Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” revolution turns 40

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 18: Guests attend the Michael Jackson Thriller 40 Immersive Experience celebrating the 40th Anniversary of ‘Thriller’ at the Center 415 on November 18, 2022 in New York City. Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/Getty Images via AFP)

“Thriller” has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide since its release on November 30, 1982.

It proclaimed Jackson the “King of Pop” and remains a musical magnet.

Even renewed allegations of pedophilia in the 2019 documentary “Leaving Neverland” couldn’t dampen his popularity, and Jackson’s reach has continued to grow, with his music currently ranked 60th in the world on Spotify with 36.7 million monthly streams.

His influence is still all over the charts, not least in the form of The Weeknd, whose music Jackson has channeled, from an early cover of Dirty Diana (2010’s DD) to his recent album Dawn FM, which topped the charts”.

“Michael is someone I admire. He’s not like a real person, you know? When I first started making music, that’s what I wanted to aspire to, just like any other musician,” the Canadian singer-songwriter recently told GQ Magazine.

Much of Thriller’s magic is credited to producer Quincy Jones, who worked with Jackson on 1979’s Off The Wall.

“The record company didn’t want Quincy on ‘Off The Wall.’ They looked down on this producer from the jazz world – music that sold peanuts in the eyes of the industry,” said Olivier Cachin, author of two books on Jackson.

But when they worked together, sparks flew – literally once.

“When we finished Beat It… we worked five nights and five days without sleeping. And eventually the speakers would overload and catch fire!” Jones recalled Rolling Stone.

– threaten MTV –

“Thriller” was the moment Jackson began incorporating influences from across pop culture, with Eddie Van Halen’s hard rock solo on “Beat It” and the pop ballad “The Girl is Mine” featuring Paul McCartney.

There were groundbreaking rap rhythms on “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” and a sample from saxophonist Manu Dibango’s “Soul Makossa” (who received a big payout after Jackson’s team failed to get approval).

First, the record broke with the newly formed MTV network, which refused to show the video for the megahit single “Billie Jean” on the grounds that black music “didn’t fit” with its white-dominated rock program.

The head of Jackson’s parent label at CBS, Walter Yetnikoff, “threatens to publicly denounce MTV as big racists and ban them from accessing videos of rock artists in its catalog,” Cachin said.

Yetnikoff won that fight, but then fell out with Jackson over his plans for a $1 million video for the album’s final single, the title track “Thriller.”

Jackson wanted to work with director John Landis after loving his film An American Werewolf in London, while Yetnikoff thought the plan futile when the album was already at number one.

“But Michael had a vision and he was stubborn,” Cachin said.

The resulting 14-minute mini-film premiered in a Hollywood theater to a star-studded audience and helped boost album sales again.

Not only did Jackson transform himself into a werewolf and raise the living dead from their graves, but he launched a whole new branch of the music business — extravagant and ambitious videos that shaped the next two decades of pop culture.