Review Summary: There's no denying the fun and catchiness of Thriller. Michael Jackson, despite his morals, was a fantastic music artist and knew how to make excellent pop music. Thriller is one of the greatest showings of that.
There will never be another artist like Michael Jackson. He had everything. The sex appeal, the voice, the experience, the connections- Michael Jackson epitomized everything about a pop artist. Despite his recent history and the jokes that go hand in hand (which haven’t been funny for years), Michael Jackson proves on his albums that no matter what he does, he has something great that everyone will remember him for. Thriller stands out as one of the best albums in his career, showcasing some of his most legendary songs ever.
The success of Thriller is flat out scary. The album skyrocketed to the top of the charts and stayed there for 80 weeks, one of only 3 albums to reach that level. Today, it stands as the second highest selling album in the United States and according to some sources, the highest selling album ever in the world. Seven of the nine songs on Thriller became singles, and three of them are among Jackson’s greatest hits. Thriller shows Michael Jackson branching off into a large amount of genres, including rock, R&B, funk, and just straight up 80s synth pop. Despite all the different areas of music, Jackson almost subconsciously inputs his undeniable catchiness and appeal. He took a larger songwriting and production role on this album, allowing him to really play to his strengths. He shows an obvious influence from artists like James Brown, George Clinton, and Stevie Wonder, but he also pulls in some even bigger star power. He called on Paul McCartney, immortally famous Beatles member, to do a duet with him. They “collaborated” and produced The Girl is Mine
, the first single off of Thriller
Jackson actually wrote all of The Girl is Mine
, not allowing McCartney in any of the writing. McCartney simply adds his voice and more importantly, his name to the song. Unfortunately, even with the talents of two of the greatest pop artists of all time, The Girl is Mine
fails to impress. The song is a slow, dreamy love song, allowing the vocal talent to stand out. However, the poppy hooks fail to catch the attention of the listener and the music itself pails in comparison to most of the album. Regardless, The Girl is Mine
found instant success, maybe due to the star power in the song. It peaked at #2 in the pop singles chart. However, The Girl is Mine
was only the beginning of the success for Thriller. Jackson then released Billie Jean
, a much more uptempo and overall better song than his previous effort. Jackson also wrote Billie Jean
entirely, and proves his undeniable songwriting talent on the song. It grooves a simple drum beat and a fantastic, jumpy bassline. Melodically, a synth chord progression outlines the verse, but more and more instruments add in to the climatic chorus. The chorus features extremely catchy vocal harmonies and a superb funky guitar line. That line later expands into an instrumental bridge, and the guitar stands out as a certain highlight of the song. Billie Jean
shot to #1 in both the Black Singles and Pop Singles charts.
Thriller contains two more extremely important tracks, the first being the title track. Known more for its dance moves and music video, Thriller
is about as epic as a pop song gets. The song draws from Tower of Power horn licks and Funkadelic pop sensibility. The huge brass statement that leads the song into its main groove simply states that Thriller
plans to go beyond the normal limits of a pop song. The song outlines the story of a cheesy horror film, which the video conveys perfectly. Immediately following Thriller
is Beat It
, which also brings in some extreme extra star power. Jackson called on Eddie Van Halen to play guitar on this song. The song draws heavily from the hair metal wave taking the rock nation by storm. The song actually peaked at #14 on the rock charts as well as #1 once again on the Pop Singles and Black Singles charts. Van Halen’s guitar playing is just as lackluster as McCartney’s appearance, but at least Van Halen isn’t as legendary as McCartney. He bursts out his typical fret-burning solo that somehow never impresses me. However, it’s a common misconception that fast guitar playing equals good guitar playing, so fans ate the song up. The riffing plays fairly stereotypical, but this isn’t on a Van Halen album, it’s on a Michael Jackson album, and Jackson lets his audience know that. His poppy vocal harmonies and lyrics make this song for what it is.
Overall, Thriller is composed much like a sandwich. The bread covers the top and bottom, the less interesting part of the sandwich. On Thriller, tracks 1-3 make a good first impression but after hearing the entire album, they just do not live up to the middle of the album, or the meat of the album. The three huge singles, Thriller
, Beat It
, and Billie Jean
all stand out even today as some of the greatest pop singles of all time. Finally, the last half of the album feels much like the beginning. Human Nature
and The Lady in My Life
are both good tracks, featuring some great bass and Jackson’s more sensitive side, but still never live up to the catchiness and fun of the middle of the album. However, as the entire album is listenable all the way through and each track has at least its moments, Thriller stands as one of Jackson’s greatest efforts, giving him an eternal legacy in pop music.
The Lady in My Life