|Released April 18, 1980|
|Format 7" single|
|B-side "Push Me Away" (with The Jacksons, UK)
"Get on the Floor" (U.S.)|
Recorded December 1978 – June 1979
"She's Out of My Life" is a song written by American songwriter Tom Bahler and performed by American recording artist Michael Jackson. Although it has been claimed that Bahler wrote the song about the late Karen Carpenter, Bahler stated, "The fact is, I had already written that song by the time Karen and I became romantic. That song was written more about Rhonda Rivera... Rhonda and I had been together for two years, and it was after we broke up that I started dating Karen." The song has been covered by a variety of artists, including Patti LaBelle, Ginuwine, 98°, S Club 7, Barbara Mandrell, Daniel Evans, Nina, Willie Nelson, Josh Groban, and Karel Gott.
Jackson's version was released as the fourth single from his 1979 album Off the Wall. It peaked at number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, marking the first time any solo artist had ever achieved four Top 10 hits from one album. In America, it earned a million-selling Gold 45. Unlike the album's previous singles, which were all uptempo dance-oriented funk and disco songs, "She's Out of My Life" was an emotional ballad. The song has a tempo of 66 beats per minute, making it one of Jackson's slowest songs. Jackson's vocals on the record were considered by critics to be some of his best.
The demo version of the song, which features Jackson singing with a guitar, was released in the second disc of the album This Is It (2009).
A poignant moment in the song occurs near the end when Jackson begins to break down in tears as he sings the word "life". Given the popular response to his emotional rendition, the song remained in Jackson's live set for many years. Although he had attempted to record the song's last few moments with emotional restraint, after numerous tries he continued to end the rendition the same - by breaking down in tears. Producer Quincy Jones subsequently let Jackson's tearful recording stand:
She's Out of My Life, I'd been carrying around for about three years—you can feel the pain in it, you know. And I held on to it and finally something said 'this is the right moment to give it to Michael'.
And when we recorded it with Michael, I know it was an experience he'd never even thought about to sing in a song, 'cause it's a very mature emotion. And he cried at the end of every take, you know. We recorded about—I don't know—8-11 takes, and every one at the end, he just cried, and I said 'hey - that's supposed to be, leave it on there.'
—Quincy Jones, Off the Wall 2001 Special Edition, Quincy Jones Interview 3
According to Jackson in Moonwalk, the song is about knowing that barriers separating him from others are seemingly easy to overcome, yet they cause him to miss out on what he really desires. He said that he cried from the sudden effect of the words because "I had been letting so much build up inside me." Particularly it reminded him of his feeling of being "so rich in some experiences while being poor in moments of true joy." He worried about this feeling showing up on the song, but also felt "if it touched people's heartstrings, knowing that would make me feel less lonely." He described making Off the Wall as "one of the most difficult periods of my life...I had very few close friends at the time and felt very isolated." He would walk through his neighborhood, hoping to meet people who didn't know who he was, so he could meet "somebody who would be my friend because they liked me and needed a friend too, not because I was who I am."
Jones wanted Jackson to record material with more mature themes and "feel the full range of his voice," so he brought the song to Jackson's attention, whereas he had originally intended to save the song for Frank Sinatra. Subsequently, the song peaked at #10 in the United States on the Billboard Hot 100. The single was even more successful in the UK and peaked at number 3 on the charts (the equivalent position reached by Off the Wall's debut single "Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough"). A music video was also produced to promote the song, which showed Michael in a blue-green shirt, dark pants, and sitting on a barstool with a spotlight shining behind him.
AllMusic editor Stephen Thomas Erlewine highlighted it and called it "overwrought ballad." Rolling Stone editor Stephen Holden praised: "The singer's ultradramatic phrasing, which takes huge emotional risks and wins every time, wrings the last drop of pathos from Tom Bahler's tear-jerker, "She's Out of My Life."
The music video for the song features Jackson sitting on a stool in a darkened room singing the song, lit by a single spotlight. The video uses a split screen technique to simultaneously show Jackson from two different angles during the second and third verses. It was directed by Bruce Gowers, who also directed a similar video for Jackson's previous single "Rock with You." The video is shown far less frequently than Jackson's later videos, but it is included on the DVD box set Michael Jackson's Vision, marking its first DVD release. It was parodied in the Dr. PC Man video Three Minutes Hour Life.
The song was performed during The Jacksons' Triumph Tour and Victory Tour. It was also performed on Jackson's Bad World Tour, the Dangerous World Tour, and the Royal Brunei concert, which also turned out to be the final live performance of the song. The song was also rehearsed as a duet with a female backup vocalist for the first "Michael Jackson & Friends" charity concert in Seoul, South Korea, but cancelled for the final performance, which took place ten years to the day before Jackson's death.
The live performances of the song were featured on the Live at Wembley July 16, 1988, Live in Bucharest: The Dangerous Tour, and Michael Jackson: Live at Wembley July 16, 1988 DVDs. Live audio is available in the Live at Wembley July 16, 1988 CD, included as a bonus on Bad 25, and the 1981 live album, The Jacksons Live!
- "She's Out of My Life" – 3:38
- "Push Me Away" (with The Jacksons)
- "She's Out of My Life" – 3:38
- "Get on the Floor" – 4:40