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Michael Jackson

Black or white

Black or white


In this analysis, let's pay tribute to Mickael Jackson who still remains one of the best musician, performer, dancer and actor of his generation. The tune « Black and white », big success of the 90's is published by Epic, distributed by Sony music and composed and produced by M. Jackson and Bill Bottrell, with an exceptional guest star, the guitar player Slash, appearing here with the courtesy of Geffen Records.


Intro 1 Free
Intro 2 8 bars
Verse 1 4 bars
Bridge 2 bars
Break 4 bars
Chorus 2 bars
Break 4 bars
Verse 2 4 bars
Bridge 2 bars
Break 2 bars
Chorus 2 bars
Break 8 bars
Theme 2 9 bars
Theme 3 8 bars
Bridge 2 bars
Break 2 bars
Chorus 2 bars
Break 2 bars
chorus 2 bars
Break 2 bars
Chorus 2 bars
Break 8 bars
Break 11 bars 1/2


Verse 1 :

The first theme is placed in the verses 1 and 2 over 4 bars and is divided into 2 similar phrases of 2 bars each. In the medium register of the voice, it shows an ambitus* of a minor 7th and is based on an E major arpeggio, in which the 5th (B) is both a starting and finishing point :


Bridge :

The 2nd theme is the bridge over 2 bars, having a shorter ambitus of a minor 6th (B to G#). Placed in the medium register of the voice, this motive is divided into 2 similar phrases of 1 bar each :


Chorus :

The 3rd theme of the chorus has 2 bars only and enlarges its starting interval to the perfect 5th. It finishes on the E note (tonic of the key) and has a more conclusive mood than the previous :


Break :

This last theme is different from the others and presents a small cell of 3 beats only, repeated 8 times. This motive is built on the E blues scale in the high register of the lead voice, with an ambitus of a minor 7th :



The harmonic progression is mainly based on a guitar riff that includes 2 chords only, in the introduction 2 and the breaks :

Verse Amaj/E Emaj Bmaj/E Emaj Amaj/E Emaj Amaj/E Emaj
Bridge A maj A maj
Chorus B maj B maj
Break 1 E7 (#9) E7 (#9) E7 (#9) E7 (#9)
Breaks Amaj/E Emaj Amaj/E Emaj

The chord progression is simple and includes the tonic chord I ( E major ), the sub-dominant chord IV ( A maj ) and the dominant chord V ( B major ). We can also notice a tonic pedal note ( E ) in the introduction and the instrumental breaks, with a plagal cadence ( IV I ), preceding the return of the tonic chord. The composer also uses the E blues chord with an augmented 9th ( G ) in the theme 3. The chords are generally very simple : perfect triads in the bridge and choruses, reversed or not, and sometimes some 7th dominant chords with a blues 3rd ( themes 2 and 3. ).


On a rhythmic point of view, all 4 « blues » themes use rhythms placed on the beats, with a binairy beat based on the eighth note. In the verses, bridges and choruses, the themes start with an anacrusis* before beats 1 and 4. In the instrumental breaks, the pulse evoluates to the sixteenth note specially in the percussions. The 4/4 time signature and a tempo of a quarter note = 115 keep on a dance rhythm.


Bass guitar


Sound Panorama Effects
Distorsed electric guitar Center Distorsion + light flange
Snare drum / intro 1 Left Long gate reverb
Bass drum Center
Snare drum Center Short gate reverb
Bells Center Short gate reverb
Tech percussions Left + right Delay in sixteenth notes
Hihat cymbals Center
Bass guitar Center Light flange
Synthesizer bass Center Light flange
Clap Right + left Long gate reverb
2nd electric guitar Right Chorus + early reflexions
Acoustic guitar Right + left Hall reverb
Sound effect Center
Electronic clap Left Gate reverb
Synthesizer strings Right + left Hall reverb
Lead voice Center Short reverb + delay
Vocals Right + left Short reverb


Title Duration Tempo Style Measure Tonality Parts
Black or white 3'22'' 115 Rock Rap Funk Soul 4/4 90 E Maj 17


Anacrusis A melody or a rhythm starting on the offbeat
Diatonic ornamental chords A chord that do not belong to the harmonic progression, being placed 1 tone or a semi-tone above or below the real chord
Pedal note Sustained or repeated single note
Perfect triad Simple 3 note chord : Root / third / perfect 5th
Range Distance between the lowest and the highest notes of a melody
Structure Structure of a piece