It was November 30th, 1982, when Thriller reached the stores, turning Michael Jackson into the real superstar of the 80s.
Trying to exclude everything that happened afterwards, the continuous surgical operations and the pedophile scandals, let’s focus on the album: Thriller is still the top selling album of all time in the world (it just lost that title related to US chart, where now The Eagles’ 1982 Greatest Hits is first), it includes seven singles in Top Ten, with videos that have marked the collective imagination, and it helped a comeback in album sales after the end of the disco Boom. And that’s fair enough: a son of disco music like Michael Jackson providing the solution of the sales crisis, trying at the same time to go over those hot territories.
After the excellent debut of Off the Wall (a successful mix of Disco, Soul and Pop which allows the young artist to express his potential out of The Jackson 5), in his second solo work MJ takes advantage once again of Quincy Jones on production and Rod Temperton in the writing of most of the songs.
But if, at least in the premise, Thriller was supposed to be a sequel of Off the Wall, it actually exceeded any expectation, creating a mix of black and white music that never attempted before. A precedent that many will try to copy and nobody will ever reach, at those levels.
At that time, black music has in Prince and Rick James its best representatives, looking for a different musical language (Prince) or reworking Funk in a modern way (James), while old lions like Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder seek their own direction in the new decade. But, if for the majority of them (excluding Prince) the reference audience is black one, Michael Jackson with Thriller makes his way to white listeners, creating the perfect cross-over.
The pop of The Girl Is Mine (with Paul McCartney), just as the Rock of Beat it, with Eddie Van Halen’s guitar, allow MJ to enter even in the radios that don’t play Black Music, finally opening to a broader market and embracing Mainstream.
This was the goal of the singer. Being the biggest black popstar wasn’t enough, he wanted to become the greatest artist of the whole music scene, thanks to the turnover of genres and the construction of an album with a perfect production, and with videos that will finally prove the potential of the newborn Mtv.
Among the songs we have also the Funk of Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ and P.Y.T.,, the Soul-Synth ofThe Lady In My Life, the amazing Thriller, the definitive ballad with Human Nature (a gift by Toto, who actively participate in the making of the album) and the dance masterpiece Billie Jean.
The incredible success of the album will forever mark the career of the artist (who will always struggle to replicate that success) and the whole decade, that will officially declare him as the dominant artist of the 80s, perhaps what in the 60s was represented by The Beatles.