There is a huge reason why most ’80s babies name Thriller as their favorite album from that memorable decade, characterized by spandex, huge hair and glam rock. Besides the fact that it has the distinguished status of being the best-selling album of all time, Thriller also showed to the world Michael Jackson at his musical best.
Containing nine tracks in its original release (let’s not forger Thriller 25 or the special-issue release), Thriller was the album that shot Jackson to superstardom and made his “King of Pop” moniker a rightful one to have. Hits were churned out one after the other; Billie Jean, Thriller, The Girl is Mine, Beat It, Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin‘ and Human Nature still receive airplay in countless countries and are sampled in tracks made by younger artists from a variety of genres, helping the ’80s icon remain relevant in today’s fickle and volatile pop culture. Thriller showcases the perfect amount of dance, soul, pop and rock in each song, making it appealing to people of all ages and backgrounds. The beats, melodies and riffs have become legendary, the lyrics echo both past and current social sentiments and common personal woes as well as gave rise to an immeasurable number of news headlines and speculations about Jackson, and cemented both artist and album as forces to be reckoned with. Over the years, Thriller evolved from being an album into a work of art that wields a huge influence on how today’s music is made.
Another thing that should be pointed out is that one of the major contributors to this classic album’s phenomenal success are the music videos that accompanied the singles. Childhood memories include images of The Gloved One morphing into a werewolf in Thriller, dancing on a sidewalk with lighted tiles in Billie Jean and the gang war with a very complicated breakdancing routine in Beat It. Personally, I don’t know anyone who hasn’t donned the single white glove, wore those short black pants and red leather jacket or had a hairstyle like Jackson during the ’80s — or hasn’t dreamed of it at some point.
Thriller broke many barriers. It set new records for album sales, spawned music videos that were played endlessly on television (hence, ending the cultural and racial bias that was dominant on air at that time), crossed genres through collaborations (Jackson worked with Eddie van Halen on Beat It and Paul McCartney on The Girl is Mine, and his producer was Quincy Jones), and showed Jackson’s grittier and darker side through some of his lyrics.
Getting a copy of the original album is going to be a hard task, but for those who want to remember how Thriller helped shape fond memories of that long-gone era, updated versions are much easier to come across. Amazon, CD Universe, Best Buy, Vodafone Music and MyPlay are just some of the websites that let you get your fix (legally) by selling both the CD release and digital downloads.