Michael Jackson’s Thriller ended its 80 week run at the top of the album charts in April 1984. I’ve pulled together 3 MJ acolytes to discuss Jackson’s masterpiece. In our previous discussion we talked about our favorite and least favorite songs on the album, whether we consider Thriller perfect, and what drove Michael to create one of the most successful albums in history.
Sean: We’ve discussed Michael’s music – now let’s talk about the videos from Thriller.
Norman: He was a visual artist – he was one of the first visual artists and those videos (from Thriller) are incredible!
Sean: He was the first black artist to be played on MTV. Before 1983 MTV did not play black artists in heavy rotation.
Norman: That was 1983? That’s within my lifetime! And that was just ok with people?
Shana : Well Walter Yetnikoff got gangsta with it – you know that story. He was the head of CBS records and Michael was really pissed that he did not get the cover of Rollingstone after “Off the Wall,” and he was accusing the industry of being racist – rightfully so. But when MTV wouldn’t play (Billie Jean from Thriller) because they said it wasn’t their ‘audience’ – Walter Yetnikoff was like – I will pull all of our artists’ videos from your network if you do not play Michael’s videos. Which was at a time when it mattered to artists to have their videos played on that network. And that’s what set everything in motion.
Sean: And I love that Michael was like – you want rock? Here’s “Beat it”. You like R&B – here’s “Billie Jean”.
Norman: You like amazing novelty yet soul/funk? Here’s “Thriller”!
Sean: So what’s everyone’s favorite video from Thriller?
Norman: “Thriller”. That goes without saying, right?
Shana: I think my favorite is “Beat It”.
Sean: I’m going to say “Beat It” as well. It’s concise, it’s tight, it tells a story and has some of the most memorable choreography in music video history. Plus “Beat It” was so good he decided to make it again and call it “Bad”. “Bad” is basically ‘Beat It Part 2..’
Norman: There are only 3 videos from the album Thriller – “Billie Jean”, “Beat It”, “Thriller”.
Sean: I’m sad that there was not a video for “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin”.
Norman: Or “Human Nature”. I’ve seen the “Human Nature” video in my head!
Sean: Me too! It’s black and white – lots of beauty shots of NYC at night.
Sean: Christine – what’s your favorite video from Thriller?
Christine: I can’t answer this question without sounding like a hypocrite (Note: in our previous post Christine admitted the song “Thriller” was her least favorite on the album). The “Thriller” video is obviously my favorite. “Thriller” changed music video as we knew it.
Norman: Thriller is the best music video of all time! Of any artist! Ever! No video has come out that is better than Thriller!
Shana: But the best doesn’t have to be your favorite.
Sean: It’s two for “Beat It”, two for “Thriller”. Ok – most important question for everyone – can you do the “Thriller” dance?
Shana: Not in its entirety.
Norman: Not in its entirety.
Sean: I’m disappointed in all of you. Ok – let’s move on and discuss the aftermath of Thriller.
Shana: I’d argue in the scheme of things that Thriller was the moment Michael – who was always a performer his whole life – really just wanted to devote himself and almost sacrifice himself to the crowd, for the applause. Thriller is the last moment in his career when he made an album that was solely for the fans. After that – the albums were a little bit more for him. Bad, for example. He made that album when he was going through some stuff so he comes out with really personal songs like “Leave Me Alone” and “Dirty Diana” and “Another Part of Me”.
Norman: I don’t think Bad is like that – I think it (Michael working out his personal demons phase) comes later. I think Bad was trying to completely be Thriller Part Two.
Norman: He had every intention of making an album that was just as successful.
Shana: I think he became much more personal making Bad. Thriller was the least autobiographical.
Sean: But the most popular.
Norman: Thriller was for us. It was The Passion of the Jackson!
You Might Also Like my Countdown of the Best Post-Thriller Michael Jackson Songs in 1984:
Michael Jackson at his best in 1984
#2 – Centipede
#3 – Say Say Say
#4 – Tell Me I’m Not Dreamin’ (Too Good To Be True)
#5 – Farewell My Summer Love
#6 – Somebody’s Watching Me