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Thriller by Michael Jackson

A record-breaking album by Michael Jackson

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The World's Biggest Selling Album

  • Aug 15, 2009
Everyone knows of Thriller.  It's the biggest selling album of all time.  On a worldwide scale, that is.  I love Thriller, it's a good album overall.  As much as I do like that album... enough to provide it with a five star rating, I do believe that it's a great album.  And if your sales can be propelled so high just thanks to a few songs that's better.  And that's my only real problem with the Thriller album.  The three singles made into music videos along with one or two others songs... are quite incredible.  The album as a whole is incredible.  But only about four songs are really all that memorable.  I'm not knocking Thriller for those fellow Michael Jackson fans, it's just to say that those music videos you saw and some of those songs you heard on the radio (or still hear now) are about as memorable as it gets.

There's something nice about the album, however.  There are nine tracks and they each have many different beats to them.  Most of them will get you up and wanting to dance.  Songs like the title track and the opening number "Wanna' Be Startin' Something" are among the best songs on the album.  In fact, as a result I'm sad "Wanna Be Startin' Something" never got a music video.  Seeing as how this was Michael Jackson in his prime, it might've been a phenomenal music video.  

And the music videos are the real reason Thriller became such a success.  The videos for Billie Jean, Beat It and Thriller (especially Thriller) are fantastic videos.  Without those three videos it is a wonder whether or not the album would've achieved as high of sales.  But let's not deny the talent of Michael Jackson.  It wasn't just about the songs themselves.  It was about performance.  Another reason Thriller became a huge success. 

That's not to say the songs in and of themselves are no good.  As I said, they are.  But I am still advocating that perhaps about half the album isn't as memorable as the four big tracks in and of themselves.  That is to say, that even some of Jackson's future songs you hear on "Bad" and even "Dangerous".  Is Thriller a better album than those two?  Well, sure.  But only because the four memorable songs are far better than just about anything Michael Jackson has ever done.  Let's take a look at each song for itself.

1. Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’
One thing I just about always love on any Jackson album is that the opening track is almost always a good one.  Wanna Be Startin' Somethin is among those four tracks that are so memorable.  It's a long, dark track that sort of sets the tone for the album.  To give us an idea of where we are headed.  This is before Jackson began to overdo it a little.  It's a song you can dance to because it has such an upbeat, funky rhythm to it. 

2. Baby Be Mine
Baby Be Mine is often one of those tracks people forget.  Thriller spawned 7 top ten singles.  Baby Be Mine was not one of them.  It isn't nearly as upbeat as Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'.  Compared to the opening track, Baby Be Mine is very subtle.  It's short and sweet, but probably not one of the songs off of the album you'll find yourself humming.

3. The Girl Is Mine (Featuring Paul McCartney)
And then there's downright awful.  That's right, even Thriller has a terrible track.  The Girl is Mine, for one thing, feels very out of place.  It's very slow and innocent.  Very pure, as well.  This is very strange considering the dark themes of other tracks and the more funky upbeat rhythms you're also getting from the album as a whole.  There are lots of different sounds coming from Thriller, but most of them fit into the scheme of things at least.  The Girl is Mine just feels misplaced.  And, when compared to the rest of the album it's just downright boring.

4. Thriller
Everyone knows the music video.  This is why Thriller is often a very recognizable song.  While it holds firm as one of the greatest music videos out there, it really isn't better than the two songs which follow.  It would still be memorable even without the video just because it works on a level that most of the other songs don't.  It doesn't quite tell a story or express nearly as much as say... "Wanna' Be Startin' Somethin'" or "Billie Jean," but even when hearing the song you get the idea that Thriller just sounded theatrical.  The sound effects and Vincent Price's "rap" at the end are reasons as to why Thriller just wouldn't have sufficed as merely a simple "Music Video" and why it had to be a "Music Movie" in the first place.  There's a theatrical zing to it that makes it fun to listen to.

5. Beat It
Everyone has seen this West Side Story inspired music video I'm sure.  About two rival gangs that are about to brawl... and Jackson comes to break it up with Dancing.  Like The Girl is Mine, it feels out of place on the album.  Unlike The Girl is Mine, it's one of the best songs on the album, and one of the best Jackson has ever done.  Michael Jackson wasn't just about keeping a core audience.  By the time the Thriller album was released, it was clear that Jackson wanted to reach new audiences.  One of those ways was to throw in an all out Rock song.  Yet it still retains dance beats that work out well.  The composition here is genius because it's a song that just about anyone can like.  The lyrics in and of themselves give off just as dark a theme as "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'"  It sort of gives this, "Michael Jackson isn't a kid anymore," kind of tone to it while he still maintains a form of innocence (through those years anyway).  It should also be known that this music video was what broke racial barriers on the album itself.  It's not the best song on the album, but it's damn close.  It is, however, among the most important on the album and a testament to Michael Jackson's own musical genius.  Did he work in gaining fans outside of the funky Motown Base?  You better believe it did.

6. Billie Jean
And of course, there's Billie Jean.  The song which one: Showcased Michael Jackson's extraordinary dance moves (including the moonwalk) and the song which more than anything, tells a story. The inspiration is actually quite real, however.  A woman accused Jackson of fathering just one of her twins (I know, doesn't make sense to me either) and so Jackson made a song based off of it.  And from the moment he crafted it, he knew he had a hit.  Quincy Jones, on the other hand, didn't think so.  In fact, this was one of the tracks Quincy Jones didn't want on the album.  He felt that the song took too long to get started and didn't seem to fond of the chorus either (and also felt that people would think of Billie Jean King).  Jackson, on the other hand, got to keep everything he wanted.  The Chorus, the beginning beats and everything.  And it actually turned out to be the most successful song Jackson ever made.  At least critically.  It's often still a celebrated classic.  It's more subtle than songs such as "Beat It" but still dark in its own manner and very serious when you dig beneath the surface.  The music video in and of itself established Jackson's style.


7. Human Nature
True enough, Michael Jackson did make an album with many different kinds of beats.  Human Nature is subtle.  It's not forgettable but it is rather complicated to place.  It's not quite as dreary as The Girl is Mine, but it also doesn't stick out.  It's not a bad song by any means.  It has a relaxing tone that also runs counter to some of the previous songs.  You won't really find yourself dancing, but Michael Jackson doesn't always have to be about song and dance.  On the other hand, Human Nature is one of those songs that just isn't as much fun to listen to.  It's still a fairly good son in and of itself.

8. P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)

And then we get back to the funky dance beats.  There's a nice upbeat thrill to this song in the way that Baby Be Mine is really up there.  In fact, it's hard not to dance to this song.  Much like some of the other tunes, though, there's not a whole lot about the song that stands out.  It also didn't get a music video.  Which is unfortunate to say the least.  

9. The Lady In My Life

And then there's The Lady in My Life.  While it's a pretty slow song in and of itself it is a rather nice and soothing end to an album that was filled with so much.  You know how some parties and dances at school have to play a slow song so that the couple can have that final dance or something?  This is like that.  At least it would be if the album hadn't been re-released with bonus tracks... twice (in 2001 and later in 2008 with that 25th Anniversary Edition).  But when it was released it was a nice soothing song to end the album.  It's still a nice soothing song, but is also the other forgotten track.  Of Thriller's 9 tracks 7 cracked the top ten on the billboard charts (two of them were number ones--Beat It and Billie Jean).  Baby Be Mine and The Lady in My Life were left out in the dust.  I like to think The Lady in My Life is underrated.  It's a tender and sweet song. 

In the end it is a good album.  But the question really becomes... of all the nine songs which ones are the ones people remember and which ones are the ones that people know each and every lyric to?  No doubt some know them all, but the only songs which are really memorable are Wanna Be Startin' Somethin', Thriller, Beat It and Billie Jean.  The rest of the album isn't weak... just not memorable.  They're fun songs when you play the album but those four in particular are really the only ones that you want to listen to over and over and over again.  The album is also short and sweet (the standard version) clocking in at just over 43 minutes.  

So is it an awesome album?  Oh yeah.  It is.  But the five songs here that aren't as memorable are easily outdone by other songs crafted by Jackson.  And while Thriller is a mesmerzing album, I still argue that Off the Wall was the quint essential Michael Jackson album.  Thriller is just the one that everyone knows.  The album he became an unquestionable superstar off of.  A great album in and of itself, but again, how many people are apt to start singing along to most of those songs outside of the four listed above?  Not very many, unfortunately.  That's not to say they're subpar tracks.  They're not.  It's just to say that they don't show the elegance of Jackson's music quite like those four memorable tracks.  In fact they're so memorable that they almost sound modern.  Even by todays standards.  They're recognizable at the drop of a hat.  The other songs?  Not so much.  If you were to start hearing "The Lady in My Life" how far into the song would you get before you finally recognized it?  It's Michael Jackson and you'll recognize it as Jackson but you might say to yourself, "What song is this?" first.  

It's still a great album, though.  The above sounds a little harsh, but I didn't feel like deducting because of that... as those songs are good.  But it should still be understood that Thriller became a phenomenal sensation because of the music videos and performances more so than the actual strength of the songs on the album themselves.

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More Thriller (Michael Jackson albu... reviews
Quick Tip by . February 19, 2010
This album brings back so many great memories from when I was a kid.
review by . June 14, 2008
posted in MJJCommunity
It's unbelievable that an artist like Michael Jackson can make an album full of singles and top-of-the-chart songs, and find them still on the rotations of playlists 25 years later.  The hits Thriller, Billy Jean, Beat It, Wanna Be Startin Something, and I Want to Love You (P.Y.T.), can all be found on this album. Seriously one of Michael's, if not, the best...Paul McCartney can be found on the track The Girl Is Mine and throws even more stun to the theme of album.      This …
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Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #5
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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About this album


Epic (USA) ( November 30, 1982 ), Genre: R&B
Personnel includes: Michael Jackson (vocals, percussion); Paul McCartney (vocals); Vincent Price (spoken vocals); Steve Lukather (guitar, bass); Eddie Van Halen, Dean Parks, Paul Jackson (guitar); Larry Williams (flute, saxophone); Jerry Hey (trumpet, flugelhorn); Bill Reichenbach (trombone); David Paich (piano, synthesizer); Greg Phillinganes (Fender Rhodes piano, synthesizer, programming); Steve Porcaro (synthesizer, programming); David Foster, Rod Temperton (synthesizer); Tom Bahler (Synclavier); Louis Johnson (bass); Ndugu Chancler, Jeff Porcaro (drums); Paulinho Da Costa (percussion); Brian Banks (programming); LaToya Jackson, Julia Waters, Maxine Waters, Oren Waters, Becky Lopez, Janet Jackson (background vocals). Principally recorded at Westlake Audio, Los Angeles, California. This is a Super Audio CD playable only on Super Audio CD players. This is a Super Audio CD playable only on Super Audio CD players. The finest example of perfect disco pop, and a record that should be prescribed to musical s...
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Release Date: November 30, 1982
Label: Epic Records
Artist: Michael Jackson

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