Tuesday, October 06, 2009

During my 25 minute walk into work this morning, I listened to Michael Jackson's, "I Can't Help It" five consecutive times, and around the third time I decided that I would attempt to break down why this song is great. I've done it with Marvin Gaye's, "I Want You", I did it with Questlove's remix of Pharrell and Snoop Dogg's That Girl, and I've done it with Michael Jackson's, "Stranger in Moscow". So allow me to do the same again.

The first thing that jumps out at you in the first 18 seconds of the song, is the depth of Michael Jackson's voice. Mind you, in most of MJ's music prior to Off the Wall, his voice was high and child-like, and there was nothing wrong with that. But twice in 18 seconds, MJ impressively went down to the lower register, and that combined with the jazzy chords, lets you know that this will be a different type of MJ song.

Then at the 21 second mark, he starts to sing, and even the phrasing is much more mature and jazzy than anything he had sung up to that point, and considering Mr. Stevie Wonder wrote the song, it should come as no surprise. Michael sounds comfortable holding notes, hitting the high register, and then going back down to his deep voice..and then the chorus comes at the 56 second mark. And for me, the best part of the chorus is not necessarily Michael singing, "I Can't Help It" over and over again, but its the horns that gently play in the background as he's singing. They are very subtle, but they serve as a perfectly compliment to MJ's voice.

The drumming is also a quiet, yet strong element in the song. Because this is a light jazzy tune, it seems like the drums were intentionally played softly, but at two points during the song, they particularly stick out to me. The first time is at the 32 second mark. Michael sings, "I can't help but see you..", and the you hear drummer switch is cadence up, and hit the bass drum three times in a row, the snare once, and then subtly open up the high hat slightly, before Michael starts singing again. The drummer does the exact same thing at the 1:58 mark of the song. Its pretty cool..to me at least

Now for the first 3:29 of the song, MJ is singing jazzy and restrained, and it fits the mood of the song. But at that 3:30 mark, almost as if the director said to Michael, "ok now cut it loose", MJ kicks it up into a higher gear, and sings the chorus louder and with a fuller voice. Then at the 3:49 mark, almost as if he felt like the listeners could not handle more of him singing in the mode, MJ goes back down to the voice he had been using for the majority of the song, and he continued in the mode until the song faded out.

My favorite part of the song comes at the 3:01 mark. MJ's sings, "And IIII'm so glad I found you...yeah", and then he does his traditional MJ grunt that you so prominently hear in MJ's music, then he finishes the lines by saying, "you're an angel in disguiiiiise." That part has always been beautiful to me.

I do believe I could break down about 5 or 6 other things about this song, but I think I've done quite enough. This may seem a bit creepy to you, but frankly, I don't give a good goddamn. I do these types of breakdowns in my head all the time, I just had to get this one out in written form. I feel like I should have a cigarette and some scotch while explaining this...

And now, without further ado, I present the song in its entirety.


Sab D said...

Hands down ... one of the best MJ joints on the best album

£ said...

synergy! um how about i had this song on repeat last night AND this morning?? i kid you not. im swearious.

looking in my mirrorrr took me by surpriseee

Stevie hooked Michael up with this one. and that little hic thing MJ does @ about 1:19 and later on at 2:25? for some reason thats so hot to me. lol

good break down. i wonder why he didn't sing in the lower register more often. he def had the chops for it.

anyway... now i have to listen to it once more :)