Behind the Mask (Michael Jackson song)

For more details on this topic, see Behind the Mask (Yellow Magic Orchestra song).
"Behind the Mask"
Single by Michael Jackson
from the album Michael
B-side "Hollywood Tonight" (Vinyl)
Released February 21, 2011
Format CD, digital download, Vinyl
Recorded 1982 (original)
2010 (rework)
Genre Synthpop, dance-pop, R&B
Length 5:02 (album version)
3:39 (edit)
Label Epic
Writer(s) Michael Jackson, Chris Mosdell, Ryuichi Sakamoto[1]
Producer(s) Michael Jackson, John McClain[2]
Michael Jackson singles chronology
"Hollywood Tonight"
"Behind the Mask"
"All In Your Name"
Michael track listing
"(I Can't Make It) Another Day"
"Behind the Mask"
"Much Too Soon"
Audio sample
file info · help

"Behind the Mask" is a song originally recorded by Japanese electronic band Yellow Magic Orchestra. In 1982, a cover version was recorded by American singer Michael Jackson for his album Thriller, but managerial disputes prevented its release. On February 21, 2011, the song was released by Epic Records as the third single from the posthumous album Michael. Shanice provides background vocals on the song.[3]

Background and release

Quincy Jones heard Yellow Magic Orchestra's version during the Thriller sessions, and brought it to Michael Jackson, who had recorded the song, added an extra melody line and a few extra lyrics to Chris Mosdell's original. Mosdell has said of the collaboration, "when Michael Jackson took it, he made it into a love song about a woman. It was a completely different premise to me, I was talking about a very impersonal, socially controlled society, a future technological era, and the mask represented that immobile, unemotional state. But hey, I let him have that one.[4]" An agreement to share the royalties equally between Sakamoto, Mosdell and Jackson broke down when the management of Yellow Magic Orchestra disagreed[4] and it prevented the song from being released on Jackson's sixth studio album, Thriller. It remained unreleased for 28 years.[5]

However, as a part of Sony Music's 10 album recording deal with the Estate of Michael Jackson, the song was announced to be released on the posthumous album of Jackson's, titled Michael. It was also as a radio single not only in France, but also the United States, Canada, and Japan.[6]

Critical reception

The song received mainly positive reviews from music critics. Jody Rosen from Rolling Stone called the song "a fiercely funky cousin to "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' ."[7] Dan Martin from NME thought the song was "an absolute revelation, a swirl of psychedelic, orchestra-twinged R&B", and said "Jackson howls a solid-gold melody at his fearsome best, and blippy production and robotic backing vocals dancing behind it." [8] Jason Lipshutz with Gail Mitchell and Gary Graff from Billboard thought the song was "a must-listen songs on Michael", and it "holds the highest number of Jackson's signature 'hee-hee!' exclaims".[9] Joe Pareles from New York Times said, the song was originally a 1979 hit by Ryuichi Sakamoto’s group Yellow Magic Orchestra with Jackson's lyrics about a coldhearted woman, but the final version which was completed by Mr. McClain was mixed with applause and squeals from concert crowds from Live in Bucharest: The Dangerous Tour DVD.[2] Leah Greenblatt from Entertainment Weekly thought the song seemed "oddly dated by sax flourishes — though perhaps that makes it a good companion to the lilting closer Much Too Soon, an actual relic of the early ’80s".[10] The author of the forthcoming book, Man in the Music: The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson, Joe Vogel thought John McClain's update to the song was skillful, making it sound brand new and retro at the same time. And he thought the song is "definitely one of the highlights of the album".[11]

Negative review comes from Carl Cortez of Assignment X, he said the version on the 7" single version "is an 'edit' version here (not even a true remix) so it's at least shorter than the album version which is the only thing that makes it better."[12]

Music video

As the single release officially announced, a music video for this song was also announced to be released worldwide.[6] On February 28, 2011, a project for this song's music video titled "Behind the Mask Project" was announced: "the Estate of Michael Jackson and Sony Music will provide everyone who likes music an opportunity to help create online a unique groundbreaking music video for the single 'Behind the Mask'." All the world can use a simple online tool to take part in making the music video since March 7, 2011.[13] On March 30, 2011, a 17-second video of what Sony Music had been doing with some of the thousands of submissions for the "Behind the Mask Project" was released.[14] On April 29, 2011, another video teaser for the project was released on, and it is announced that the final day to submit for the Behind the Mask Project is Tuesday May 3, 2011.[15] On June 6, 2011 was published the official trailer announcing when the final video would be published. On June 14, 2011 the official and final video was posted on the official Michael Jackson's channel on YouTube, but only accessible on the King of Pop's page on social networking site Facebook.[16] A day after, the video was classified and is now more widely available. This video has become in the most international, multi-collaborative of all times. In the 1600 clips that compose it can be seen people from the Sahara to the main cities of the world, through the Taj Mahal and the Arctic Circle. The clip is currently under evaluation for inclusion in the Guinness Book of World Records as the music video with the largest audience of participants. The oldest screen of this music video was recorded in 1996 by a Turkish boy Turgay Suat Tarcan.

An alternate video was originally shot and completed, featuring masked dancers in a nightclub, but the "Behind the Mask Project" was released instead of this video. This alternate video directed by the Grammy-winning directing duo Aggressive leaked on July 31, 2013. [17] [18]

Track listing

Digital Download[19]
No. Title Length
1. "Behind the Mask" (Album Version) 5:01
Total length:
Behind the Mask/Hollywood Tonight 7" Vinyl Single[20]
No. Title Length
1. "Behind the Mask" (Radio Edit) 3:39
2. "Hollywood Tonight" (Throwback Mix) 3:46
Total length:
Poland Promotional CD Single[21]
No. Title Length
1. "Behind the Mask" (Radio Edit) 3:39
Total length:

Official Versions


Chart (2010–2011) Peak
Belgium (Ultratip 50 Wallonia)[22] 24
Japan Hot 100[23] 71

Release history

Country Date Format
France February 21, 2011[24] CD single (promo), Radio airplay
April 11, 2011[25] Vinyl single
Italy[26] April 12, 2011
Poland[21] July 4, 2011 Radio airplay


See also


  1. "Behind the Mask". Retrieved 2010-12-10.
  2. 1 2 Joe Pareles (December 9, 2010). "After Death, the Remix". Retrieved December 9, 2010.
  3. Brenda Jeanne Wyche (2010-12-04). "Shanice "Behind the Mask" With Michael Jackson". Black Star News. Retrieved 2010-12-05.
  4. 1 2 Aimee Heckel (2011-01-15). "Chris Mosdell, quirky Boulder lyricist, wrote lyrics for newly released Michael Jackson song". Daily Camera. Retrieved 2011-10-18.
  5. Halstead, Craig; Cadman, Chris (2007). Michael Jackson: For The Record. Bedfordshire: Authors OnLine Ltd. pp. 31–32. ISBN 0-7552-0267-8.
  6. 1 2 "New Michael Jackson Singles Coming From The Global #1 Album "Michael"". 2011-02-27. Retrieved 2011-02-28.
  7. Rosen, Jody. "Michael by Michael Jackson - Rolling Stone Music - Music Review". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 6, 2010.
  8. Martin, Dan (December 4, 2010). "Album review: Michael Jackson - 'Michael' (Epic)". NME. Retrieved December 5, 2010.
  9. Lipshutz, Jason; Mitchell, Gail; Graff, Gary (December 8, 2010). "Michael Jackson's 'Michael' Track-By-Track". Billboard. Retrieved December 8, 2010.
  10. Leah Greenblatt (December 8, 2010). "Music Review: Michael". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved December 9, 2010.
  11. Vogel, Joe (2010-12-06). "Is Michael Really Michael? A Review of the King of Pop's New Album". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2010-12-10.
  12. Cortez, Carl (2011-04-20). "Single Review: MICHAEL JACKSON – "Behind the Mask" 7 inch (Record Day 2011 Exclusive)". Assignment X. Retrieved 2011-05-28.
  13. "Michael Jackson's Ultimate Music Fan Global Mash-up To Launch Online March 7 - The Official Michael Jackson Site". 2011-02-28. Archived from the original on 2011-03-04. Retrieved 2011-03-30.
  14. "Exclusive First Look At The Behind The Mask Project - The Official Michael Jackson Site". Sony Music. 2011-03-30. Retrieved 2011-03-30.
  15. "New Behind the Mask Project Teaser! Submissions End May 3rd - The Official Michael Jackson Site". Sony Music. 2011-04-29. Archived from the original on 2012-03-23. Retrieved 2011-05-03.
  16. "THE WORLD UNITES ON NEW MICHAEL JACKSON VIDEO "BEHIND THE MASK"". Sony Music. The Official Michael Jackson Site. 2011-06-08. Retrieved 2011-06-11.
  17. Shumka, Dave. "Watch this unreleased Michael Jackson video before it gets taken down". CBC Music. Retrieved 4 August 2013.
  19. " Behind The Mask: Michael Jackson: MP3 Downloads". 2010-12-14. Retrieved 2011-03-08.
  20. "Michael Jackson - Hollywood Tonight / Behind The Mask (Vinyl) at Discogs". Retrieved 2011-04-16.
  21. 1 2 "'Behind The Mask' w polskim radiu". The Official Michael Jackson Site. 2011-07-04. Retrieved 2011-07-10.
  22. " - Michael Jackson - Behind The Mask". Archived from the original on 2012-10-26. Retrieved 2011-02-22.
  23. "Japan Hot 100 Achievement 2010/12/27". Billboard Japan. via WebCite. 2010-12-27. Archived from the original on November 27, 2011. Retrieved 2011-11-28.
  24. "Nouveau single "Behind The Mask"". 2011-02-23. Archived from the original on 2011-07-14. Retrieved 2011-02-24.
  25. "Hollywood Tonight / Behind The Mask: Michael Jackson: Musique". Retrieved 2011-03-31.
  26. "Hollywood Tonight / Behind The Mask: Michael Jackson: Musica". Retrieved 2011-03-31.

External links

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