Song and Lyrics by Michael Jackson
Music by Rene Moore, Bruce Swedien, Michael Jackson and Teddy Riley
Produced by Michael Jackson for MJJ Productions, Inc., Teddy Riley and Bruce Swedien
Executive Producer: Michael Jackson
From the album Dangerous, released November 28, 1991
Released as a single July 13, 1992
THE SHORT FILM
Director: David Kellogg
Primary Production Location: Chicago, Illinois
Michael Jackson’s short film for “Jam” was the fourth of nine short films produced for recordings from Dangerous, Michael’s fourth album as an adult solo performer. As a single, “Jam” reached the Top 10 in France, Ireland and New Zealand upon original release, and topped the charts in Spain in 2006. In the United States, the song reached the Top 5 of Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Songs and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts. The song also received two Grammy Award nominations for Best R&B Vocal Performance – Male and Best R&B Song.
For the “Jam” short film, which featured appearances from rappers Heavy D (who raps on the original track) and Kris Kross, Michael came up with a one-of-a-kind concept that would star him and professional basketball player Michael Jordan. The 29-year-old Jordan was the “MJ” of the sports world in more than just initials: at the time “Jam” was released as a single, Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to their second consecutive National Basketball Association championship (a third would follow in 1993, followed by an additional “three-peat” between 1996 and 1998). He was also part of the history-making “Dream Team” which earned the United States a gold medal in basketball at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.
Jordan admitted that he nearly turned down the co-starring role in “Jam.” “First I said, ‘I don’t know if I want to do this, because this guy’s going to try to get me out there to dance, and that’s going to be really embarrassing,’” Jordan said in an interview at the time. “But then I said: ‘Well, shoot, it’s Michael Jackson. When would you ever get an opportunity to get to know him socially for a little bit, and yet at the same time, get to do his video?’ So I changed my mind and went on and did it.”
Shot on location on the South Side of Chicago, the short film’s producer, Phil Rose, told ESPN in 2013 that the shoot was disguised on documentation sent to local police as a Hellman’s Mayonnaise commercial, in order to not draw attention to the star power of the short film. “The call sheet itself, we kept [the actual video details] off there; we kept it off of the crew lists,” Rose recalled. “Anything that had any kind of printed material on it was basically listed as a mayonnaise commercial.” (Security was increased once the police learned the truth.)
With no script, director David Kellogg spent much of the time capturing both Michaels in candid moments, such as playing one-on-one basketball and Jordan receiving impromptu dance lessons from Michael. “It really was kind of more documentary filmmaking than composed filmmaking,” Rose said. “It was so surreal.”
Kellogg was particularly taken by Michael Jackson’s energy as a performer, in spite of Michael suffering from the flu during the shoot. “When it came time to shoot he pulled it together in such a remarkable way,” Kellogg told Rolling Stone in 2014. “We’d crank the music and he would step up with such passion and energy and snap that, honestly, it would send chills up my spine…Standing 0 feet away from this was inspirational…We’re griping about standing on our tired feet and lunch break, and this guy goes from zero to 100 with the flip of a switch.”
Michael’s kinetic moves earned “Jam” a nomination for Best Choreography at the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards, and Rolling Stone later ranked the short film as Michael’s 20th best in 2014.