You Wanna Be Startin’ Something (Michael Jackson, Thriller review)
It’s difficult to find an album that feels timeless, because most of the time, we are in that time and have no frame of reference, but when you start cycling through the back catalogue of musical history it can become pretty obvious when something is brilliant.
And if you’re okay with it, dear readers, I’d like to call it a thriller.
Michael Jackson – Thriller
released November 30, 1982
Michael Jackson was an American singer, songwriter, dancer, actor, producer and philanthropist. Known by countless fans as the King of Pop, he truly was a global figure in pop culture for just over four decades.
It’s incredibly hard not to talk about pop music and think of Michael Jackson, well for me anyway. I grew up on MTV, Much Music, and Much More Music videos. I must’ve seen the music video for Thriller more than a hundred times in my youth. And it was one of the only “cool” albums in my parents record collection that wasn’t influenced by country or christmas music, so writing about this album is of special significance for moi.
You know, I don’t think I’ve made this very clear yet. When I was a kid we listened to a lot of country music. A lot.
The radio in the kitchen was always tuned to country music, and whenever we went on the road, it was the same challenge. My dad was a heavy influencer of what was played in the house and it wasn’t until my early teenage years that I really started to spread my wings musically and try other stuff out.
I can partially thank Michael Jackson for that.
Thriller was Michael Jacksons’ most successful album and it remains to this day as the best-selling album of all time, with more than 65 million units sold worldwide. It helped transform the musical landscape of the day by bolstering the success of MTV and bringing more attention to music videos as a medium. The title track, Thriller has a music video which is almost fourteen minutes in length, more than double that of the song. Which should say something about Jackson’s creative vision and ability to correctly champion innovative ideas.
Unfortunately he died in 2009, just over seven years ago, but he left an incredible legacy which I largely attribute to the efforts of this album. What I mean is that Thriller is also a gargantuan effort in breaking down many challenges of race and segregation in the musical arts. Well in general too, but this is a blog about the arts, so yeah.
Seven of the album’s nine songs became singles over a two year period – The Girl Is Mine, Billie Jean, Beat it, Wanna Be Startin’ Something, Human Nature, P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing), Thriller.
Which should tell you that it was influential. And both Baby Be Mine and The Lady in My Life are excellent songs in their own right.
I choose to review this album, because for me Halloween will always be tied in with Thriller. The song was released as a single about a year before I was born, so it was always around. Not to mention the fact that it features zombies and Vincent Price – Who was also synonymous with horror. Thriller is a a certifiable piece of music history and dammit if it isn’t a fun listen. I must’ve spun it more than a dozen times this week in preparation for my review, and I still want to listen to it. For those of you living under a rock, do yourself a favour and listen to Thriller… it’s over 30 years old now and still relevant.
Happy Halloween my friends. It comes around but once a year, and though I hope you’ll get why I choose a classic record this time around instead of keeping up with the rhythm of releases, consider this. Sometimes providing a quality review is more important than a contemporary one. Which might be the case for tomorrows theatrical entry. But you’ll just have to see for yourselves.