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Michael Jackson - Thriller

2009-02-12 13:35
 
Thriller (Epic, 1982)
 

You could reel off the stats: the record-breaking eight Grammy Awards; the seven American Music Awards; the estimated 109 million copies sold worldwide to date. There's also that 3/4 of a million dollar recording budget. You could also consider how Thriller changed culture: "Billie Jean" was the first video by a black artist to receive regular airplay on MTV which in turn helped to bring music from African-American artists back onto mainstream radio in America for the first time since the Motown heyday of the mid-1970s.

You could also mention how Thriller made fantasy and the suspension of disbelief – concepts previously associated with the movies - an integral part of popular music. And yes, you could talk about that video. Everybody saw it, everybody knew it, everybody was stunned by it. And what about the otherworldliness of Jacko's jaw-dropping moonwalk? Everybody saw it, everybody knew it, everybody tried it. And let's not forget those countless anecdotes - like Sri Lankan electro-pop poster girl M.I.A's story of arriving in London with three English words in her vocab: "mango," "elephant" and "Michael Jackson."

Ulltimately though, it's the music that makes Thriller so seminal. Released on November 30, 1982, this follow-up to his 1979 hit album Off the Wall shows a young disco soul punk with loads of promise finally becoming Pop's biggest star. After more than a decade in the game, Michael was ready for success. Hell at 21 and finally free from his dad's oppressive managerial clutches he wanted it bad. And you can hear it. Gone is the carefree, boyish call onto the disco dance floor of 1979's "Can't Stop Til You Get Enough". In its place is a set of super slick, pop fantasies about picking up girls, getting laid, and living life large.

Legend has it that Michael was so obsessed with every song on the album being a hit that he almost drove producer Quincy Jones to distraction by culling down a whopping 300 song shortlist to the final 9 track selection. But he came close. His perfectionism paid dividends. Seven singles peaked in the Billboard Hot 100's Top 10. The album's genre  shattering fusion of audacious electro funk ("Wanna" Be Startin' Somethin'", "Billie Jean"), sublime disco rock alchemy ("Beat It" and its demonically addictive guitar riff courtesy of Eddie Van Halen), soulful pop simplicity ("The Girl is Mine" with Paul McCartney no less), B-movie soundtrack spectacle ("Thriller") and edgy R&B ("P.Y.T.") became the chart-topping template for successive generations of pop megastars to come. Justin Timberlake, Madonna, Usher, Britney and Rihanna all borrowed more than just a dance move from the pages of Thriller's urban pop blueprint, while super-producers Timbaland and Pharrell Williams funnelled more than a lick or spliced sample into their own future funky hit recipes.

Finally though,Thriller’s appeal pivots around the emotions it evokes. It's about being spun around only to go "ow!" in a high-pitched voice because you've smacked straight into the primal power of pop music at its most mercurial: Michael at his most scandalous ("P.Y.T."), his most funky ("Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'"), his most vulnerable ("Human Nature"), his cheekiest ("Beat It"), his breathiest, most achingly sexy and paranoid ("Billie Jean"), and of course, his most thrilling ("Thriller").

Sure it broke records: biggest-selling album ever; the birth of urban pop…blah, blah, blah. But let's forget the Guinness book. Thriller's legacy is simple: it's the most influential album of the last century, period.

What to read next: Kalahari

Read more on:    michael jackson  |  thriller
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(Comments may be edited or deleted at the Channel24 editors’ discretion)
Deleon 2009-02-12 10:24 AM
Sadly though he's wacky antics are over shadowing his successes. The king of pop is no more.
Gina 2009-02-12 11:30 AM
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I first bought this album when it first came out in the early 1980's. LP. Played it sooo often that I could sing along to allthe words of every song. Everytime I hear a song played from this album I get sooo nostalgic. Beautiful memories. Remember all the peple I used to sind and boggie with to these songs. Yes I agree ONE HELL OF AN ALBUM. No one has come close to competing with this one. I now have it on CD.
Fan 2009-02-12 01:30 PM
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Even though he has messed-up his appearance and rep. He still has a "king of Pop" voice. I enjoy all his albums and this was one of his best.
DG 2009-02-12 01:37 PM
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The greatest singer that ever lived - I have the 25 special edition, the original CD, original LP + Thriller 7 single, thriller on VHS, ++++++++++
A Fan 2009-02-12 03:27 PM
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Everybody is still copying michael jackson. The way he dances, the way he sings. For example Justin Timberlake, he tries to sing like micheal and dance like him too and there is many more. I know he does not look like much anymore and he messed up his rep. But you have to give him praise where it is needed he is tallented.
Munoo 2009-02-12 03:47 PM
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This man is a legend!!!! His music is AWESOME!
DJ 2009-02-12 06:40 PM
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The most ground-breaking album in the past 25 years was not Thriller but Dangerous. All the modern hip-hop influence stems from that CD. check Timbaland and co's sound and listen to Dangerous
Gstar 2009-06-30 05:15 PM
Deleon-The King of Pop no more? You gotta be kidding me right?? Nothing has overshadowed Michael Jacksons music, if it did, then tell me why after 25 years is Triller still the biggest selling album ever! His music transcends social and racial barriers,age barriers, class barriers,global barriers! Everywhere in the world, people love and adore him.Not just because he was a musical genuis, but because everyone can relate to his music at somepoint in their life. So to say that his 'wacky antics mostly' fuelled by the media has overshadowed his success, is grossly untrue!
ANN DE KOKER 2009-07-01 12:09 PM
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It is still not real that Michael is dead and It is so sad that all the negative of his estate and specially the news about his children is focussed on in a time where we should rather look at what he has done for music and the contributions he made that has changed Millions of people around the world
ANN DE KOKER 2009-07-01 12:14 PM
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It is still not real that Michael has passed away.It is the biggest lost to the world and to the music industry. It is also very sad that such a lot of negative news are revealed in a time where he rather should be respected for what he has done to change music and millions of people around the world
Dallian 2009-10-06 04:30 PM
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There is no one like MJ.There will not be another to fill his shoes even the likes of Usher(u can dance bot but when Micheal dances) u dont come close
Hugh 2010-01-14 09:12 PM
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This album was too overrated. George Michael and Madonna are better than MJ.
kerry 2010-01-24 02:40 PM
I honestly have to admit that Bad, Dangerous and Invincible are my favorite albums over Thriller. I could listen to those somgs over and over again and NEVER tire of them. That is what made this man the 'king of pop' and he will forever retain that title.
Natalie 2010-02-21 02:05 AM
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Michael Jackson is the man!! No one is better than him. This album is a legend just like the man..madonna sucks
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