Behind The Mask


  • The origins of this song lie in an instrumental track of the same name by Japanese electro pop outfit Yellow Magic Orchestra from their 1979 album, Solid State Survivor. After hearing "Behind The Mask," Jackson contacted the group to ask for permission to add his lyrics on the track converting it into an ode to living life under a microscope. Originally intended for Thriller, it was reportedly left off because of a song credit dispute. The song was updated after Michael's death by one of his estate's executors, John McClain.
  • Eric Clapton recorded a cover of the YMO song with lyrics for his 1986 August album. The song was released as a single, and hit #15 in the UK on January 17, 1987.
  • The song features the vocals of Shanice, who is best known for her 1991 hit, "I Love Your Smile." This was not her first outing on a Jackson album having previously sung back up on the hook of his song, "Keep The Faith."
  • Here's another Michael/Shanice connection: It was John McClain who discovered Shanice at the age of 11 and he later signed the singer to her first record deal.
  • Shanice recorded her contribution after Michael's untimely death and in an interview with Black Star News the singer disclosed that she had difficulty holding back tears in attempts to sing the song. "As soon as the music came on and I heard Michael's voice, I would start to cry," she recalled. Shanice eventually got the recording done with the support of others such as production assistant John Nettlesby, who eased the pain by chatting and sharing fun stories about Michael throughout the session.

Comments: 4

  • Luke E. from Manchester, UkThe backing vocals during the intro and verse are basically the same as Do The Bartman, also written by Jackson.
  • Patrick from Atlanta, GaKaz, the original song, by Yellow Magic Orchestra, was about a woman who hides behind a figurative mask. She shows no emotion. "There is nothing in your eyes, but that's the way you cry." It was Quincy Jones who suggested Jackson cover it. The song was never released while Michael was alive because of YMO's management. Jackson's keyboardist recorded it before Clapton, and he played on Clapton's cover of it (Along with Phil Collins).
  • Robyn from Philadelphia, PaPeople always THINK that they new Michael only proving otherwise. If you really knew Michael, Kaz, you would know that that "fishbowl" started WAY before Thriller. Afterwards... well... it just got WORSE. By the time Michael was a teen, he was already dealing with the media spreading rumors about his career, his body, his voice and even his sexuality. It really wasn't easy being Michael Jackson. He was also already wearing mask & disguise out in public, probably his inspiration behind said mask.

    As for the song I am convinced that 90% of the tracks are his voice except, "Breaking News". You can tell, however, that "BTM" is indeed a song written in the late '70's by it's chorus. It really does have an electronic/disco feel to it. It really does sound like it was recorded for "Thriller". Oh... & btw: I'm not trying to be insulting, I just feel that fans (especially newer ones) just don't know Michael as well as they think.
  • Kaz from C, OhWhy is this song called behind the mask? it has nothing to do with the lyric content. and why would MJ write about being under a microscope during thriller when he wasn't under a microscope until after i dont like this "Michael" album. because i believe they got people to impersonate and clip together his vocals.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Supertramp founder Roger Hodgson

Supertramp founder Roger HodgsonSongwriter Interviews

Roger tells the stories behind some of his biggest hits, including "Give a Little Bit," "Take the Long Way Home" and "The Logical Song."

James Bond Theme Songs

James Bond Theme SongsMusic Quiz

How well do you know the 007 theme songs?

Chris Frantz - "Genius of Love"

Chris Frantz - "Genius of Love"They're Playing My Song

Chris and his wife Tina were the rhythm section for Talking Heads when they formed The Tom Tom Club. "Genius of Love" was their blockbuster, but David Byrne only mentioned it once.

Joe Jackson

Joe JacksonSongwriter Interviews

Joe talks about the challenges of of making a Duke Ellington tribute album, and tells the stories behind some of his hits.

Timothy B. Schmit of the Eagles

Timothy B. Schmit of the EaglesSongwriter Interviews

Did this Eagle come up with the term "Parrothead"? And what is it like playing "Hotel California" for the gazillionth time?

Director Paul Rachman on "Hunger Strike," "Man in the Box," Kiss

Director Paul Rachman on "Hunger Strike," "Man in the Box," KissSong Writing

After cutting his teeth on hardcore punk videos, Paul defined the grunge look with his work on "Hunger Strike" and "Man in the Box."