Michael Jackson - Thriller
Published in 1982
"If you want to be starting something, you got to be starting something."
Dear Mr. Jackson,
When Anonymous suggested this album to me, I wasn't really sure what to do with it. I mean, what do you say about a man who's life has been repeatedly looked at through many different lenses, and as someone who was born after Thriller, I don't have a great personal attachment to listening to it. In fact, I didn't really know what to do with it. You see, in my life, you were a bit of an anomaly.
For young people like me, there seemed to be two Michael Jacksons. There was the broken, strange looking man, constantly living under the watchful eye of the police, accused of things that I don't want to get into here, and referred to the King of Pop in a derisive manner. On the other side, we had the actual King of Pop, the man (and boy) who produced some of the greatest fucking music in history, created beats known the world over, an incredible performer, and a master of the landscape that was music for over two decades. To this day, Thriller is one of the most indisputably great works ever created. To find a dissenting opinion, you need to look years and years after the fact, after the prism of the broken Jackson has been engaged.
As a young boy, growing up in the suburbs, if there was one thing that everyone agreed on, it was that Michael Jackson was amazing, and a damaged human being. Out of this strange combination came some great art, but also some general insanity. I wish that I had been mature enough to separate these facts out, and come to an adult conclusion then, but I was young and dumb, and I didn't know what to do with the guy who was black who became white, and how to reconcile this with your music.
I don't know how history will look at your life, whether as a heroic triumph over the adversity of your youth, or as the slow degeneration of a once a great artist, but for me, I'll always try to remember you as the great artist first, and I'll try to forget whatever else descends with you. I do this not to apologize for your actions or the actions of those around you, but so I can look at you through the eyes of a kid who loved you.
I'd be hard pressed to find a kid who didn't love you. I mean, come on, the Jackson 5's songs, for whatever shit happened to you to make them, revealed one of the greatest artists in history, and we have to appreciate that. You were a musical idol to generations, and I will forever be your fan.
Let's talk about Thriller then. Jesus Christ, you packed a shitload of hits into this thing, didn't you. Ignoring the title track (don't worry, I'll get to it,) the track list of incredible songs is: Wanna Be Starting Somethin', The Girl is Mine, Beat It, and Billie Jean. Some bands go for years without producing something equaling one of these songs, and you did four in months. I mean, come on, who could even compete with that.
Wanna Be Starting Somethin', when played at a party, will still pack a dance floor, and as an update of the "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough" formula, it's a great song. I'm a huge fan of Don't Stop, but Wanna Be Starting Something is amazing too.
The Girl is Mine, the duet with Paul McCartney now sounds a bit dated, and the reason is because this song has been covered to death, and the ones I remember are usually comedians doing it. However, listening to it with fresh ears, I really enjoy everything up to the spoken word part. The dialog between you and Paul is stilted and weird, and I couldn't really stay locked in for it.
Beat It, other than having one of the most ridiculous videos in history, is another song that is guaranteed to get everyone moving, wherever they are. It's a song of great depth, and it's just fantastic to this day.
Billie Jean is another entry on the hit parade. I mean, what it must have been like going out to dance during the mid-eighties. I'm assuming they just played this album, then after forty two minutes, they repeated it. What else could you do?
And then, there was a little thing called Thriller. Thriller is perhaps the most successful seventh single off of an album ever, and there is a good reason for that. The reason is that Thriller, the moment that it was even conceived in your beautiful, pop-producing brain, became a music genera to itself. It was a novelty song that wasn't a novelty. It was huge, bold, ambitious, and (and this was the hard part) just one of the best songs ever made. No bullshit. It's one of those songs that will speak to generations after we are all dead, and it will be packing dance floors for years to come.
That is why this album is great, because it will leave a legacy that your life couldn't. Michael Jackson, the person, the damaged idol, could never overcome the problems of this life, but Michael Jackson, the artist, transcended mere mortals, creating beauty and pop from nothing. There are few albums that will ever be universally recognized as this one, and that should be what we remember you for.
The conflicted life that you led was not the end of the life that you'll have in music. If there were comfort after death in anything, it would be somewhere in that statement. The face of the world changed after Thriller, and your touch will be felt for a long time.
"Go forth and funk, my child." "Funk yourself, wookie!"
To Actual People Readers: Yeah, I know, another weird one. I actually had no idea how to write this one, and seeing as I had conflicting feelings about the artist in question, for no other reason than growing up when I did, I felt like this was the best way to write about this album. If you have more thoughts on this album, please comment, also, make me lose some beer money, and post some comments.
PPS. Also, I forgot to say Quincy Jones, I love you and you're amazing. I understand the influence you had on this album, and I love you for it.
PPPS. Happy Birthday to me, in three days!