Review Summary: Thriller didn't set the record for best selling album of all time for no reason. It remains a brilliant album with some great songs, and it's definitely worth listening to, at least once.
Say what you like about Michael Jackson, but you can't deny the man had talent. You'd have to be pretty talented to make an album as successful as Thriller, which propelled Jackson from mainstream pop singer to global superstar, and set the record for best selling album of all time. It exceeded all expectations, with many, including Jackson's own brother Jermaine, expecting the album to be a flop. The album includes a mere eight songs, but six of the eight are undeniably iconic. So, without further ado, let's take a look at the songs.
Wanna be Startin' Somethin': The opening song on the album is without a doubt one of Jackson's most iconic and instantly recognizable hits. It was also his first song to feature the more paranoid and mysterious themes that would later become his trademark. The lyrics make very little sense, with phrases including "You're a vegetable", "If you can't feed a baby, then don't have a baby", and "You're just a buffet" but really, whatever message the lyrics are trying to convey doesn't really matter when you have a song this catchy. It's got an awesome bassline, and Jackson's vocal performance is downright spectacular. Be warned, however: the chorus will probably get stuck in your head and stay there for a week. But maybe that's not such a bad thing.
Baby Be Mine: One of only two songs on the album that wasn't released as a single, Baby Be Mine is actually one of the best songs on the entire album, and it's a shame such a great song is so frequently overlooked. However, this song is the definition of perfect perfection. It starts off with an alluring little instrumental intro, with a sweet bassline. Then, Jackson starts to sing, and this may be his best singing on the album. He beautifully sings each lyric flawlessly, and it's a testament to just how talented he was. Then, the chorus starts, and Jackson's already perfect singing is joined by some equally brilliant background singers and a spectacular instrumental part. Jackson sings with such energy, and he sounds so very happy and ecstatic. This song is often forgotten, but it's one of the highlights of the album.
The Girl is Mine: Traditionally regarded as the weakest song on the album, The Girl is Mine is a duet between Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney. Now, this song was a big hit, but a lot of critics have openly bashed it. But it isn't a bad song at all, as long as you don't take it too seriously. This wasn't supposed to be a serious, heartwarming love song. This is just two superstars hanging out, arguing over who's got the girl. While the lyrics are often regarded as soft, and sometimes stupid, I think they're hilarious, as the song gradually turns into a proper argument. "Michael, we're not gonna fight about this, okay"" "Paul, I think I told you, I'm a lover, not a fighter" "I've heard it all before, Michael. She told me that I'm her forever lover, don't you remember"" "Well, after loving me, she said she couldn't love another" "Is that what she said"" "Yeah, she said it. You keep dreaming" "I don't believe it!" and so on, and so fourth. The vocal performances from both singers are spectacular, and the song has a pleasant instrumental to go along with it. It takes itself just the right amount of seriously, and the song is actually pretty great.
Thriller: This is the song that the album was named after, and one of Michael Jackson's most iconic songs. This, of course, is mainly because of it's iconic, revolutionary music video. Instantly recognizable. And, strangely enough... it also happens to be one of the weakest songs on the album. The music video is spectacular and widely regarded as the best music video of all time. But when you separate the song from it's music video, and the reputation it gained, there's actually not much there. Now, it's not a bad song by any stretch of the imagination. It possesses an epic bassline, and it does an amazing job with the whole "Spooky" theme. However, out of all Michael Jackson's super popular songs, Thriller is probably among the worst. It's still a great song, and lots of fun to listen to, but it's just not the best.
Beat it: Another incredibly iconic song, and a smash hit, Beat it is every bit as popular as Thriller, if not more so. And, unlike Thriller, it remains one of Jackson's best songs even if you don't take the music video into consideration. This is a hard rock song featuring Eddie Van Halen. He provides a positively epic guitar solo during the bridge of the song. In general, the instrumental parts are probably the best part of the song, with some pretty epic guitar and bass parts, and an awesome and original drum beat. However, Jackson's vocals are as good as ever, and he adopts a rougher, more aggressive tone that fits his voice surprisingly well. This is a very solid rock song that is one of the highlights of the album.
Billie Jean: If there's one song that comes to mind when somebody mentions Michael Jackson, it's Billie Jean. From it's iconic bassline to the infamous Motown 25 performance of this song, when Jackson unveiled his signature dance move, the moonwalk, Billie Jean is by far Jackson's most iconic song. And it's a pretty amazing one, too. Starting off with a great drum beat, and then unveiling that iconic, instantly recognizable bassline, Billie Jean comes in with a punch. Then, Jackson begins to sing the first verse, and his lyrics contain that same paranoia found in Wanna be Startin' Somethin' that would become Jackson's signature style on future albums. From the chorus, the verses, and especially the bridge, everything about this song is both iconic and awesome. It's a great song, and no doubt one of Jackson's best.
Human Nature: A mysterious, alluring song, this critically acclaimed hit deserves it's praise. Often said to be one of Jackson's best songs, Human Nature sports a beautiful instrumental melody, and Jackson's excellent vocals make for one awesome song. It's a welcome relief from the intensity of the last few songs, and it's just a relaxing, enjoyable tune. It sets it's atmosphere perfectly, and there's just something inexplicably beautiful about this amazing song.
P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing): While it wasn't a big hit upon release, this song has become one of Michael Jackson's most popular songs. It begins with a short spoken intro by Jackson, where he sounds uncertain and shy, before the music swells up and he becomes much more confident as he begins to sing. His vocals are nothing short of perfect, and the entire song is a very solid tune. It's one of the best songs on the album, and while it has a very 80s specific style that has dated it somewhat, P.Y.T. remains as alluring and catchy as ever.
The Lady in my Life: The final song on the album, and also the weakest. It's not a bad song, but it's not all that great either. It's a much slower, more laid back tune, but unlike Human Nature, it doesn't have a beautiful melody or perfect atmosphere or anything. It's more of a ballad, and Jackson's vocal performance here isn't as strong as it is on the other tracks. After the joyous and playful P.Y.T., The Lady in my Life comes across as a downer, and it ends the album on a depressing note. If it had been put after Human Nature, and P.Y.T. closed the album instead, it would have been better.