Black History Month: 'Thriller'
Photos by Nick Tomecek
Nothing makes more sense to me than kicking off Black History Month with Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”
It wouldn’t be far-fetched to call Jackson the most magnetic musician who ever lived, or to call this album the most captivating music ever recorded.
Best-selling record of all time? Check. Record-breaking at the Grammy Awards? Check. Listed in the top 50 of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time? Check.
Calling Jackson’s sixth album a great record is as controversial as calling ice cold. If it’s a point of contention for you, beat it.
There is little about this 1982 record I can say that hasn’t already been said, so instead, I’ll share with you some of my favorite aspects.
Most frequently played: “Billie Jean”
As soon as I hear the beat to this song, it’s over. Anything I’m doing must stop, because it’s time to dance.
This was the biggest-selling single for Jackson, and I think it’s because it has this unparalleled playability factor. As in, I can play it 100 times in a row without getting sick of it, hypothetically speaking, of course.
What’s most interesting about this song is how cool and sleek it sounds in contrast to the lyrics’ topic. Dancing to the concept of denying you’re a child’s parent couldn’t work for any artist but Jackson.
It almost sounds sly, as if the song’s subject is getting away with doing something wrong. But, if Jackson says it’s not this guy’s son, who am I to say he’s wrong?
Fave lyrics: “Thriller”
I really can’t talk about this song without mentioning the movie of a music video Jackson conjured up to go with it. The nearly 14-minute video makes my coolest dreams seem dull, and the choreography is unsurpassed to this day.
Jackson was known for his elaborate, and sometimes spooky, music videos. While I’d love to make a snide comment about how newer musicians don’t do this, I’ve recently discovered Pharrell Williams set the record for longest music video with his 24-hour music video to “Happy” in 2013. Mind. Blown.
Favorite message: “Beat It”
I don’t know if there is a phrase out there I like more than “Beat it.” It’s way more effective than saying “leave” or “get outta here, pal.”
Bad days? Beat it. Bad vibes? Beat it. Bad guys? Beat it.
It’s a motivational track that makes you want to take control of whatever situation you feel stuck in.
Favorite rhythm: “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’”
“Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” is a bit underrated when it’s on the same album as iconic pop tracks “Beat It” and “Billie Jean,” but it’s equally fresh. The six-minute energetic song has a funky flavor many think of as a transition from Jackson’s previous record, “Off the Wall.”
It was also one of the four songs on the album for which Jackson received credit for writing. The other songs he co-wrote are “Beat It,” “Billie Jean” and “The Girl is Mine.”
Favorite vocals: “Baby Be Mine”
“Baby Be Mine” flaunts a deeper, smoother and sexier register to Jackson’s voice. While Jackson often steals my heart with his rhythm, in this one, he steals it with his singing.
Earrings - Dillard's
Black pleather sports bra, crossbody purse - Victoria's Secret
Active gray top - Old Navy
Faux leather pants - Target
Combat boots - Steve Madden