On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the opus released on November 30, 1982, let’s revisit in detail this zenith of pop culture…
It all started in 1979 with off the wallthe first album on which Michael Jackson collaborates with the legendary producer Quincy Jones (Ray Charles, Franck Sinatra, Dizzy Gillespie…), the album that many consider his ” true “ first solo album.
Despite the critical success and some 10 million copies sold, Michael, 21, cannot hide his disappointment. What he wants is not to be one more star. What he wants is to become the biggest star on the planet.
And to do this, what better than to release the best-selling record in the history of music?
Driven by this excessive ambition, he surrounds himself with a dream team of studio foxes (the musicians of the group Toto, the lyricist Rod Temperton…) to develop 42 minutes of music destined to break all records.
As extraordinary as it may seem, the plan is going like clockwork : ranked 37 weeks in a row at the top of the chartsit takes no more than a year to Thriller to sell 32 million copies and dethrone Elvis, Pink Floyd and the Eagles.
While this figure is now estimated at over 100 million (!), Thriller paradoxically tends too often to be summed up in its commercial performance. Admittedly, the two go hand in hand, but that would be a bit quick to forget all his science and all his mastery.
The proof track-by-track.
1. Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’
A whirlwind start. Six minutes of tense funk during which Michael, at the crossroads of the Bee Gees and James Brown, sings with an aggressiveness in his voice that we did not know him until then.
Add to that a crazy bass line, ultra-dynamic horns and a “my my se/my my his/my my ku sa” opportunely stolen from Manu Dibango, and it’s to wonder as soon as the piece is finished by what miracle will the soufflé not immediately fall again?
2. Baby Be Mine
Answer to the previous question: by slowing down the tempo with an almost ballad with rnb intonations that glides effortlessly – who said Rock With You 2 ?
What does it matter if being a little too nice the lyrics flirt with parody (” Wooon’t you stay with me until the morning sun? »), Michael breathes how much energy is needed in the execution to spice up the sauce.
3. The Girl Is Mine
After girlfriend on off the wallreturn of the Beatle Paul McCartney, for the very first single from the album.
A little too sluggish, a little too candid, and frankly, a little too pop, this quarrel to curry favor with the “doggone girl” does not find favor in the eyes of “fighter” only to have assured Michael a maximum of passages on the radios mainstream.
Listening only to their artichoke heart, the “lovers” praise them for the good-natured side of the exercise.
Indissociable from its 14 minutes of video clip, taken as such,
this halloween tale “that 40,000 year old funk” said Vincent Price nonetheless of formidable efficiency to the ear.
Glory goes mainly to this implacable rhythm which with each verse rises crescendo to end in apotheosis on the “’Cause this is thrillEEEEER!!! » which begins the chorus.
What every time make you want to dress in red leather from head to toe and go dancing in a cemetery.
5. Beat It
The guitar solo that changed the course of music history, Cripsthe Bloods, Michael who plays the thug… beat it it is the rock song of Thriller which pleases both old hardos and twinks who are a little too clean on them.
And then beat it it is, as on the whole album, incredible intonations in the vocalslike this chorus bordering on the absurd which responds to itself
Yes, MJ is a performer too often underestimated.
6. Billie Jean
After walking like a zombie on Thrillerthen played theair guitar on beat itso here’s time to light up the boxes on the floor.
second single from Thrillerbut very first title ranked number 1, Billie John layers bass, synthesizer, guitar riffs and onomatopoeia with an unparalleled degree of precision and ease.
More than a classic Billie John it is Michael Jackson doing Michael Jackson at his best.
A one-night adventure in a magical New York where the notes sparkle and where the ” why » repeated in a loop become atmospheric.
No need to understand everything at all, just to get carried away by the feeling of wonder that emanates.
The best slow jam of Michael’s discography?
8. PYT (Pretty Young Thing)
100% feel goodthis penultimate track has the sole objective of move all parts of the human body.
Whether it’s evening or day, whether it’s 1982 or 2022, the formula always works.
Only regret, as for Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’that no duly choreographed music video was ever shot.
9. The Lady In My Life
With Baby Be Minethe only track not released as a single.
A classic ballad that is essentially worth the vocal palette that Michael flaunts.
The grumps will point out that she suffers from the comparison with her twin She’s Out of My Life on off the wallthey will not necessarily be wrong.
Thriller, victim of its own success?
The problem with this album, now entering its fifth decade of cultural dominance, is that it has become very difficult to listen to it other than as a collection of hits. Not that he doesn’t show absolute consistency (let’s forget The Girl Is Mine), but each of its tracks has become a standard in its own right.
Worse, by dint of being replayed until the overdose, the latter ended up lose their shine, their magic : whether they are in a club, in the car or at the supermarket, they are listened to without thinking about it, almost like background music.
So yeah, this surely doesn’t do justice to either Michael’s genius or Quincy Jones’ vision, but isn’t it there the price to pay for having succeeded in giving birth to the best-selling record of all time?
READ ALSO : 40 “THRILLER” FACTS THAT WILL MAKE YOU Shiver