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Music / Joe Jackson

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Lookin' sharp!
"Is she really going out with him?
Is she really gonna take him home tonight?
Is she really going out with him?
Cause if my eyes don't deceive me,
There's something going wrong around here."
—"Is She Really Going Out With Him?"

David Ian "Joe" Jackson (born August 11, 1954) is an English singer and composer originally from Staffordshire in The West Midlands but spent his childhood in Portsmouth, working in London for most of his professional life. He first came to notice in the New Wave era, although like his rough contemporaries Graham Parker and Elvis Costello he came from more of a pub rock than Punk Rock background. Since then he’s committed quite a bit of Genre Adultery, working in Synth-Pop, Jazz, and Classical Music, among other things.

NB: This Joe Jackson is not the father of Michael Jackson, nor did he play for the Chicago Black Sox.


Tropes associated with Joe Jackson include:

  • Added Alliterative Appeal: Joe Jackson's Jumpin' Jive.
  • All Women Are Lustful: “It’s Different for Girls”. Jackson has half-joked in concert that it’s about how women “just want to use us for our bodies.”
  • Alone Among the Couples: Happy Loving Couples
  • Bi the Way: Openly bisexual, and the source of "Real Men".
  • Classical Music: Some of his albums have come out on Sony Classical, including Symphony No. 1.
  • Convenient Slow Dance: "A Slow Song"
    "And I'm brutalized by bass and terrorized by treble... play us a slow song!"
  • Coat Full of Contraband: He sports one on the cover of his I'm the Man album.
  • Four More Measures: The intros for "Is She Really Going Out With Him?" and "Steppin' Out".
  • Genre Throwback: Joe Jackson's Jumpin' Jive to classic Swing music, predating the 90s Swing revival by a decade.
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  • Green-Eyed Monster: Jackson’s breakthrough hit “Is She Really Going Out With Him” is a guy’s envious lament about how other guys get all the women.
  • Homage Shot: The cover of Jackson's Body and Soul album is a recreation of the cover of jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins' 1957 album Vol. 2.
  • "I Want" Song: A young man leaves his dying industrial hometown to seek rock stardom in “Down to London”.
  • Imagine Spot: Heartbreakingly, in the video for "Steppin' Out".
  • Kansas City Shuffle: “Look Sharp” starts with the narrator listening to an unheard series of warnings about how he’s going to be eaten alive by the big bad world. It ends on a different note:
    Big shot, thanks a lot, gotta go, it’s getting late
    I got a date with my tailor now, thanks for putting me so straight
    Tell me how they rob me blind on every street
    But check your watch and wallet now before I go and you’re too late.
  • Live Album: Big World was recorded live, although the audience sounds were mostly mixed out. He's had several more conventional live albums since then.
  • Love Hurts: “Breaking Us In Two” is about two people who can never make it work. Also counts as a Break-Up Song.
  • Plot Twist: In the aforementioned video for "Steppin' Out", it turns out Joe Jackson was pretending to be a composer, leaving his hotel room before the real composer came back, as a parallel to the maid's fantasy.
  • Protest Song: “Right and Wrong” is a protest song about Reagan-era foreign policy.
  • A Real Man Is a Killer: The last verse of “Real Men” examines this attitude.
  • Second Love: "Be My Number Two" is about trying to find it.
  • Strawman News Media: “Sunday Papers”.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: If the narrator of "Is She Really Going Out With Him?" is to believed, he witnesses a lot of pretty women who indeed go out with ugly men that look more gorilla-like.
  • What Does She See in Him?: "Is She Really Going Out with Him?", again.


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