"Black or White" Michael Jackson Song Analysis

Categories: Michael JacksonSong
Essay grade: Good

Michael Jackson was an American entertainer that was widely beloved and, one of the most influential artists of all time. The 'King of Pop', Michael Jackson was one of the all-time greatest artists that the world has come across as he was known for his music, dance moves, and caring heart towards the world, as most of his songs had a deeper message than what it appeared to be. In this analysis, I am choosing one of the biggest radio hits of the 1990s 'Black or White'.

This pop-rock dance song about racial harmony has elements of dance, hip hop, and hard rock music such as Bill Bottrell's guitars and Jackson's vocal style. 'Black or White' song was released in November 1991. The music video was so unusual that it helped to transform the medium into both an art form and a promotional tool. The video is more a mini film with a 1 min 45-second intro to the song. He is saying that people are more than a color, so stop discriminating and making assumptions about who others are based on the color of their skin.

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It also talks about discrimination of religion and sexual orientation, and the message is to come together, it doesn't matter what religion, sexual orientation, or color(race or ethnicity) you identify with. We are all humans, we are equal.

According to me this music video can be most appropriately analyzed using Message theory. My personal thoughts and opinion on racism and culture/race are that it is very important that it should be discussed.

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Racism to me is something that is completely wrong, just like this song implies, why should anyone be treated differently whether they are black or white, or from a different culture, race or ethnic background Music speaks a thousand words, as it has a profound effect to portray a message, raise awareness, change opinions and provoke action towards a mass audience. Sociology looks at Culture/Race as a very diverse systematic study of human social life, groups, and societies. The sociology of culture concerns culture which is usually understood as the ensemble of symbolic codes used by a society, as it is displayed in the society.


Black or White runs nearly six minutes and symbolize in three distinct parts. The first section begins with a preface set on a white family in a suburban neighborhood; the second moves to the song itself, in which Jackson dances across a range of global styles while singing against prejudice and racism. This section of the film closes with a now-famous morphing sequence, in which people of different races and genders seemingly melt into each other, a white man turning into an Asian woman who turns into a Latino man. The artist is shown to be happily dancing around with a group of people. This also shows the settings that surround them and shows that a large number of locations was used. Jackson wants it to be clear to the audience that he has not singled out any race/ethnicity or age but has tried to involve everyone.

The constant change in settings and locations also keep the watchers interested and more likely to keep watching on. Artists also showed that stereotypical American people, a tribe from Africa, Russians, Indian dancers, and people of different races/nationalities. Everyone in the music video seems to have either brightly colored clothing or something that is commonly worn in their culture. This suggests that although the artist wears a bright white shirt other people in the video can also wear bright clothing because he does not want to overpower them.

Later in the song, Michael sings 'I ain't scared of no sheets', which is a reference to Ku Klux Klan (KKK). KKK was a white extremist group who thought they were superior to any other race in the world. They essentially tried to scare the blacks and segregate them from the whites. In the video Michael blasts into a KKK meeting, symbolizing that they are not a threat. Throughout the music video, Michael displayed a Black Panther performing various acts that symbolized dark times of African American people. The Black Panther Party was an African American militant party who fought for equality for the Black community.


To summarize, 'Black or White' was an eye-opener for people all around the world as Michael used his platform carefully to spread the message of equality to the world. He effectively puts forward his opinion on racism, inequality, and its effects on people with the text of this song. The song urges people to talk about these important issues and come together to fight against them. With this song, Jackson gave all of himself to combat these issues and did not fear the scrutiny he endured from his outspoken and divisive convictions. He used his platform and released many other songs just like 'Black or White' to inspire people and create a difference in the world.

Shot by Shot Analysis

The video begins with a young boy rocking out to heavy metal in his bedroom. His father comes in like a wrecking ball and screams at boy to turn the music off. The scene ends when his dad calling his music 'garbage' and slamming the bedroom door shut which causes the boy's beloved framed picture of Michael Jackson to fall off the door and smash. Boy plays his guitar, sending soundwaves out of the speakers so powerful that they launch Dad and his armchair across the world, where he lands in Africa.

Next scene the songs generalize as "African" hunters are stalking lions. Michael Jackson arises from the dust and he and the hunters do "West African" choreography.

Michael Jackson appears dancing on a platform with Plains Indians in traditional dress, while a horde of Plains men ride around the platform on horseback shooting off rifles.

Michael Jackson, who dances among various cultures, with the dance routine confirming that it is of a pop genre, and the various cultures finally tying into the title of the song (after 2 minutes). Jackson mirrors the various cultures of different traditional dancing, such as West African, Thai, Red Indians, an Indian Bollywood dancer, and a group of Russians.

Macaulay Culkin is re-introduced standing amongst other children of similar age, dressed as 'gangsters' with Michael Jackson Macaulay and the other kids present a rap which includes the sentence "I'm not going to spend my life being a color."

Russian dancers in a snowy Kremlin, which transforms into a paperweight clutched by a white infant, sitting with a black infant on a large globe of the Earth.

The rap finishes and then cuts away to Michael Jackson singing at the top of The Statue of Liberty. The camera then zooms slowly out, with Jackson remaining centered. Michael's backdrop shows landmarks from many different cultures and cities from around the world like Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal, and the Parthenon in the background.

Each group of people is represented positively in the video, displaying happy faces, a sense of unity and friendship, and the lyrics of the song sound like a plea for racial harmony.

Written by Daniel Rodriguez
Updated: Jan 18, 2024
Keep in mind: this is only a sample!
Updated: Jan 18, 2024
Essay's Scoring Result: Good
Expert's Assessment
This essay dives deep into the cultural impact of Michael Jackson's 'Black or White,' skillfully employing Message theory and unraveling its symbolism. The exploration of the music video's varied settings, symbolic moments, and the artist's courageous stance against racism adds a layer of richness. While the essay follows a clear structure, refining expression and attending to grammar would enhance its overall flow. The shot-by-shot analysis stands out for its meticulous examination of the 'Black or White' music video, revealing a keen eye for detail. In essence, the essay showcases a robust grasp of the song's message and its cultural context.
How can you enhance this essay?
To elevate this text, focus on sharpening language for clarity and conciseness. Streamline sentences to enhance readability and maintain consistent grammar. Improve the transition between sections to achieve a smoother overall flow. While the analysis offers insight, reinforcing connections among the song's lyrics, video elements, and the broader cultural context would fortify the essay. Introduce the analysis with a brief overview to set the stage, and conclude with a concise summary of key insights for a more cohesive and engaging academic essay.
This essay's assessment was conducted by:
Eleanor Fitzpatrick
Cite this page

"Black or White" Michael Jackson Song Analysis. (2019, Nov 29). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/black-or-white-michael-jackson-song-analysis-essay

"Black or White" Michael Jackson Song Analysis essay
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