Michael Jackson

Epic Records, 1982

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


I can hear the questions now: Why have we waited over four years to feature Michael Jackson's 1982 album Thriller here on "The Daily Vault"? The answer is quite simple: I like life, and I don't like death threats.

Whether I had formed an opinion on this album or not, tackling the best-selling album in history is no easy task. Daring to say something that might not be positive about this record would be the equivalent to playing a Slayer album during an audience with the Pope. It can only invite opportunity to be slammed harder than a professional wrestler.

Yet, here we are. And there Jackson was back in 1982. If one steps back and thinks about the time this disc was released in, Jackson happened to be in the right place at the right time. He had always been the subject of idolatry since his days with the Jackson Five, only now, he had streamlined his look (compare the cover shots of Thrillermy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 and Off The Wall) and his sound. Oh - and he utilized a little device known as the "music video", despite MTV's initial reluctance to program his work.

It was a powder keg waiting to be set off - and Jackson's appearance at the Motown Anniversary, where he upstaged his brothers for the umpteenth time, was the match that lit the fuse. Thirty-five million albums later, the ka-boom is still heard.

Enough padding - how is this album? Musically, it's a step up from Off The Wall, ditching the dancing references and getting down to the funk at times... but there still is a little bit of filler. More on that in a moment.

There is something to be said for the freshness of this record. Nearly 20 years since its release (Christ, I can't believe I just wrote that - seems like only yesterday I was buying this record at K-Mart), tracks like "Billie Jean" and "Beat It" still sound like they could have been written and recorded yesterday. (Yes, they're overplayed - but that doesn't mean they're not good.) "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" tries to pick up the funk where he left off on "Workin' Day And Night", and while it's not quite in the same league, it does feel like Jackson is trying to cut loose from his freshly-pressed image by having some fun in the vocals.

Not everything has held up as well, though. "The Girl Is Mine," a duet with Paul McCartney (at least when the two were still speaking to each other - did they ever kiss and make up?), sounds about as flat as any of McCartney's solo material from that time period, and is more of a time capsule kind of song than anything these days. Likewise, "Human Nature" sounds a little out of place with some of the harder-edged stuff Jackson was doing on this disc - but then again, I didn't like this song back in 1982. "The Lady In My Life" is a better love song than this. And the less said about "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)", the better.

Still, Thriller has held up surprisingly well over the years... and Jackson has yet to prove he wasn't deserving of all the fame and accolade this record brought him. (Never mind the fact that he seemed to go fruit loops with some of his eccentricities.) We could argue for over several hours over several beers whether Thriller truly is the best album ever recorded, and each side would be right in their opinions. Let's leave it at this: for the time it was recorded in, Thriller was the best album, and still is worth your time and attention today.

Rating: B+

User Rating: B



© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Epic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.