Thriller (Epic, 1982)
Thriller is the sixth studio album by American singer Michael Jackson, released on November 30, 1982, in the United States by Epic Records and internationally by CBS Records. Reunited with Off the Wall (his previous album) producer Quincy Jones, Jackson was inspired to create an album where “every song was a killer”. With the ongoing backlash against disco, Jackson moved in a different musical direction from the disco-heavy Off the Wall. Thriller features a single guest appearance, with Paul McCartney becoming the first artist to be featured on Jackson’s albums.
Thriller peaked at number one on the Billboard 200. It produced seven singles: The Girl Is Mine, Billie Jean, Beat It, Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’, Human Nature, P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing), and the title track Thriller. All seven singles reached the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, breaking the record for most top 10 singles from an album, with Beat It and Billie Jean reaching number one on the chart. Following Jackson’s performance of Billie Jean at Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever, where he debuted the moonwalk, the sales of Thriller significantly increased, selling one million copies worldwide per week. The Thriller music video was premiered to great anticipation in December 1983 and played regularly on MTV, which also increased the sales of the album. By the end of 1983, Thriller became the world’s best-selling album, having sold 32 million copies. It was the best-selling album worldwide of 1983 and 1984, and was also the best-selling album in the United States in 1983 and 1984, making it the first album to be the country’s best-selling for two years. It spent a record 37 weeks at number one on the Billboard 200, from February 26, 1983 to April 14, 1984. The album was one of the first to use music videos as successful promotional tools, and the videos for the songs Billie Jean and Beat It and the short film Michael Jackson’s Thriller all received regular rotation on MTV and are credited for transforming music videos into a serious art form, with the latter also popularizing short films in the music industry. Thriller‘s success set the standard for the music industry with its songs, music videos and promotion strategies influencing artists, record labels, producers, marketers and choreographers.
Thriller remains one of the best-selling album of all time, with sales of 66 million copies worldwide. It currently sits as the second-best-selling album in the United States. The album won a record-breaking eight Grammy Awards at the 26th Annual Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year and Record of the Year (for Beat It). Thriller is viewed by critics and publications as one of the greatest albums of all time. It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry of “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant recordings”, and Michael Jackson’s Thriller (the music video) was inducted into the National Film Preservation Board’s National Film Registry of “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant films”.