Michael Jackson

Epic Records, 1982

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


If Michael Jackson is hurting for new material, all he needs to do is dust off the only two songs from Thriller that didn’t become singles the first time around, “Baby Be Mine” and “The Lady In My Life.” He wouldn’t even have to record them over again or anything.  By today’s standards, both songs would be right at home on any radio play list. One is up-tempo and the other is a ballad, so BAM -- it’s done. How great would it be to see both of these songs skyrocket to the top of the Billboard charts, twenty-five years after Thriller was first released to become the biggest selling album in music history? A couple of spanking new videos for these classic tunes would be all Jackson would need to restore his standing as the biggest star in the world.

We all know that Jackson is capable of creating some of the most incredible music videos ever made, and most of them come from this album. The title track’s clip is by far the most memorable, since it was the longest of any other music video at the time (clocking in at fifteen minutes). With its ghoulish theme and array of cutting-edge special effects, Jackson’s imagination totally ran wild as he set out to capture his scariest nightmares on celluloid. Director John Landis helped Jackson realize his vision, one that would catch everyone off guard and turn MTV on its ear. The priceless spoken word cameo by master of horror, Vincent Price, certainly didn’t hurt any.

In addition, videos for “Beat It” and “Billie Jean” helped both songs -- and the album -- to reach #1, where they seemed to take residence for what felt like an eternity.  With “Beat It,” my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Jackson even got a certain amount of street cred by recruiting Eddie Van Halen to do the now-famous guitar solo. The onstage performance of “Billie Jean” at the Motown 25 television special was what really put Michael Jackson into a league of his own. It unveiled yet another talent by this shy, enigmatic performer -- this guy could clear the floor with his original dance moves, particularly the Moonwalk. These days it appears that his dancing days may be behind him, as his health woes continue to add to his increasingly fragile physical state.

Before his toxic celebrity status -- and the media -- turned Michael Jackson into an isolated recluse, his red-hot career was quite something to watch. Back in the ‘80s, this guy could no wrong. Everything his gloved hand touched would turn to pure gold. Had he chosen to focus on the work and less on luring children to his Neverland ranch, crisis might have been averted. But therein lies the inherent problem that would be his own undoing: Michael Jackson likens himself to Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up. With the plastic surgery rumors and damaging interviews, his only solace came when he reverted back to the actions and behavior of a young boy. We already know how that story ends, so I’ll spare you with the salacious details.

Whether Jackson stepped over the line or not (eventually he was acquitted of all charges), there were no signs of impending doom back in the innocent days of 1982. Despite his somewhat effeminate tendencies, he actually looked and acted fairly normal for his age. The music of Thriller has it all and has been the prototype of most every pop album ever since. Producer Quincy Jones added his own special buff and polish to the nine dynamic tracks and together, he and Jackson were an unbeatable team. You want edgy funk, the very first track “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ has got it. You want a fizzy love song, then look no further than “Human Nature.” Even underrated gems like the Paul McCartney lead-off single “The Girl Is Mine” and the perky party tune “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” are aging surprisingly well.

The jury of public opinion is still out on whether Michael Jackson should be allowed another crack at the music biz. You really can’t blame us for being a little wary about this tragic fallen hero. After his last album, Invincible, failed to catch fire, he blamed everyone else (particularly Sony chief Tommy Mottola) and claimed zero personal responsibility whatsoever for its less than stellar results. Our patience may have worn thin with Jackson by now, but with a LOT of help, careful planning, and finessing, a large-scale comeback could very well be in the cards for the self-proclaimed King Of Pop. All you need to do is remember Thriller to understand how talented Jackson was and probably still is. Whether he’s still got “the stuff” remains to be seen, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the doubting Thomases of the world would be wise to watch their backs.

Rating: A

User Rating: B



© 2008 Michael R. Smith 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.