Thriller – Michael Jackson

Released November 30, 1982 this album cost $750,000 to produce and sold one million copies a week. Within a year it sold 66 million copies worldwide. It was the first to reach 30x Platinum in the U.S. (Their Greatest Hits by The Eagles is the only other album ever to do so). It won a record-breaking 8 Grammy Awards including Album of the Year.

Jason: Okay. MJ is problematic these days but since this is the “100 Albums Bucket List” I think we should review the album and the music and not the person. Unless you wanna be startin’ somethin?

Brad: Yeah, this was a tough one. Great album but hard to get past the recent developments.

Jason: There is an elephant man in the room and we are going to talk around it somewhat. Agreed?

Brad: I’ll try.

Jason: Do you remember when this album came out?

Brad: Of course I do! I was alive in 1982 and it was the biggest album in the world.

Jason: It’s hard to explain to someone born in say… 1995, exactly how big of a deal this was and he was. He even had his own attraction at Disney World!

Brad: Yeah, and even though we currently have Drake, Beyonce, BTS, Lady Gaga and many other superstars, there is nothing that compares to how big Michael Jackson was during that time. He was everywhere and almost everyone loved him.

Jason: My biggest memory of this album was that my dad owned it and he would play it in the living room on the turntable/stereo set up, usually after we went to bed and I could hear it up in my room. Not super loud but enough that I knew what the songs were. I loved when he would do that with any albums. I was always so excited when the song “Thriller” came on but then would get anxious because Vincent Price’s monologue and laugh was scary so I would plug my ears. Then “Beat It” would come on and I would be okay again.

Brad: I can totally picture that. “Thriller” the video was one of the most…..”thrilling” things I had ever seen at the time. Kind of scary but with some of the coolest dancing I had ever seen.

Jason: It was like a mini-movie. TBH, if I never hear “Thriller” again I’d be okay with it. Even thought when I do I catch myself singing along.

Brad: All these years later, when I listen to it I think “This is a strange song to have been such a huge hit!”. There aren’t that many “horror” hit songs. But I guess in some ways it is a novelty song. A genre which has always existed.

Jason: You’re right. For some reason it transcends the traditional “novelty song” like “Purple People Eater”, “Monster Mash”, or “Werewolf Bar Mitvah.” I guess we can thank Quincy Jones for that. 

Brad: Quincy is pretty amazing. He’s dabbled in so many different styles of music during his career.

Jason: This album showcases some various styles as well. A little pop, R&B etc. I will say that there are parts in most of these songs where I don’t know what MJ is singing. “You’re a vegetable/Do they hate you?/You’re a vegetable/You’re on my plate/I’m gonna eat you.” I don’t think that correct but that is what it sounds like.

Brad: What song is that from?

Jason: “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin”. I think he actually singing “You’re the best of all”? I don’t know. Maybe my version is correct. I bet they sang that on Sesame Street.

Brad: Speaking of, my very first 8-track was “Sesame Street Fever” but my first vinyl LP was “The Wiz” soundtrack (with Michael Jackson). My first cassette was “Thriller” and my first cd was MJ’s “Bad”. So Michael was a huge part of my early love for music in every format.

Jason: Are there any songs on here that you could do without?

Brad: When I was younger, I ALWAYS skipped “The Lady In My Life” but I somewhat appreciate it now.

Jason: Same. I think because it’s not as exciting as the others. I also really don’t like “The Girl Is Mine” mostly for that dumb Michael and Paul conversation at the end. It’s so disingenuous. Like, really? We are supposed believe these two are fighting over some doggone girl? The beginning of the song is okay but that part is stupid.

Brad: I agree. Although, I used to like that part for some reason.

Jason: Most of these songs are about his girlfriends. I want to say that at age 8 I had no clue about sexuality but I remember thinking that him singing about about having kids out of wedlock, and girls in general with his “yee-hee-hees!” seemed weird. 

Brad: Yeah. Billie Jean is such a great song and I think it was inspired by real-life paternity accusations mounted at Michael. But it is kind of weird when I think about the subject matter and that we all wanted to dance to that song when it came on

Jason: Yes it was big at our marching band dances in high school. What song do you really like?

Brad: I think PYT might be my favorite song on the album. Such a great song. It was co-written by Quincy and James Ingram. Sadly, James Ingram recently passed away

Jason: In P.Y.T. he says “tenderoni” which I always thought was a Chef Boyardee product.. In general I really like “Human Nature” but the remastered version has too many ‘dings’ and ‘bloops’ and chimes in the left channel which I find distracting. Although, I like that at some point he stops singing words and just says “cha-da-cha-cha. jzsuh-sa-jzsuh-jzsuh.” It’s a series of noises I can’t even phonetically spell but it works. He was known for these little riffs and scats in songs.

Brad: I love Human Nature too. Remember when SWV had that song “Right Here” that sampled Human Nature? I love that one too.

Jason: S.S. Double. Double. U. U. V! I love that song too. I might like it more than the original.

Jason: In that video above the kid “playing” the keyboard is like 9-years-old but I digress. So what are you grading Thriller?

Brad: I have to give it an A for the impact it had on me and the hours of joy I’ve had listening to it.  But I’m giving all MJ music a break for at least a while. Until I fully evaluate how I feel about Michael.

Jason: That’s fair. I give it an A as well and I am also not actively listening to him either. Although I hear his music all.the.time. So that’s plenty.  Alright, we spent enough time on this review. Let’s beat it.

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Below is the scratch-off artwork from the 100 Bucket List poster.

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