plays out like an Emir Kusturica feature". PopMatters stated that the music videos of "Say Say Say" and "Goodnight Tonight" turned "a pair of otherwise forgettable songs into something worth watching". Steven Greenlee of The Boston Globe reflected that the video was both "horrifying and compelling", and stated the ridiculousness of a potion which could aid Jackson in beating somebody at arm wrestling. He added, "It's even harder to believe that the two of them didn't get the pulp beaten out of them in that bar for dressing like a pair of Chess King employees." The "Say Say Say" video was later included on the DVDs The McCartney Years and Michael Jackson's Vision.

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