If I gave you the name of today’s artist and you played a game of word association, I think the answers would be fairly diverse, but definitive. You may hear words like pop, king, performer—and if you played the same game using the album name, you might say great, best, and trend-setter. I know what you’re thinking—that’s a pretty tall lead-in, so who and what I’m about to write about must really be exceptional.
Michael Jackson. There. Need I say more? The 8th of 10 kids from Gary, Indiana. We’ve all heard about his childhood, his dad, and the background that made Michael the – well, let’s say “interesting” man he would become as an adult. It seems almost impossible to discuss his music without getting into his personal affairs, but I’m going to choose not to talk about it in this post. Instead we’re going to focus on an album—an album that just so happens to literally be the best-selling album ever with over SIXTY FIVE MILLION copies sold worldwide.
Thriller came out in November of 1982. People may not realize, but this was Michael’s sixth studio album released—only his previous work ‘Off The Wall’ really received any acclaim. Between the time of that record and this one, his attitude toward music changed drastically. He wanted to be the “it” guy; he wanted to win record of the year; and most of all, he wanted to be the wealthiest man in the business. He wanted the magazines to be begging him for an interview – maybe just so he could deny them the chance.
Jackson worked with Quincy Jones on this record in Los Angeles, California. The production budget was large, over $750k. Paul McCartney was involved, as were several of the members of the band Toto for recording and production purposes. Jackson wrote four of the tracks but he did so in an odd fashion. He would not write songs down on paper and instead dictated words into a voice recorder. When they recorded tracks in the studio, Michael would do it solely from memory.
There are probably a million other facts or fun things I could talk about with this album. Everyone knows the music and I think everyone has an opinion on it. For me, it’s the very definition of pop music. It has elements of dance music, rock n’ roll, soul, and love ballads. It’s also probably the only song in history that had people singing an African tribal chant in their cars. Even if you’re not a fan of him, or his music, there is a reason this album has sold as many as it has. It has messages and context but you don’t need to get that deep. It’s just an outstanding album to listen to—plain and simple.
How often can you say you bought a record for $5 bucks that has sold over 60 million copies? Today is your chance!