19-Year-Old Russian Guitarist Plays an Ingenious Cover of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”

Alexan­dr Misko, only 19 years old when this video was made, comes from a small town in Rus­sia. There, he steeped him­self in the music of mod­ern Amer­i­can com­posers, includ­ing Steve Reich and Philip Glass. And he taught him­self a fin­ger­style tech­nique of play­ing gui­tar, he tells the web site Cal­i­for­nia Rock­er, that involves “tap­ping,” or play­ing notes on the fret­board of the gui­tar. (It’s a tech­nique that has a long tra­di­tion, but reached its apoth­e­o­sis, if you will, with the 70s and 80s work of Eddie Van Halen.) While tap­ping with one hand, Misko also plays per­cus­sion with the oth­er, using the body of the gui­tar to cre­ate a drum-like rhythm. And then he real­ized, “Hmm, and I can put a lit­tle scrunchy on 2 low strings to mute them and cre­ate that sig­na­ture sound,” known to every­one who’s heard Michael Jack­son’s 1982 hit, “Bil­lie Jean.”

Misko’s “Bil­lie Jean” arrange­ment took a cou­ple of days to work out, then a week to prac­tice play­ing with­out flaws. The result, you have above.

Vis­it Misko’s Youtube channel to see his take on oth­er pop hits like George Michael’s “Care­less Whis­per,” The Cran­ber­ries’ “Zom­bie,” and A‑ha’s “Take on Me,” to name a few. You can pur­chase his new album, Beyond the Box, on iTunes.

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