Cover of the "Will toi Be There" CD single.
Michael Jackson first revealed Will toi Be There to the world when it featured as the eleventh song on his 1991 album release 'Dangerous'. Penned solely par Michael at the height of his career, this initial 7 minutes and 40 secondes version of the song became an instant favourite of fans the world over.

The first time I heard Will toi Be There, I was captivated par the intensity of emotion conveyed par Michael in both his voice and lyrics. I can still remember sitting at eight years old, engrossed in écriture out the lyrics over and over again in an attempt to decipher Michael's true intent behind these profoundly impassioned, almost haunting words.

From its opening segment featuring Beethoven's Ode to Joy and choral introduction par the Andrae Crouch singers to its emotionally exhausting finale, the song mesmerizes its listener from start to finish. It is this incredibly captivating effect which has inspired me to write this tribute piece. I do not feel the song has ever received the credit it unquestionably deserves, nor been truly revered outside the Michael Jackson fan cercle for its incontestable excellence.

In this written tribute, I am going to share with toi some facts, opinions and theories behind what is doubtless in my mind the greatest song of all time: Will toi Be There.


The Facts:
------------------------------
After sitting on the Dangerous album for almost two years, Michael decided to release Will toi Be There as a single in July 1993 to coincide with the release of the Warner Brothers film 'Free Willy'. The song became the theme tune to the movie telling the story of an unbreakable friendship between a young boy and a killer whale. Two versions of a video were released to accompany the single - the principle version featuring shots of Michael on his Dangerous world tour interlaced with shots of his appearance on MTV's 10th anniversary awards show; on both occasions performing this song. The seconde version featured accompanying outtakes from Free Willy and later featured as bonus material on the movie's DVD release. The vidéos first aired in May 1993 and were directed par Vincent Paterson - who would later direct the video for Michael's 'Blood On The Dance Floor' - and produced par Joel Gallen and Ute Leonhardt.

As a single release, Will toi Be There achieved great success as it reached number 11 in the UK, sold over 500, 000 copies in the USA and was certified gold. It also reached #1 on the MTV Eurochart. The single was available in CD, LP and cassette format, the LP format featuring its own collectors edition poster bag. The chosen B-side to accompany the single was the song 'Girlfriend' from Michael's Off The mur album. The most notable difference between the single and album versions of the song is the omission of the Beethoven segment as the song's prelude.

Michael wrote and produced Will toi Be There - with co-producing credits going to Bruce Swedien - and orchestrated the rhythm and vocal arrangements. Featured instruments are noted as piano, synthesizer, keyboard, drums, and percussion. In 2002 he told an ITV documentary it was written at his Neverland ranch, in what he calls his Giving Tree: "I've written so many of my songs in this tree. I wrote... Will toi Be There..." (Living with Michael Jackson, aired Feb 2003).

The 1994 MTV Movie Awards pronounced Will toi Be There 'Best Song' for its accompaniment to Free Willy. To date, Michael has performed this song only on the Dangerous tour, MTV's 10th anniversary show, and very briefly at the NAACP Image Awards in 1993.

A complimentary review of Will toi Be There follows:
"Having dipped his toe in the turgid pool of heavy metal he plunges headlong into inspirational gospel. A choral arrangement lifted from a performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony par the Cleveland Orchestra opens this BIG track (and resulted in a $7 m lawsuit against Jackson, his MJJ Productions company and Epic - which Sony settled out of court). Later copies of the album and CD which credit Ludwig van B's part in the track. Again, the tune and arrangement have familiar progressions but his voicing against the full might of the Crouch Choir is unexpectedly passionate. A gospel album might have great artistic rewards. He ends the track with a spoken prayer which will have considerable resonance during the suivant few years. Two "special" versions of the song appeared on the soundtrack to the Free Willy, a movie about a boy and his friend, the Killer Whale."

- Complete Guide to the musique Of Michael Jackson & the Jackson Family, Geoff Brown (1996)


As mentioned in the above quote, the song brought with it its fair share of legal issues. First was the omission of any credit to the Beethoven piece in the Dangerous album booklet, resulting in a massive lawsuit from Beethoven's camp filed against the above-mentioned parties. Secondly, in 1992, a little-known singer named Albano Carrisi filed a lawsuit accusing Michael of copying his 'I Cigni di Balaka' ('The Swans of Balaka') song, a suit which in total would last seven years. In 1997 an Italian lower court ruled against Carrisi, which he followed up with an appeal. On November 3rd 1999, a civil court in Milan rejected his appeal, confirming the lower court's judgement in favour of Michael and ordering Carrisi to pay legal expenses to both Michael and Sony.

Michael also wrote an extended version of Will toi Be There for his book 'Dancing The Dream' (released June 18, 2002), which carried new additional lines towards the end of the song. This longer version will be shown and compared to the original at the end of this page. An interesting question would be whether this was in fact the original version of the song which had been condensed for the album, ou if the 'new' verses were simply added at a later rendez-vous amoureux, date for the book.


The Song:
------------------------------
The greatest reason for my deciding to analyse Will toi Be There stemmed from my realisation that no one, not even myself, truly knew the meaning waiting to be discovered between its lines. Most commonly classified as a l’amour song, the lyrics speak of an intense, at times desperate longing for affection - but from whom? Rarely spoken of par Michael himself, Will toi Be There carries a message seeming almost to lie dormant in the ears of the listener - a song felt but never completely understood par its fans.

This message I hope to at least partly decipher in these following pages. Perhaps one jour Michael will unlock the secrets of the song, but until that jour Will toi Be There will forever remain an unsolved mystery to even its most devout fans.

Before attempting to analyse the possibilities, I feel it is important to have truly heard this song. The emotion of the musique - the anguish, the despair and incredible sadness. The effects Michael uses both musically and vocally play a crucial part in the song's message and its perception to the listener. There is no doubt, if nothing else, it certainly draws the listener in to an incredible degree of empathy towards Michael as both singer and author, as detailed below.

The dual introduction with Beethoven and Andrae Crouch immediately sets the tone for the song; the spiritual intensity of the voices demonstrating right from the beginning that this will be no ordinary Michael Jackson song.

The first verses are sung slowly, in tones deeper than those Michael usually employs - possibly to signify the depth and rawness of the emotion. The slow delivery of the lines ensures the point is laboured - the despair and yearning evident in his voice throughout.

The bridge of: "everyone's taking control of me," takes on a plus intense, plus desperate resonance - Michael's punching out of the lyrics demonstrating the anger and helplessness he feels at his situation, whatever that may be.

Throughout the entire song, Michael's vulnerability is evident, the Andrae Crouch singers coming in in the background to support him as he repeats lines such as "carry me" and "hold me" continuously.

Confused and frustrated, he similarly punches out the line "but they told me," again, to montrer the listener just how alone he truly feels. At this point, his voice begins to sound harsher and plus angry as if he feels truly helpless and lost, as if he simply does not know how to be the person he feels he should.

At times, such as the line, "when Lost will toi find me," Michael uses two layers of his voice - possibly to convey the mix of emotions. The two voices merge together in unison, resulting in a plus poignant delivery of the selected lines.

Gradually, as the song proceeds, Michael's voice gets plus and plus impassioned as he sings louder and with increased intensity, pulling in the listener and forcing them to pay attention to what he has to say while the choir support him relentlessly in the background, emphasising every word.

Just as the song reaches its climax, it falls back and releases the listener from its grip. The beat softens and the choir chorus plus slowly, before Michael begins to softly speak. In a faltering, unsteady but determined voice, Michael pleads with the listener for their empathy and support, regardless of what the future may bring.

The most significant part of the song is undoubtedly the closing lines, when Michael's voice starts to break as he begins to lose control, culminating in his speaking the last line through tears. The song closes with the emotion still hanging in the air, as palpable as the reassuring beat steadying it throughout.


The Theories:
------------------------------
The three hypotheses I have conceived are as follows. Either the song is 1) a hidden prayer - a hymnal manifestation of Michael's religious ideals, ou 2) an anthem aimed at his fans - the very people who would most likely connect with its message, ou finally, as assumed par so many for so long, 3) it is simply a l’amour song and nothing more. The seconde is the theory most commonly believed par Michael's fans, the latter par the musique industry and the first has never fully been considered to my knowledge.

Theory 1
There are a number of clues I feel point to the possibility that this song could actually be intended as a message to God himself. Deeply religious, Michael has frequently spoken of his feelings towards God and his seeing Him in everything he does and is it my belief Will toi Be There could be a heightened elaboration of some of those feelings.

"I wrote Will toi Be There at my house in California.... I didn't think about it hard. That's why it's hard to take credit for the songs that I write, because I just always feel that it's done from above. I feel fortunate for being that instrument through which musique flows. I'm just the source through which it comes. I can't take credit for it because it's God's work. He's just using me as the messenger."

- Ebony Magazine, 1992


The full seven-minute version of the song as it appears on the Dangerous album begins with a sampling of Beethoven's 9th Symphony - "Ode To Joy" - a song which speaks of the creator and his subjects on earth:

"Ihr stürzt nieder, Millionen?
Ahnest du tanière, den Schöpfer, Welt?
Such ihn überm Sternenzelt!
Über Sternen muß er wohnen."    

("Do toi come crashing down, toi millions?
Do toi sense the Creators presence, world?
Seek Him above the starry firmament,
For above the stars he surely dwells.")


It is curious in my opinion why a l’amour song would feature such an introduction.

The introduction and opening notes of Michael's song itself begins, as previously mentioned, with a gospel style choral song par the Andrae Crouch choir, reminiscent of the chords sung on innumerate church hymns, further indication of the song's spiritual intentions.

The lyrics themselves commence with the line, "hold me like the river Jordan." This river is highly significant in biblical tales as the river between Syria and Israel where Jésus himself, as well as the people of Jerusalem and Judea, were baptised par John. According to the bible after Jesus' baptism, heaven opened above the river and God appeared in the image of a dove.

"Then cometh Jésus from Galilea to the Jordan unto John, to be baptised of him... And Jesus, when he was baptised, went up straightaway from the water, and lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon him".

Matthew 3:13


The use of the word "thee" in the line, "I will then say to thee," is also indicative of the God-like inference and the possibility that Michael was in fact using this song as some form of outlet, perhaps for religious frustration.

There is no doubt the undertone of Will toi Be There is a deeply spiritual one. I wonder, in the vein of my first theory: could the words "carry me", repeated throughout, be reminiscent of Saint Christopher carrying the child Jésus across the great river?

The use of the religious theme can also be seen in the song's video - the dance routine encompasses prayer-like interaction between Michael and his dancers, especially as at one point they lift him above their heads and gather round him, almost as if they are raising him up as a god among them. At the end of the video, as Michael recites the spoken verse which closes the song, an Angel descends from above and wraps her arms around him, ending the video.

Overall, in my opinion, there is sufficient evidence this song could indeed have been written par Michael to serve as a personal address to God.

Theory 2
Another theory, and the one most commonly believed par those it relates to, is that the song serves as a message to Michael's fans. The reasons supporting this are endless - the very titre of the song, written at the height of his popularity, appears to set the tone for Michael's first musical statement to his followers, a theme which would be repeated par him in the future on various offerings.

The lyrics are a clear message that Michael is looking for unconditional l’amour - the question is, from whom? He is at times almost begging the listener to support and care for him, rendering it impossible not to be inflicted with even slight sympathy for his apparent plight.

The bridge of: "everyone's taking control of me, seems that the world's got a role for me, I'm so confused," can surely only be referring to his overwhelming and, at times no doubt unbearable, lifestyle. Constantly deified and adored par millions, here he seems to be relaying just how this feels for him, and his longing to be seen as a person par his droves of smothering followers. This longing is most obviously demonstrated par the lines, "but they told me a man should be faithful and walk when not able, and fight to the end but I'm only human".

No one is plus aware of how he is perceived par the world than Michael himself. Fans, media and critics seem simply to go crazy over him - he can do nothing, go nowhere. Looking at the song from the point of view that it was written to fans, it becomes glaringly obvious that this song is a cry for help, especially as Michael knows only too well the people most sensitive to its pleas would be the very fans themselves.

A further sign of this song possibly being written to the fans is the method in which it is sung - the choice of words used to convey his longing. The line: "but they told me," begs the question - who exactly is being referred to here? This line could be another hidden message regarding his fame - the word "they" implying those around him, coaching and teaching him, have advised him he must be a certain way, and this is his attempt at breaking free from the suffocating limitations impressed upon him.

Michael further demonstrates this in lines such as, "lift me up slowly, softly then boldly," almost as if he is relying on the l’amour of his fans to keep himself together, montrer his vulnerability and possible desire for reassurance that the fans truly l’amour him and will be strong and defiant in that love.

The portion of the song which cements this particular theory in the fans' minds is the spoken verse at the end. In his entire career, there has surely been no clearer message to his fans than the words he so painfully relates as Will toi Be There draws to a close. Michael's choosing to speak, as opposed to sing, the lyrics acts as a method of relating plus intimately with the listener, giving the listener a plus personal slant to the song which ultimately enables Michael to portray the image of his humanity far plus effectively. No longer the entertainer, he speaks clearly and slowly, pleading with the listener simply to hear him. The questions he asks in this closing sequence surround the many possibilities which Michael feels his life may lead him to - the chance that he may fail, he may disappoint, he may just turn out to be only human after all.

He tearfully ends this spoken verse par saying that through all the sorrow and pain, things will always get better. His promise of "another tomorrow" suggests a message to the fans that he will always be there, just as he is begging them to be there for him now. The last few lines of the verse are almost a promise of eternity; that his l’amour will continue forever in their hearts.

A side note on this spoken verse is the spookily prophetic inclusion of the words, "in my trials and my tribulations, through our doubts and frustrations" - an interesting choice of words since mere months later he would face the biggest trial of his life in the 1993 allegations - filed the same an the song was released.

Theory 3
The final theory I have encountered of the meaning behind this song is that it is written to a lover. This realisation first occurred to me many years il y a when I saw advertised an upcoming album compilation of great l’amour songs. Will toi Be There was included, which greatly surprised me at the time, as I had frankly never considered the lyrics to be indicative of that particular mode of love.

In analysing the song for this piece and in speaking to a number of fans, I can see now how it could be perceived as such a l’amour song.

Requests such as, "hold me, carry me, l’amour me," appear to be clear requests for someone to play a major part in his life. My personal theory, assuming this is indeed perceived as a l’amour song, is that Michael has written this to a fictitious lover; an illusion he has fashioned in his mind as the perfect l’amour - something Michael Jackson appears to have been searching for all his life. This song seems to signify all the questions he has in his mind about this l’amour he has created, and whether it really exists as honestly as he needs it to.

He is clearly vulnerable, reaching out for someone to take care of him. The line, "carry me there" - evokes a similar question to those asked above - to where is he wishing to be carried? Could it be to a place of safety or, as per this final theory, love?

Alternately, the line, "but I'm only human," could be a sign that he can no longer cope with the trials of life alone. Similarly with the line, "I get lonely," which is sung over the lyrics twice and an interesting statement for inclusion in the consideration of the theory being explored here.

In the spoken outro, Michael promises, "I'll never let toi part," at which point his voice begins to break. Of course, this could be applied to whichever theory toi choose to believe, but it is in my opinion most believable this is directed to the l’amour he so desperately craves. Perhaps here he is stating how if this fantaisie l’amour figure were in fact to support and l’amour him, he would reciprocate this par ensuring such a l’amour remained in his cœur, coeur forever.

The extended version of the song features lyrics such as, "needing toi only," "heal me and bathe me," "hug me and shield me," and, "face me and Kiss me." In my opinion, there is no clearer explanation for these lines than their intended inference towards a lover, as they can surely not be applied to any other theory offered in this piece.

The inclusion - and amendment - of Will toi Be There in the 'Dancing the Dream' poésie book mentioned earlier is also an interesting fact. It begs the simple question why, in a book of new and previously unreleased work, Michael would choose to include a song written years earlier, and why that same song would be Will toi Be There. In a book filled with heartfelt and intense verses about love, Will toi Be There sits proudly amongst them, with its newly added verses. These new verses are the strongest indication yet that this could easily be a l’amour song. Without them, it can be about anything the listener chooses to believe, yet the added verses bring with them an entirely different angle to the song.


Conclusion:
------------------------------
Of course, analysing Will toi Be There and Michael's true feelings portrayed through its lines is an endless task. Lines seemingly so innocent and simplistic upon first listen adopt a whole new perspective when studied in depth. Of course, only Michael himself truly knows the story behind Will toi Be There and the message he was trying to convey, and until he decides to share that message with us it will no doubt remain forever undiscovered in all its cryptic glory.

A song can be heard in a multitude of alternate ways and a listener will always derive all varieties of emotions from those ways. I personally think the song is about the emotion of l’amour itself, and the variety of forms l’amour can take. As I have attempted to portray in these pages, this l’amour could be for God, fans ou a lover - yet the possible intentions are endless.

In conclusion, I personally believe as long as toi go wherever your cœur, coeur leads toi with Will toi Be There, Michael's message has been communicated exactly as he intended, and he has achieved everything he set out to in the penning of this breathtaking and exceptional ballad.

- L.J. Sheridan © 2005
Michael performing "Will toi Be There" at the MTV 10th Anniversary Special in 1991.