Michael Jackson - 25th Anniversary of Thriller

Posted February 14, 2008

It’s my honest intention to write this review without resorting to easy jokes about Michael...

25th Anniversary of Thriller Album Review

It’s my honest intention to write this review without resorting to easy jokes about Michael Jackson, like when I called him “an albino pedophile” in the Rhymefest review. Not only are those jokes too easy, they tarnish the musical legacy of the man who is indisputably the greatest pop artist in history. For those of us who grew up in the 80’s watching Michael moonwalk his way across the hearts and minds of America, it’s a little sad to think that people of a younger generation will know Michael not as the Prince of Pop, but as the Duke of Completely F***king Crazy.

It’s almost impossible to explain the influence and power Michael wielded during the 80’s, but the 25 anniversary re-release of his epic album Thriller is a good place to start. How big was this album? To date Thriller has sold 102 million copies, won seven Grammys, and seven of the nine songs on the album went number one. Just in case you missed that, allow me to slow it down: seven…of the nine songs on the album…went number one. It sold…102 million…copies. No one else will ever, ever, have that kind of success again.

No one will ever light themselves on fire during a Pepsi commercial either, but that’s what makes Michael so special, his ability to achieve the impossible – like becoming whiter than Ryan Seacrest. You know what? Screw it. It’s clearly impossible for me to write this review with any amount of seriousness. So forget it, I’m about to have more fun than Michael at a Boy Scout Jamboree.

In today’s “who’s hot now” culture it’s easy to think that old music equals bad music, but the truth is that Thriller’s roster of hits have a timelessness that will never fade; unlike the modern chart-toppers like Yung Berg, who will be working at Burger King with Mims and the Shop Boyz by this summer. Billie Jean, Beat It, The Girl Is Mine, Thriller, and my personal favorite Pretty Young Thing (which is more of a guarantee to get the ladies on the dance floor than Low), seamlessly combine Quincy Jones impeccable production design and MJ’s surprisingly strong falsetto into perfect pop capsules. Thriller is the definitive blueprint for pop success that’s still copied today, just ask Trey Songz.

As if owning the greatest selling album of all time wasn’t enough, five of the album’s songs have been remixed by four of contemporary music’s brightest stars; or should I say three of contemporary music’s brightest stars and Fergie. Even though I have trouble seeing Fergie as anything but the living symbol The Black Eyed Peas decision to sell out, I’ve enjoyed my fair share of Fergalicous. Or at least I was starting to give her some respect until I was forced to listen to Beat It 2008, a track featuring The Duchess screeching her way through a cheap version of the song that showed MJ’s tough side. By contrast the Fergster’s running mate will.i.am fares much better on his two contributions: he injects The Girl Is Mine with his spacey blend of electronic synths and subtle rhythms (despite the regrettable decision to replace MJ’s crooning with his own forgettable rap), and his up-tempo remix of Pretty Young Thing may be the only remix that could be a radio hit today.

will.i.am’s ear for catchy hook’s aside, Akon took the untouchable hook of Wanna Be Startin Somethin' and turns it into a slow ballad with some world music percussion. Akon’s the only artist who had the creative vision to substantially change the original, and while it was better the first time around, at least it’s interesting. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for Kanye’s attempt at Bille Jean; apart from adding a string melody and some extra bass, the song’s essentially untouched. Bille Jean’s storyline of groupie turned blackmailer is the perfect subject for a Kanye verse, but apparently he was so busy rehearsing his Grammy-award speech he couldn’t be bothered. The point is that Thriller's not remotely worth your hard earned cash solely for the largely anemic remixes, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth buying - if for no other reason than to remember a time when Michael was tearing up the stage instead of Macaulay Culkin’s ass. Stay tuned to find out if the FCC fines me for that last joke, it was worth it.

DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins

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Posted February 14, 2008
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