40 years of Thriller, the album that changed the pop of the ’80s and catapulted the career of Michael Jackson

This Wednesday, the album thriller of michael jackson turns 40 She came out in 1982 and in a few months became the best-selling album in history and established the artist as the ultimate pop star.

An often forgotten fact is that thriller it broke many racial prejudices and allowed the video clip of a black artist to be widely disseminated.

The cover of Thriller, by Michael Jackson.

In 1983, the president of CBS Records pressured the MTV television network to broadcast Jackson’s video clips: “I’m not going to give you any more videos and I’m going to make public what you’ve done, if you don’t want to broadcast a man’s music black”.

His position contributed to the chain transmitting the video clip of billy jean and later that of beat ita fact that later helped other black artists gain mainstream recognition from the music press.

Eventually, the popularity of these videos contributed to increasing the media presence of the television network, and MTV’s focus changed in favor of pop and rhythm and blues.

For a black artist in the 1980s, Jackson’s success was unprecedented. According to The Washington Post, thriller paved the way for other African-American artists such as PrinceTime magazine noted that “Jackson is the greatest thing to happen since The Beatles. He is the most energetic phenomenon since Elvis Presley. He is the only black singer who can become the most popular in history.”

An album full of hits

Seven of the nine songs on the album were released as singles.: Beat It, Billie Jean, Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’, PYT (Pretty Young Thing), The Girl Is Mine, Human Nature Y thriller.

All reached the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100, with which set the record for artist with the most top ten songs from the same albumwith beat it Y billy jean even reaching number one, largely thanks to the use of music videos as promotional tools, just like the title track.

Michael Jackson in 1996, when he received the World Music Award for Thriller. Photo: AP

Michael Jackson in 1996, when he received the World Music Award for Thriller. Photo: AP

Regarding the prizes, thriller won a record eight Grammy Awards at the 1984 edition, including Album of the Year and Record of the Year for beat it. He also won a record eight American Music Awards at the 1984 edition.

a historic recording

thriller It was recorded between April and November 1982, with a budget of US$750,000.

The producer was the famous jazzman Quincy Joneswho worked with Michael on around 30 songs, later choosing nine, four of which were co-written by the singer: Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’, The Girl Is Mine (with Paul McCartney) beat it Y billy jean.

Michael Jackson at the Grammys where he won eight statuettes. Photo: AP.

Michael Jackson at the Grammys where he won eight statuettes. Photo: AP.

The result was a varied album, with songs for all tastes. Although it departed from the sound of the previous successful album (off the wall), added some harder funk to it (billy jean Y thriller), hard rock (beat itfeaturing the famous guitar solo that Eddie Van Halen played for free), softer ballads (The Girl Is Mine Y human nature), and more fluid soul (baby be mine).

The videos

Michael Jackson in full Thriller core.

Michael Jackson in full Thriller core.

With this album, Jackson transformed the video clip into an art form and a promotional tool based on choreography, cinematographic quality and special effects.

The topic thriller It had a 14-minute medium-length film featuring the voiceover of the famous horror actor Vincent Price, as well as a chorus that has become part of world popular culture, being replicated even in Bollywood films.

It was led by John Landis, It was the longest video clip to date, and is considered a video that redefined the concept of video clips. It cost 800 thousand dollarsa record that stood until 1995 when it was surpassed by screamAlso by Michael Jackson.

The story, the choreography of the dance, the costumes and the music, make thriller resembles a horror musical, as classic monsters of the genre such as werewolves and zombies appear. Also considered the most important video in pop culture, and the most viewed video clip, by 800 million people.


The album was reissued in October 2001 under the title Thriller: Special Edition. The original tracks were remastered, and the album included a new internal booklet and bonus material, including the songs. Someone in the Dark, Carousehim, and the original demo of billy jeanas well as audio interviews with Quincy Jones and Rod Temperton commenting on the recording.

On February 8, 2008, Epic Records released thriller 25, on which Jackson served as an executive producer. The album came out on CD, USB and vinyl with seven bonus tracks, one new song called for all time, a snippet of Vincent Price’s voiceover, and five remixes featuring artists including Fergie, Akon, Will.I.Am, and Kanye West. It also included a DVD with three video clips, the presentation of billy jean in the television special motown 25and a flyer with a message from Jackson.

Now, just a couple of days ago, Sony Music and the Michael Jackson Estate launched thriller 40, to celebrate its 40th anniversary. It is a double CD with the original album and a second album full of surprises for the fansincluding songs never released before.

Cover of Thriller 40, by Michael Jackson

Cover of Thriller 40, by Michael Jackson

The release schedule kicked off on September 8 with the original demo of Jackson’s cover of the Yellow Magic Orchestra song, behind the mask.

An unreleased song entitled She’s Troubleand on September 22 it was confirmed that demo of best of joy was another additional clue. On September 29, a previously released song titled got the hots and on October 6, a never-before-heard track titled What a Lovely Way to Go.

Then, on October 13, it was announced Sunset Drivermixed by Bill Bottrell, who later co-produced the album dangerouson October 20 the inclusion of the track on the second album was announced carouselon October 27 the first demo of thrillertitled star lightand on November 3 it was said that it would also come out Can’t Get Outta the Rainpreviously released on the B-side of The Girl Is Mine and based on You Can’t Winfrom the soundtrack to the 1978 musical film The Wiz.

Finally, on November 10, an unreleased demo called Who Do You Know as the final track on Disc 2.


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40 years of Thriller, the album that changed the pop of the ’80s and catapulted the career of Michael Jackson