You Oughta Buy: Classics #1 Michael Jackson Thriller (1982)
To inaugurate this new section, it is only fitting that Thriller is the first album to be featured here. Thriller was released in 1982 and has sold over 46 million copies worldwide (or 51 million, depending on your source), becoming the largest selling album of all time. It also won a ground-breaking 8 Grammy Awards, establishing Michael as the King of Pop.
Thriller contains an economical 9 tracks, and not a note is wasted. 7 of the 9 tracks were released as singles and all of them went to the Top 10. In fact, Thriller was the first album to post 7 Top Ten singles from a single album.
The first single off the album was The Girl Is Mine, a duet with Paul McCartney. It was a safe choice, and it had to be released first to "get it out of the way", since it was a duet. It reached #2 on the Hot 100. Michael would hit #1 with another Paul McCartney duet, Say Say Say, from McCartney's Pipes of Peace album.
After The Girl Is Mine, the magic was unleashed. Billie Jean was released and it went to the number one spot, spending 7 weeks at the summit. Michael also broke down the barriers of race, as the Billie Jean video was the first by a black artist to receive heavy rotation, paving the way for future generations.
A clever strategy by Sony led to Beat It being released while Billie Jean was still holding strong at number one. Beat It reached the top spot too and almost replaced Billie Jean. The sizzling track featured a blistering solo by Eddie Van Halen, and blurred the lines between pop and rock.
Perhaps the moment that created the most impact was the release of the Thriller video. The 14-minute short film was directed by John Landis and it featured Michael as a zombie (or wasn't he?) with snazzy dance moves. There was even a home video released, The Making of Thriller, which went on to become the best-selling home video of all time.
The Thriller video has been voted as the greatest video on MTV and VH1's 100 Greatest Music Videos Ever Made and it legitimised the music video as an art form.
The accolades that Thriller received are simply too many to mention. Among the most notable are that it spent 37 weeks at #1, starting and ending the year 1983 in the number one spot. Billie Jean also spawned Michael's most famous dance move, the moonwalk, when he unveiled it to the world for the first time on Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever.
Thriller has been certified by the Guiness Book of World Records as the best-selling album of all time, yet many writers state wrongly that Eagles: Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 is the best-selling album of the world.
The Eagles album did indeed sell more copies in the U.S. than Thriller did (28 million versus 26 million), but to suggest that U.S. sales represent worldwide sales is ludicrous and disrespectful. Moreover, the Eagles album was a collection of greatest hits, unlike Thriller, which was a studio album of new material.
However, it is easy to get carried away by all the sales figures and awards that Thriller has won. The most important thing is the music, and it delivers on every account. While my favourite MJ album is Off The Wall, Thriller offers more punch and variety, ranging from , R&B (Billie Jean), soul (Lady In My Life), pop (P.Y.T.), funk (Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'), rock (Beat It) and more.
There is a reason why it has sold so many copies worldwide, not just in the U.S. alone, and it proved that music does indeed unite people of different cultures and language. Thriller is a must-have for every decent music library.