In pre-digital times, being a worldwide phenomenon was a much greater challenge than it is today, where globalization has broken down barriers and brought people closer to the four corners of the planet. Therefore, when we talk about the cultural effect of names like The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Madonna, Bob Dylan, or Elvis Presley, to name just a few, it is recommended to think 5 to 6 times more than any great artist of today. And among those, Michael Jackson reigned with the strongest power of all. After all, his sixth album, Thriller, is to this day the best-selling album of all time, with over 70 million copies sold worldwide.
Released 40 years ago, on November 30, 1982, Thriller was a turning point and is worth remembering, apart from the complicated person that was the artist, who died in 2009, aged 50. Produced by Quincy Jones from Michael’s detailed vision, the album broke every record imaginable and, with the contemporary rise of MTV and the rise of music videos, redefined what was called “the fever”.
Quincy and Michael had already created a few years before the praised Off The Wall, which marked the transition of Michael Jackson‘s musical career from a child singer to an adult artist. However, it was based on the disco rhythm, and, in 1979, it was already worn out and dealing with the emergence of punk rock. Michael then decided to throw himself into rock and pop, genres not yet explored by black artists.
A fan of cinema and the horror genre, the singer explored personal themes and, as critics point out, he started to include some themes like paranoia and fear. Recording began in April 1982, featuring Paul McCartney on one of the tracks. Of the nine tracks on Thriller, seven of them reached the top of the world charts, and the album was the best seller – unabated – between February 1983 and April 1984, that is, in 1st place for more than a year.
Some of Michael’s greatest classics are out of the Thriller album: Beat It (with Eddie Van Halen‘s guitar), Billie Jean, The Girl Is Mine (partnership with McCartney), Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’, Human Nature and Thriller, of course.
An accomplished dancer and extremely creative, Michael was the most played artist on MTV in 1982 with his Billie Jean video. In the same year, in a live performance, he made one of his most famous steps, the moonwalk, copied and adored until today. Thriller was practically a short film, directed by John Landis and with special cinema effects. With each release, Michael literally stopped the world. He is credited with turning music videos into works of art. He was always innovative. Ever.
In addition to the frightening sale, Thriller won 8 Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year, and is considered one of the most important cultural works of the 20th century.
The success of the album was an old dream of Michael as a solo artist, something he hoped to have already achieved with Off The Wall, but it sold “only”, 10 million copies. Because of racism, even though he was an international star since he was 5 years old, he didn’t win magazine covers or be asked for interviews, something that certainly changed with Thriller. The principle he used was to have each track as a hit, not accepting anything that served as the “B-side” of a single.
The first single, The Girl Is Mine, was not well received by critics, but when he released Billie Jean, Michael’s reflection on his fans’ obsession with his personal life, everything changed. The album took a mere two months to reach #1, selling an average of one million copies a week. At age 25, Michael Jackson became the King of Pop, the most beloved artist on the planet. He already had a successful career spanning 20 years when this happened, but by the impressive numbers, he has moved on to another stage of stardom.
Regardless of Michael’s complicated personality from the phenomenon, Thriller’s 40 years are very important to remember. They are the result of an incredible artistic vision and dedication, which has impacted the lives of millions of people and which is still commercially relevant.