This week in 1983, perhaps the best album of all time just went #1 on the charts: Michael Jackson’s Thriller. While I am a constant abuser of hyberbole, I honestly do believe that Thriller holds a permanent place on the proverbial Mount Rushmore of American popular music.
Say what you want about the closing chapter of Michael Jackson’s life – I don’t know the facts and you probably don’t either. Purely as a time capsule of remarkable art, however, there is no better place to look than Michael Jackson’s discography, and more specifically, Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
Only nine tracks long, the album garnered production credits from two of the biggest names in music history, Quincy Jones and Paul McCartney. Essentially destined to be a classic, Michael Jackson did something that few people in contemporary realms do successfully: live up to the hype.
Who could forget the groundbreaking visual to accompany the namesake track? The music video for “Thriller” clocked in at just less than 14 minutes, enough to make it a short film, yet it consumed audiences for years to come. Plus that red leather jacket. I mean, damn. The video would go on to be a staple of flash mobs and Halloween parties for time to come.
Thriller also brought us perhaps the best back-to-back track placement in modern history (again with the hyperbole) with “Beat It” and “Billie Jean.” In their own right, either one of these songs deserves placement in whatever arbitrary hall of fame they could be garnered into, but together, they truly are remarkable. Both of these songs have proven to stand the test of time. Chances are if you don’t know the chorus to “Billie Jean” you at least know the moon walk which was employed by MJ for the first time when performing the song – a true revolution in performance dance, if you will.
MJ was one of my first introductions into music. Though he has likely been ripped from his pedestal, I still remember sitting in the gym at school, listening to Thriller on my Walkman while all the other students were either playing basketball or Pokemon. I think I made the right choice. Thanks, mom.