Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

Released: November 30, 1982

Genre: Pop • post-disco • pop-soul • R&B • Rock • funk

Label: Epic

Producer: Quincy Jones


Every now and then, there’s an artist that comes along and just..get it, and that artist was definitely Michael Jackson. Michael was not only a child prodigy, but a true genius. The eighth child out of ten children from Joseph & Katherine Jackson, Michael was the youngest member of his family band (The Jackson 5/later The Jacksons,) which was one of the biggest acts of all time on the Motown label.

Michael’s solo career began while he was with the group at Motown, scoring a couple of solo hits, until his career skyrocketed with the release of his breakthrough album Off The Wall (1979,) which has sold over 20 million copies worldwide since its release.

Michael released his sixth studio album, Thriller on November 30, 1982 by Epic Records. The transitional era period between Off The Wall & Thriller was an interesting time for Michael. He found himself deeply unhappy with the independence he had, and felt unappreciated by the music industry. With elements of pop, post-disco, rock, funk and soul, Thriller is an album that foreshadows contradictory themes of Michael’s personal life…as he began using darker themes on later albums.

While the album was in the beginning stages, he wanted to create a record where “every song was a killer,” & he accomplished just that with Thriller. I agree with Michael though. When you listen to albums (ESPECIALLY TODAY,) usually it’ll be a few good songs and album fillers..but Michael said NOPE with Thriller.

Thriller became Michael’s first number one album on the US Billboard 200 chart, where it spent a record of 37 weeks at number one from February of 1983 to April of 1984.

Thriller is an album with 9 songs, and every song with the exception of two was a single, and the seven singles reached the top ten of the US Billboard Hot 100, setting the record for the most top ten singles from an album. Thriller is one of the best selling albums of all time, which is a feat no one has beat to this date.

Michael won a record-breaking eight Grammy awards in 1984 for the album, including Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, Best Engineered Recording (Non-Classical,) Best Male R&B Performance, Best R&B Song & Best Rock Vocal Performance.

Selling over 70 million copies worldwide, Thriller has been recently certified 34x platinum by the RIAA as of August 2021. The album has also been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame & the Library of Congress’ National Recording registry of “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant recordings.”

Thriller cemented Michael Jackson’s stature as one of the biggest stars of the 80s, and him being crowned the King of Pop. The album broke down barriers that no other Black artist was able to knock down, like being in HEAVY rotation on MTV (which at the time had no videos by Black artists).

Michael & the Thriller had a HUGE impact on Black artists crossing over to mainstream pop music. The album was a movement. Michael became a global phenomenon with the release of this record, and remains that even in death. THRILLER IS ONE OF THE GREATEST ALBUMS OF ALL TIME, no discussion.

Ladies & Gentlemen, I present to you Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

Side One

Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’

Written by Michael Jackson

Lift your head up high and scream out to the world

“I know I am someone,” and let the truth unfurl (Hee-ha)

No one can hurt you now because you know what’s true

Yes, I believe in me, so do believe in you

-Michael Jackson, 1982.

The album begins with the post-disco & funk influenced record Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin. From a lyrical perspective, the song was written for Michael’s sister LaToya as a response to negative reports about her relationship with her sisters..but ended up recording the record himself. Released as the fourth single, the song peaked in the top 5 of the Billboard Hot 100 & R&B charts.

The song contains a sample of Soul Makossa by Manu Dibango & was sampled itself by Rihanna & Big Daddy Kane for their hits Don’t Stop the Music & Warm It Up, Kane respectively.

Baby Be Mine

Written by Rod Temperton

Baby Be Mine is a disco/R&B inspired record that was written by the late and great Rod Temperton, who was the keyboardist and songwriter of the 70s group Heatwave, and on Michael’s Off The Wall album.

From a lyrical perspective, Baby Be Mine is about love and the singer wanting to give his love to a love interest.

The Girl Is Mine (with Paul McCartney)

Written by Michael Jackson

The Girl is Mine is a song about the King of Pop & one of the members of one of the most important bands ever arguing over a girl. Released as the lead single, many felt it was not the song you should lead with and that it was a weak song on the album (HATERS).

Nevertheless, the song was a success on the charts, peaking at number one on the R&B charts and number two on the pop charts respectively. The song has been sampled by artists like Ashanti, Poor Righteous Teachers, Stevie Wonder & The Pharcyde, and was the inspiration behind Brandy & Monica’s 1998 hit single The Boy Is Mine.


Written by Rod Temperton

Thriller is such an iconic title track and record. With disco and funk influences, Thriller is a theatrical song that was written in mind for Michael’s love for film. The music and lyrics pays homage to horror films, even including a “rap” from horror film legend Vincent Price.

The song was the album’s seventh and final single released, peaking at number three on the R&B charts and number four on the pop charts respectively. The music video for Thriller was a 13 minute short film directed by horror director John Landis. The video is credited for transforming music videos into a serious art form, and breaking down racial barriers in the entertainment industry.

The Library of Congress has stated that the video is the most famous music video of all time. In 2009 (the year of Michael’s death,) the video became the first music video inducted into the National Film Registry as “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant. & rightfully so. It was a pop culture phenomenon and elements in the video like the zombie dance & his red jacket has had a huge impact on pop culture.

The song has become the anthem of Halloween since its release and is the only song that charts for a Halloween season next to Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You every year. The song has been certified 7x platinum by the RIAA. The song has been sampled by many artists including NWA’s 100 Miles & Runnin’.

Side two

Beat It

Written by Michael Jackson

Beat It is a SONG okay!! The song is one of Michael’s first rock inspired records and is lyrically about knowing when to back down from a fight, & even if you have to fight, you can walk away from it being a man still. No one is stronger than the other. It is also stated that Beat It speaks about Michael’s dislike for violence. It has been deemed one of the most “successful, recognized, awarded and celebrated songs in the history of pop music.”

I love everything about the music video! The video pretty much made Michael an international pop icon. The themes of black youth in the streets and gang violence pretty solidified Michael as storyteller he truly became over the years with his art.

Michael gave many job opportunities for dancers in the US for the video and had the idea to cast members of actual gangs. We love authenticity! The song was released as the third single, peaking at number one on the pop & R&B charts. Also, Beat It has been certified 4x platinum by the RIAA.

Billie Jean

Written by Michael Jackson

Considered to be one of Michael’s signature songs, Billie Jean was based on groupies he and his brothers encountered when they performed in their group together. The song beautifully blends R&B, funk, dance-pop and disco together and is truly one of the best songs ever recorded.

The song had a huge hand in the album being successful, peaking at number one on the pop & R&B charts simultaneously…being one of his fastest rising number one singles since the Jackson 5 days.

Michael’s performance of the song on the television special Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever was an important moment in pop culture history, especially when he performed the moonwalk for the first time. The song was sampled by Aaliyah for her cover of Marvin Gaye’s Got To Give It Up.

Human Nature

Written by Steve Porcaro • John Bettis

Human Nature is in my top 5 songs from Michael, and rightfully so. The song was originally written by Steve Porcaro of the group Toto, based on a chart he had with his daughter about a boy that pushed her at school. Quincy Jones stumbled across the song and wanted the song to be on the Thriller album.

He got John Bettis to rewrite the verses to lyrics about a person exploring New York City by feet & exploring the “city that never sleeps.” I can see how this song can resonate with Michael because he was denied a life where he couldn’t explore the world, connect with strangers and roaming the streets freely because of him being such a young star.

In most cases, that can make a person feel sheltered, lonely and isolated from the world. It was a top ten hit for Michael on the Hot 100 charts, and has been certified platinum by the RIAA. Human Nature is truly one of his best ballads. The song has been sampled by artists like SWV, Big Sean & Nas.

P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)

Written by James Ingram • Quincy Jones

P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing) is a song!!! From a lyrical standpoint, P.Y.T. has the singer smitten with a love interest. The disco and funk inspired record peaked in the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, and was certified 2x Platinum by the RIAA. The song has been sampled by artists like Kanye West, Monica, Jamie Foxx & Bow Wow.

The Lady in My Life

Written by Rod Temperton

THE LADY IN MY LIFE IS ONE OF MICHAEL’S STRONGEST LOVE BALLADS EVER. The Lady in My Life closes out the album, with giving us his all with this flawless record. I shouldn’t expect anything less from a Temperton penned song though. The song has been interoplated by Mýa and sampled by artists like Angie Stone & LL Cool J.

Thriller is one of the most important albums in HISTORY. Not only did the album solidified Michael being one of the best musicians ever, but changed the format of how albums were released, breaking racial barriers and paving the way for many artists to get in doors that seemed impossible at the time. Michael Jackson was truly one of a kind and his presence in the music industry is terribly missed. -MW

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