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Michael Jackson|Thriller

Thriller

Michael Jackson

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Off the Wall was a massive success, spawning four Top Ten hits (two of them number ones), but nothing could have prepared Michael Jackson for Thriller. Nobody could have prepared anybody for the success of Thriller, since the magnitude of its success was simply unimaginable -- an album that sold 40 million copies in its initial chart run, with seven of its nine tracks reaching the Top Ten (for the record, the terrific "Baby Be Mine" and the pretty good ballad "The Lady in My Life" are not like the others). This was a record that had something for everybody, building on the basic blueprint of Off the Wall by adding harder funk, hard rock, softer ballads, and smoother soul -- expanding the approach to have something for every audience. That alone would have given the album a good shot at a huge audience, but it also arrived precisely when MTV was reaching its ascendancy, and Jackson helped the network by being not just its first superstar, but first black star as much as the network helped him. This all would have made it a success (and its success, in turn, served as a new standard for success), but it stayed on the charts, turning out singles, for nearly two years because it was really, really good. True, it wasn't as tight as Off the Wall -- and the ridiculous, late-night house-of-horrors title track is the prime culprit, arriving in the middle of the record and sucking out its momentum -- but those one or two cuts don't detract from a phenomenal set of music. It's calculated, to be sure, but the chutzpah of those calculations (before this, nobody would even have thought to bring in metal virtuoso Eddie Van Halen to play on a disco cut) is outdone by their success. This is where a song as gentle and lovely as "Human Nature" coexists comfortably with the tough, scared "Beat It," the sweet schmaltz of the Paul McCartney duet "The Girl Is Mine," and the frizzy funk of "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)." And, although this is an undeniably fun record, the paranoia is already creeping in, manifesting itself in the record's two best songs: "Billie Jean," where a woman claims Michael is the father of her child, and the delirious "Wanna Be Startin' Something," the freshest funk on the album, but the most claustrophobic, scariest track Jackson ever recorded. These give the record its anchor and are part of the reason why the record is more than just a phenomenon. The other reason, of course, is that much of this is just simply great music.
© Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo

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Thriller

Michael Jackson

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1
Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' (Album Version)
00:06:03

Michael Jackson, Vocals - David Williams, Guitar - Larry Williams, Flute & Saxophone - Michael Boddicker, Synthesizer - Greg Phillinganes, Synthesizer - Bill Wolfer, Synthesizer - Louis Johnson, Bass - Gary Grant, Trumpet - Jerry Hey, Trumpet - Bill Reichenbach, Trombone - Jerry Hey, Flugelhorn - Gary Grant, Flugelhorn - Paulinho Da Costa, Percussion - Michael Jackson, Background Vocal - Becky Lopez, Background Vocal - Maxine Waters, Background Vocal - Bunny Hull, Background Vocal - Julia Waters, Background Vocal - James Ingram, Background Vocal - Oren Waters, Background Vocal - Michael J. Jackson, Composer - Michael Jackson, Arranger - Jerry Hey, Arranger - Michael J. Jackson, Lyricist - Quincy Jones, Producer

(P) 1982 MJJ Productions, Inc.

2
Baby Be Mine (Album Version)
00:04:20

Michael Jackson, Vocal - Michael Jackson, Background Vocal - David Williams, Guitar - Gary Grant, Trumpet & Flugelhorn - Larry Williams, Flute & Saxophone - Bill Reichenbach, Trombone - Jerry Hey, Trumpet & Flugelhorn - Michael Boddicker, Synthesizer - David Paich, Synthesizer - Greg Phillinganes, Keyboards - Greg Phillinganes, Synthesizer - Louis Johnson, Bass - Ndugo Chancler, Drums - Paulinho Da Costa, Percussion - R. Temperton, Composer - R. Temperton, Lyricist - Michael Jackson, Vocal Arranger - Rod Temperton, Vocal Arranger - Jerry Hey, Arranger - Quincy Jones, Producer - Bruce Swedien, Recording Engineer - Matt Forger, Recording Engineer - Humberto Gatica, Recording Engineer - Steve Bates, 2nd Engineer - Mark Ettel, 2nd Engineer - Bernie Grundman, Mastering Engineer

(P) 1982 MJJ Productions Inc.

3
The Girl Is Mine (with Paul McCartney) (Album Version)
00:03:42

Michael Jackson, Vocal - Paul McCartney, Vocal - Michael Jackson, Background Vocal - Paul McCartney, Background Vocal - Dean Parks, Guitar - Steve Lukather, Guitar - David Paich, Piano - Louis Johnson, Bass - Jeff Porcaro, Drums - David Foster, Synthesizer - Michael J. Jackson, Composer - Michael J. Jackson, Lyricist - Michael Jackson, Vocal Arranger - Quincy Jones, Vocal Arranger - Quincy Jones, Producer - Humberto Gatica, Recording Engineer - Bernie Grundman, Mastering Engineer - Bruce Swedien, Recording Engineer - Matt Forger, Recording Engineer - Mark Ettel, 2nd Engineer - Steve Bates, 2nd Engineer -

(P) 1982 MJJ Productions Inc.

4
Thriller (Album Version)
00:05:58

Michael Jackson, Vocal - Vincent Price, Speaker - David Williams, Guitar - Jerry Hey, Trumpet & Flugelhorn - Gary Grant, Trumpet & Flugelhorn - Michael Jackson, Background Vocal - Rod Temperton, Synthesizer - Brian Banks, Synthesizer - Greg Phillinganes, Synthesizer - Bill Reichenbach, Trombone - Larry Williams, Flute & Saxophone - Rod Temperton, Composer - Rod Temperton, Lyricist - Quincy Jones, Producer -

(P) 1982 MJJ Productions Inc.

5
Beat It
00:04:18

Michael Jackson, Vocal - Steve Lukather, Guitar - Paul Jackson Jr., Guitar - Steve Lukather, Acoustic Bass - Bill Wolfer, Keyboards - Greg Phillinganes, Synthesizer - Steve Porcaro, Synthesizer - Michael Jackson, Background Vocal - Jeff Porcaro, Drums - Quincy Jones, Producer - M. J. Jackson, Composer - M. J. Jackson, Lyricist

(P) 1982 MJJ Productions Inc.

6
Billie Jean (Single Version)
00:04:53

Michael Jackson, Vocal - Michael Jackson, Background Vocal - David Williams, Guitar - Louis Johnson, Bass - Bill Wolfer, Synthesizer - Greg Phillinganes, Synthesizer - Greg Smith, Synthesizer - Ndugu Chancler, Drums - Michael J. Jackson, Composer - Michael J. Jackson, Lyricist - Quincy Jones, Producer

(P) 1982 MJJ Productions Inc.

7
Human Nature (Album Version)
00:04:05

Michael Jackson, Vocal - Steve Lukather, Guitar - Michael Jackson, Background Vocal - David Paich, Synthesizer - Steve Porcaro, Synthesizer - Jeff Porcaro, Drums - Paulinho Da Costa, Percussion - John Bettis, Composer - S. Porcaro, Composer - John Bettis, Lyricist - S. Porcaro, Lyricist - Steve Porcaro, Arranger - Steve Lukather, Arranger - David Paich, Arranger - Quincy Jones, Producer - Matt Forger, Recording Engineer - Bruce Swedien, Recording Engineer - Humberto Gatica, Recording Engineer - Bernie Grundman, Mastering Engineer - Steve Bates, 2nd Engineer - Mark Ettel, 2nd Engineer

(P) 1982 MJJ Productions Inc.

8
P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing) (Album Version)
00:03:58

Michael Jackson, Vocal - Paul Jackson Jr., Guitar - Louis Johnson, Bass - Greg Phillinganes, Synthesizer - James Ingram, Keyboards - Ndugu Chancler, Drums - James Ingram, Background Vocal - Howard Hewett, Background Vocal - Quincy Jones, Composer - Quincy Jones, Lyricist - James Ingram, Composer - James Ingram, Lyricist - Quincy Jones, Arranger - James Ingram, Arranger - Quincy Jones, Producer - Humberto Gatica, Recording Engineer - Bruce Swedien, Recording Engineer - Matt Forger, Recording Engineer - Steve Bates, 2nd Engineer - Mark Ettel, 2nd Engineer - Bernie Grundman, Mastering Engineer

(P) 1982 MJJ Productions Inc.

9
The Lady in My Life (Album Version)
00:04:58

Michael Jackson, Vocal - Paul Jackson Jr., Guitar - Michael Jackson, Background Vocal - Louis Johnson, Bass - Steve Porcaro, Synthesizer - Jeff Porcaro, Drums - David Paich, Synthesizer - R. Temperton, Composer - R. Temperton, Lyricist - Rod Temperton, Arranger - Humberto Gatica, Recording Engineer - Bruce Swedien, Recording Engineer - Matt Forger, Recording Engineer - Quincy Jones, Producer - Steve Bates, 2nd Engineer - Mark Ettel, 2nd Engineer - Bernie Grundman, Mastering Engineer

(P) 1982 MJJ Productions Inc.

Album Description

Off the Wall was a massive success, spawning four Top Ten hits (two of them number ones), but nothing could have prepared Michael Jackson for Thriller. Nobody could have prepared anybody for the success of Thriller, since the magnitude of its success was simply unimaginable -- an album that sold 40 million copies in its initial chart run, with seven of its nine tracks reaching the Top Ten (for the record, the terrific "Baby Be Mine" and the pretty good ballad "The Lady in My Life" are not like the others). This was a record that had something for everybody, building on the basic blueprint of Off the Wall by adding harder funk, hard rock, softer ballads, and smoother soul -- expanding the approach to have something for every audience. That alone would have given the album a good shot at a huge audience, but it also arrived precisely when MTV was reaching its ascendancy, and Jackson helped the network by being not just its first superstar, but first black star as much as the network helped him. This all would have made it a success (and its success, in turn, served as a new standard for success), but it stayed on the charts, turning out singles, for nearly two years because it was really, really good. True, it wasn't as tight as Off the Wall -- and the ridiculous, late-night house-of-horrors title track is the prime culprit, arriving in the middle of the record and sucking out its momentum -- but those one or two cuts don't detract from a phenomenal set of music. It's calculated, to be sure, but the chutzpah of those calculations (before this, nobody would even have thought to bring in metal virtuoso Eddie Van Halen to play on a disco cut) is outdone by their success. This is where a song as gentle and lovely as "Human Nature" coexists comfortably with the tough, scared "Beat It," the sweet schmaltz of the Paul McCartney duet "The Girl Is Mine," and the frizzy funk of "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)." And, although this is an undeniably fun record, the paranoia is already creeping in, manifesting itself in the record's two best songs: "Billie Jean," where a woman claims Michael is the father of her child, and the delirious "Wanna Be Startin' Something," the freshest funk on the album, but the most claustrophobic, scariest track Jackson ever recorded. These give the record its anchor and are part of the reason why the record is more than just a phenomenon. The other reason, of course, is that much of this is just simply great music.
© Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo

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