40th Anniversary of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’

Breakdown of A Timeless Album

On November 30, 1982, beloved artist Michael Jackson followed up his breakout solo album ‘Off the Wall’ with the release of an even bigger, edgier themed hit in ‘Thriller’, his sixth solo studio album. The album featured seven total singles that were huge successes for Jackson, including “The Girl is Mine”, “Billie Jean”, “Beat it”, “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ “, “Human Nature”, “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” and of course the biggest song of Michael Jackson’s entire discography “Thriller”. The single is the best seller for MJ, at ten million copies sold in the U.S. alone. Not to mention, that the ‘Thriller’ album sold 70 million copies globally, making it the bestselling album of all time, and some claim that the real sales are actually over 100 million! Needless to say, the album was a commercial supernova, fueled by the phenomenal talent of Michael Jackson, and producer, Quincy Jones.

Looking at the album subjectively may even serve to boost its status. Jackson stated that he intended this album to have “every song as a killer”, which is surely seen through its revolutionary pop and funk content. The album starts off incredibly strong with the longest song of the album “Wanna Be Startin Somethin’”, which is filled with funk and energy symbolizing the post-disco period. Quincy Jones’ bass on the song impressively adds to the exciting atmosphere laying on the E key with the addition of a machine drum and a sample from Manu Dibango’s “Soul Makossa”, further pulling from the disco era for this album. Surprisingly, the song was not originally intended for him, but for his sister LaToya Jackson. The song is a direct commentary on the media grasping for straws and looking to magnetize drama in Michael Jackson’s life. The dynamic and hyperactive song was followed up by “Baby Be Mine”, a much slower and desperate song, dropping from the previous 122 bpm to 110 bpm and including much more trumpets, horns and synths, instilling an airy and warm mood. Only two songs in, there are already two great songs for two different mindsets a listener could be in. The album proceeds with “The Girl is Mine” featuring legendary Beatle, Paul McCartney. Jackson credits this as one of his most enjoyable songs to make, saying “we just literally had fun”, the chemistry in the song is tangible as both incredible singers go back and forth arguing over a girl on the record, and apparently watched cartoons together when they were not in the booth. The big three is next with “Thriller”, “Beat it” and “Billie Jean”. Words cannot describe how valuable and pivotal these collections of songs are, with the iconic “Thriller” music video by John Landis and horror choreography done by Michael Peters, the gritty “Beat it” video with real gang members in the video to stay realistic and a mind-altering performance on guitar by Eddie Van Halen and Billie Jean, in which the moonwalk came to fame! It is impossible not to take a slight step down after those three megahits, but “Human Nature” and “Carousel” are still strong ten that serve to close the album beautifully.

Overall, the album is easily a ten, with unforgettable choruses, harmonization, choreography, guitar solos, beats by Quincy Jones, writing by Rod Temperton and an overall legacy defining performance by Michael Jackson. This album is not just important to pop-funk, pop or music, it is a staple in artistry all over the world and will never be forgotten.

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