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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 made quite a Creator's Oddball, 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 shoeless for the Chicago Black Sox. His debut album wasn't recorded by Roxette.

Studio discography:

  • Look Sharp! (1979)
  • I'm the Man (1979)
  • Beat Crazy (1980)
  • Joe Jackson's Jumpin' Jive (1981)
  • Night and Day (1982)
  • Body and Soul (1984)
  • Big World (1986)
  • Will Power (1987)
  • Blaze of Glory (1989)
  • Laughter & Lust (1991)
  • Night Music (1994)
  • Heaven & Hell (1997)
  • Symphony No. 1 (1999)
  • Night and Day II (2000)
  • Volume 4 (2003)
  • Rain (2008)
  • The Duke (2012)
  • Fast Forward (2015)
  • Fool (2019)

Don't you wonder what we'll find tropin' out tonight?

  • 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
  • Bait-and-Switch: The music video for "Steppin' Out" has Joe Jackson as a pianist performing and singing the song on a piano while a maid pretends to be a debutante. Turns out Jackson is not a pianist — he, too, was pretending to be someone he was not.
  • Big Applesauce: "Steppin' Out" was Joe's love letter to New York City, where he had just begun living at the time. He'd live there for nearly 25 years, but left in 2006 because of the smoking bans.
  • Break-Up Song: "Breaking Us In Two".
  • Camp Gay/Manly Gay: "Real Men" attacks the stereotypes. He himself is bisexual.
    All the gays are macho
    Can't you see their leather shine?
  • 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.
  • Fantasy Keepsake: At the end of "Steppin' Out", Joe finds the rose dropped by the maid's fantasy persona.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Night and Day is divided into a "Night Side" and a "Day Side".
  • "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".
  • I'm a Man; I Can't Help It: This argument is used in "Biology" by the narrator to justify cheating on his girlfriend. Subverted that his girlfriend is also cheating and throws the same arguments in his face.
  • 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.
  • Lyric Dissonance: "Cancer" is a lively song with a Latin jazz beat about how everything gives you cancer.
  • New Sound Album: Night and Day marked a shift from energetic New Wave Music and Power Pop to swing-tinged Sophisti-Pop, a change that would define the rest of Jackson's output.
  • No Bisexuals: The main theme of "Real Men". Joe Jackson was frustrated with having to choose between being straight or gay, and hated labels and gay stereotypes, and the hypocrisy behind it. Jackson himself would only come out as bisexual in 1999.
    You don't want to sound dumb, don't want to offend
    So don't call me a faggot not unless you are a friend
    Then if you're tall and handsome and strong
    You can wear the uniform and I could play along
  • N-Word Privileges: Jackson, a bisexual man, openly uses the word "faggot" in the anti-biphobia song "Real Men". In the same line, he discusses this trope's applicability to himself, asking that the listener not refer to him with the slur if they're not already a friend of his.
  • 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.
  • Shallow Cannot Comprehend True Love: "Is She Really Going Out With Him?" is a song about a shallow man who's baffled and angered by all the women he sees going out with "unattractive" men instead of him
  • Stop Being Stereotypical: The main themes of "Real Men" and "A Slow Song".
  • 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.