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Obscure Donna Summer song blows up on Spotify after claims it inspired ‘Billie Jean’
Jones spilled decades’ worth of Hollywood tea during the conversation, but one particular claim that he made about Michael Jackson copying Summer’s “State of Independence” seems to have piqued fans’ curiosity. According to Jones—who produced for both artists at the time—Jackson “stole” elements from Summer’s song for his own hit “Billie Jean,” which just so happened to be released later that same year. Jones told interviewer David Marchese that Jackson was “as Machiavellian as they come.”
For proof, Jones told Marchese to listen to the songs himself. “The notes don’t lie, man,” he said.
Apparently, readers wanted to hear those notes for themselves, too, because “State of Independence” has seen a huge surge in plays in the past few days. According to Billboard, the song didn’t even hit the top 40 when it was originally released in 1982. It was by no means a flop, it was just one of Summer’s less memorable singles, quietly chilling in the Spotify library and averaging less than 2,000 streams per day. In the days following Quincy Jones’ claims, Nielsen Music reports that number spiking to 150,000 on-demand audio and video streams—a 12,000-percent increase.
Jackson isn’t alive to defend himself, so readers are left to come to their own conclusions about Jones’ claims. TMZ made things slightly easier for fans by slowing down Summer’s song so that it can be played right alongside “Billie Jean.”
The site also points out an important detail Jones forgot to mention: Jackson sang backup for “State of Independence” along with Stevie Wonder, Dionne Warwick, Lionel Richie, and Kenny Loggins. There’s even a video on YouTube of everybody in the studio recording the song:
So while we may never be able to cement Jones’ gossip as hard fact, there’s certainly a lot of evidence to support his thinking.
Christine Friar is a writer and editor in New York who focuses on streaming entertainment and internet culture. Her work has appeared in the Awl, the Fader, New York Magazine, Paper Magazine, Vogue, Elle, and more.