(NEW YORK) — Thirty years ago Friday, the album that changed the face of pop music forever arrived in stores: Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
The album, released November 30, 1982, was a pop culture phenomenon the likes of which we’ll probably never see again. It spent 37 weeks at #1, and spun off a then-unprecedented seven top ten singles, including “Billie Jean,” “Beat It,” “Thriller,” “The Girl Is Mine,” “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” “PYT (Pretty Young Thing),” and “Human Nature.” At the 1984 Grammy Awards, Michael and Thriller won a record eight trophies. Thriller went on to become the best-selling album of all time.
With its mix of pop music, R&B, rock, funk and even The Beatles — courtesy of the Paul McCartney duet “The Girl Is Mine” — the songs on Thriller crossed every musical boundary and appealed to fans of all ages, races and cultures. And with today’s increasingly fractured pop culture scene, it’s safe to say that this kind of global domination by a single album is unlikely to be repeated.
Thriller is also credited with breaking the color barrier at MTV. In 1982, the channel rarely played clips by black artists — until “Billie Jean” came along. And Michael’s clip for “Thriller,” directed by John Landis and featuring state-of-the-art special effects and over-the-top choreography, became the standard by which all music videos were judged.
Thriller‘s influence on today’s singers cannot be overestimated. From Justin Bieber to Beyonce, from Maroon 5 to Ne-Yo, from Bruno Mars to just about every R&B and hip-hop star out there today, there’s probably no major artist who hasn’t been shaped musically in some way by Thriller.
Thriller producer Quincy Jones says no album will ever be as successful as this one. Why? He says, “To me, it’s just a series of circumstances that I don’t think can ever be repeated, including MTV and Michael riding each other to glory.”
Asked to comment on Thriller’s continued popularity, La Toya Jackson, Michael’s sister, tells ABC News Radio, “Time flies doesn’t it? It’s amazing, but it’s so wonderful to know that the support is always there and it’s still there. And it just goes to show you what a staple he put in the music industry, where people will [still] love him no matter what…and I think that’s legendary. It’s wonderful.”
In February of 2008, Thriller was reissued in a 25th anniversary edition with seven bonus tracks, including reworkings of “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” “Beat It,” “The Girl Is Mine,” “PYT (Pretty Young Thing)” and “Billie Jean” by will.I.am, Kanye West, Fergie and other artists.
The reissue was a huge success, and in a video message to fans released around that time Michael Jackson said, “To be able to say that Thriller still holds the record as the biggest selling album of all time is just mind-blowing. I have you, my fans throughout the world, to thank for this achievement.” He also promised that there would be, quote, “still much to come for Michael Jackson.” Sadly, he died the following year.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Brett Crandall, BYU-Idaho Communications
Sandra Gonzalez, CNN