Michael Jackson | Thriller 25th Anniversary Edition (Epic Legacy)

cd_mj-thriller.jpgAs they’d say in 1983, from the moment the needle hit the vinyl (this was the pre-CD era), it was on, and it was pure gold.

 

 

I was 13 years old and in the eighth grade in 1983 when Michael Jackson’s Thriller was first released, creating fervor unlike anything since The Beatles or Elvis. Much as the teens of today go nuts for Hannah Montana or the Spice Girls, all the kids in my junior high and across the nation went wild for Michael, often even fainting in his presence at concerts and public appearances. The entire inside of my locker at school was plastered with Teen Beat photos of Michael Jackson—wearing his signature sparkle glove, donning the studded red leather jacket from the "Beat It" video, rocking zippered parachute pants. And though there have been many acts over the years to drive kids into a frenzy, from New Kids on the Block to Backstreet Boys to N’Sync to Britney Spears (pre-psychotic breakdown), not one of them has ever come close to selling as many albums or leaving the lasting impression of Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

"It was Michaelmania," says Mary J. Blige. "It was ‘Billie Jean’ that did it. That was the first time you’re seeing Michael dance, not as the Jackson 5, but as Michael Jackson. Oh my God, it was electrifying."

Indeed it was, and now, 25 years later, with the re-release of a special collector’s anniversary edition, it still is. As they’d say in 1983, from the moment the needle hit the vinyl (this was the pre-CD era), it was on, and it was pure gold. "Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’" may well be the best dance song ever made—and the non-lyrics, "Mama-se, mama-sa, ma-ma-koo-sa," may well be the most sampled, covered and copied in history. After that, the hits just kept on coming, from "Beat It," to "Billie Jean," to "P.Y.T." to the historic duet with Paul McCartney, "The Girl Is Mine."

In order to illustrate just how much of an impact this album had on the industry and the history of recorded music, let’s just take a quick look at some hard facts and figures about Thriller—to this day, the greatest selling album of all time:

  • Seven of its nine songs were Top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 (the first of only three albums in history to do this)
  • Spent 37 straight weeks at #1 on the chart and 122 weeks on the chart as a whole (nearly two and a half years)
  • "Billie Jean" hit #1 on the chart and remained there for seven weeks straight
  • At the 1984 Grammy Awards, Jackson was nominated in 12 categories for Thriller, an all-time record, and picked up eight awards, also a record win by one artist in a single year. This year, the album will be inducted into the prestigious Grammy Hall of Fame
  • It is the only album ever to be the top-selling U.S. album two years in a row (’83 and ’84) and is certified 27x Platinum by the RIAA
  • It has seen global sales in excess of 104 million copies and, in the United States alone, sells some 60,000 copies each year

To say this is impressive is an understatement. Thriller not only represents one of the greatest living recording artists at the very peak of his career, but also a tremendous cultural and historical phenomenon. "Michaelmania" took on a life much greater than even "Beatlemania" ever did.

Thriller didn’t just impact the recording industry, either. It had a significant—in fact, defining—impact on what was at the time a small, fledgling cable TV network aimed at the youth of America: MTV. Before Michael Jackson, MTV rarely (if ever) played videos by black artists, or dance artists. This wasn’t necessarily a decision made out of prejudice or racism. There just weren’t many black artists (or American artists for that matter) making music videos, and MTV’s early focus was very much on rock ‘n’ roll. But Jackson and his record company convinced the MTV execs to air the video for "Billie Jean," and a new era was born. Nothing like it had ever been seen before, with Michael in his sparkling single white glove, black fedora, black suit and white socks performing his signature moonwalk among other incredible dance moves. Videos would never be the same.

"Billie Jean" was only the beginning. Jackson’s video for the title song, "Thriller," went where no music video before (or really since) has gone. More of a short film than a video at 14 minutes long, "Thriller" was directed by film director John Landis and shot on a record budget at the time of $800,000. It’s listed in the 2006 Guinness Book of World Records as the most successful music video of all time, having sold over one million units. The video featured stunning costume and makeup design and incredible choreography, and co-starred former Playboy centerfold Ola Ray. It even included a haunting and unforgettable voiceover by classic horror movie king Vincent Price. So great was the impact of the "Thriller" video that MTV even aired a one-hour documentary on its making.

So, all of this said and done, is the newly released 25th Anniversary Edition of Thriller worth buying for serious Michael Jackson fans? In a word, yes. Along with the nine incredible tracks that started it all, there are five newly created covered and remixed tracks featuring some of today’s brightest hip-hop stars, including will.i.am, Fergie and Kanye West, as well as a previously unreleased track, "For All Time," from the original Thriller recording session. The accompanying DVD includes the original music videos for "Thriller," "Beat It," and "Billie Jean," as well as a legendary live performance of "Billie Jean" from the Motown 25: Yesterday, Today and Forever TV special. All of this comes in a fabulous collectors CD package filled with photos from the original videos and press photos of Michael from his heyday.

With everything that Jackson has done to mar his public image over the years, from multiple child molestation charges, "eccentric" (to say the least) behavior, and numerous plastic surgeries that have rendered him virtually unrecognizable and barely even human-looking, this is the Michael Jackson we all want to remember: the smiling, boyish, jubilant face of a true pop star and a talent the likes of which we haven’t seen since. | Amy Burger

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