Michael Jackson left critics and fans anticipating a real Thriller. After the phenomenal success of the 1979 album release Off The Wall, many assumed Michael Jackson could do no better. This album, however, changed the way that music was heard, listened to and appreciated back in 1982. It defined the era of music and changed the way that people saw Pop music in general, and made Michael Jackson even more of a household name. Let’s jump back in time and take a listen to this album, which should be a very phenomenal listen.
Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ begins with some funky beats and basslines. This has some post-disco feel to it, with some interesting vocal parts from Michael Jackson. It is clearly a danceable piece that sounds like an energetic piece of music that sounds very 1980s. In fact, it does sound rather dated but nonetheless, is a perfectly enjoyable tune. Undeniably, the passion and delivery throughout are amazing and inspiring. Quincy Jones’s production sounds very polished, and there are many quirky twists and turns throughout this music. Even if you are not a huge fan of Michael Jackson’s music or the 1980s in general, it is very easy to hear why this is so popular. It is a slice of electronically made and pioneered quirky funk/disco that has broad appeal. A very cool and lively listen, this is the sort of music that one can easily put on repeat and hear many times, it is that infectious. An electrifying and cool listen, towards the end is an interesting twist with some chanting that is very fun and enjoyable. Great tune, a nice start to this album.
Baby Be Mine comes next and is more predominantly 1980s. This one definitely sounds a lot more dated than the previous effort. Still, despite that, the music here is quite good and the chorus, in particular, is an interesting piece. Michael Jackson sings beautifully about being passionately in love with a lovely lady that he desires and pulls it off perfectly. It is an excellent song that draws on the spirit of the music of the times, and Disco music as well. One of the strengths of this album is the fact that it is not following a particular formula musically. Instead, with songs such as these, Michael Jackson changes the world of music with little difficulty. There is a key change towards the end, which sounds different. Good effort, once again.
The Girl Is Mine (with Paul McCartney) begins with lush sounds and funky guitar parts, and this is a good song. However, it sounds terribly dated and despite being no doubt a well-worked effort and Paul McCartney’s decent appearance, this is not exactly a song that sounds really that well today. Negativity aside, this is enjoyable, despite the fact that the music here is very dated. The duet between Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney is rather irresistible. A good song, although not the best on the album. Towards the end, there is a competitive chatter between Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney over who the girl belongs to in the end. Interesting.
Thriller begins with a trapdoor opening and some theatrical sort of sounds, including footsteps. Next are some very 1980s sounds and textures. Bear in mind, this song is very cinematic in approach, and the 1980s at the cinemas were all science fiction and horror films at the time. Michael Jackson puts in a passionate performance on this song. A really driven and uplifting performance, Michael Jackson does his best. The main flaw with this album, which is apparent by this point, is the fact that it sounds extremely dated. Despite this, the performance is good, but the music is pretty naff. Interesting, but a weak point of this album, it doesn’t really hold up well today. The chorus in particular is fairly awful. There is a recorded voiceover towards the end which is interesting. A rather ordinary song that has seen better days. There is some manic laughter at the end, followed by a door closing. Really rather ordinary.
Beat It features guitarist Eddie Van Halen from the band Van Halen, who was hot property at the time. The song begins with some really awful retro 1980s sounds, before having some basic electronic sounds. Some interesting guitars enter, and this is an overall better song than the one before it. It is rocking, catchy and overall, very nice. One can sense that more straightforward tracks such as these would have kept the album more consistent and listenable. Anyway, this song sounds very interesting and catchy throughout. The repeated vocal sample stating, “Beat it!” is before an amazing and blistering performance by EVH himself. There are many stories behind Eddie’s involvement in this song, but what is clear is that Michael Jackson had a good ear for young talent. A good song, but not a great song, even with EVH’s appearance on it.
Billie Jean is the most popular track from Thriller by a long shot. It’s about the pressures of public life. It begins with some basic beats, gurgling basslines and some interesting synth lines. A good song and an interesting story, and definitely one of the better pieces of music from the album. It is a relatable piece of music about a stalker fan (or stan, if you will) who is a problem in Michael Jackson’s life. This is definitely a good piece of music with some interesting sounds and lyrics and is a warning tale to those who are sexually promiscuous publically. A very nice and smooth piece of music, it has a Fender Stratocaster style quacky funky guitar part in the second half to make things interesting. Apart from that, this is a fairly straightforward tune that works well, but not perfectly. The outro has repeated vocals and funky guitar parts to finish up with.
Human Nature is a synth ballad that is actually really good from a textural perspective. It sounds really grand and dynamic and is a big improvement over some of the other tracks on Thriller. This is about all the good and bad things we do as human beings and is a really cool and different listen. In any case, this sounds nicely structured and fairly timeless. A very urban tale of love and reaching out to meet someone special, this is a really valuable and extraordinarily good piece of music. It does seem a little repetitive towards the end, but nonetheless, is a fine example of music and musicianship. Once again, credit must go to Quincy Jones for production here. A nice tune.
P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing) is another funky ballad that is very much post-disco. It’s a devotional piece to a lover, yet sounds fairly artificial musically. Anyway, it is a good song that, once again, falls flat from being a great one. It simply sounds really dated to be a really loved piece of music. It sounds way too 1980s to be appreciated in a sensible way. Some distorted vocals are here instead of a guitar solo, and Michael Jackson follows with call-and-response vocals. This is audio nonsense, and borderline garbage as well. Anyway, one can skip this, it’s actually okay.
The Lady In My Life is the last song on this album. It sounds similar in format to the previous songs and is the most heartfelt and emotional sounding piece from the whole album. One can appreciate the emotion and delivery of this song, and it sounds really fine and actually quite good. Michael Jackson sings indirectly about romantic love with a partner and sounds really fine and wonderful with great vocal delivery. The guitar work is quite good, but to be fair, this hasn’t aged all that well, like the rest of the album. A good song, but by no means a great one. Also, this one is a bit lengthy, it could have been cut down in length to improve the quality of it. It’s okay, but not sensationally good.
Okay, this is a very average album musically and although it was a huge seller (quite possibly the highest-selling album ever), this does not sound at all good today. It is terribly dated musically, and in addition, one can easily hear that there is varying quality of music and sounds on this album. Worth having? Perhaps for some, but only if you really liked Off The Wall, the previous Michael Jackson album. Otherwise, avoid.
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