1. Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'
2. Baby Be Mine
3. The Girl Is Mine
5. Beat It
6. Billie Jean
7. Human Nature
8. P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)
9. The Lady in My Life
Thriller is an absolute monster of an album. The exact number of sales it's racked up varies depending on you talk to, but it's definitely over 50 million which means there are more than copies of Thriller than there are Spaniards. Everyone in Spain could have a personal copy of this album and there would still be copies spare for everyone in New Zealand.
The question is: would they actually want one?
Thriller hasn't dated all that well to be honest. At the time its production was cutting edge and revolutionary and it was the most modern sound around. Today it's definitely a product of its time and stuck firmly in the 80's. It sounds like it was recorded in 1982 which isn't a crime but it also sounds like you need to take yourself back to 1982 to appreciate it. The Beatles sound like a sixties band but there's something contemporary about their production techniques that makes them sound fresh today. People are still trying to capture the Beatles sound but you don't find too many people harking back to 1982's production values: "Hey, why don't we make the drums sound more fake?"
Thriller's obvious highlight is the title track, despite being overshadowed by its video clip with its immediately recognizable dancing zombies that must have seemed quite cool at the time. Years later Thrillers' visuals all look a bit naff which is a pity because it drags the original song down with it and Thriller kind of deserves better. It's catchy stuff and one of Jackson's finest moments.
Just as good is Beat It, which is Jackson's finest rock moment. Eddie Van Halen on guitar helps but it's Jackson's attitude which really makes it work. Jackson looks and sounds angry on Beat it. The video clip is extremely cheesy with a bunch of dancers trying to look like street thugs but never looking anything other than guys who defer to choreographers not gang leaders, but even its inherent silliness (in which Jackson unites rival gang factions through the power of dance) can't disguise the fact that this is the sort of stuff that Jackson does best. He's most affective when he's aggressive.
I've always said it's a huge shame that when Jackson was accused of paedophilia that he chose to try and portray himself as a loving messiah figure and not an angry man with his fist raised in anger. I'm not sure whether he was guilty or not but I can tell you that if he wrote Beat it back in 1982 when he had nothing to be angry about then how good would have been writing angry songs when the press were hounding him and his nose was falling off? I'd definitely buy a Jackson album called "Damn my mutant nostrils!"
Sadly the rest of Thriller isn't nearly as good as its two best tracks. Billie Jean was a big hit but is a bit of a dud song with some especially laboured lyrics that sort of get crammed into the song structure without ever really feeling like they belong. Apparently producer Quincy Jones never liked it and I have to say I'm with the Quince on this one.
But Billie Jean is far from the worst song on the album. That honour is given to The Girl is Mine, a song so appallingly awful it defies description. It's not just the worst song Jackson has ever done, it's the worst song Paul McCartney has ever sung on, which considering his eighties career is a big statement. Is there a more cringing thing in the entire of pop music than the line "The doggone girl is mine"? If there is then I struggle to think of one. It's just deplorably awful in every way it's possible to be dreadful. The repetitive tedium, the wash of woeful strings, the cheesy backing vocals, the big synth flourishes, the terrible key change, the embarrassing conversational interlude ("No Michael she's mine") it's just terrible beyond words. The Girl is Mine is an instant inclusion in my compilation of "Worst Songs on the top 500 albums" and might even be the lead single.
The rest of Thriller doesn't plummet to the depths of The Girl is Mine but doesn't reach the highs of Beat it either. There's a lot of filler which sounded new in 82 but sounds dated and tired today.
Thriller is currently the best selling album of all time but I wonder if it will hold the title indefinitely. What will future generations make of Jackson's finest hour, especially now that the man has gone and the honeymoon period of his death has passed. Will tomorrow's teenagers wonder what the fuss was about? Will they hear something that sounds like a product of their parents time and turn their backs? Can it win over any new devotees or will it be overtaken by albums that went before or came after?
Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "Man on cover handsome, that all. Music not good. Singer sound like he mad in most songs. And sometime he sound out of breath. He grunt on songs too. Songs not making sense either. "Baby Be Mine" not about a baby, it about something else. And he sing "Want to Start Something" but he not say what. Guitar sound cheap on most song too. Not good!!"
-Not listen to handsome grunty man. Not listen.
So is this a thriller or not? Let me know below