The song's sound both pays homage to and updates 1980s Michael Jackson. The upbeat instrumentation contrasts with the downbeat lyrics, which tell the story of a girl who is the victim of childhood sexual abuse. The Weeknd revealed to The New York Times
that when he first played the song for Ron Perry, the president of Songs Music Publishing, Perry exclaimed: ''It's 'Billie Jean
'! It's 'Billie [expletive] Jean'!''
It was after hearing another Michael Jackson tune, "Dirty Diana
," that The Weeknd first knew he wanted to write songs.