Monday, February 11, 2008


When Michael Jackson released his first Post-Motown solo album “Off The Wall,” it became an instant hit, selling ten million copies, making him an international solo star, and the first artist to score four top ten Pop hits from one album, but when he learned that he only earned two Grammy Nominations (an event that even shocked the recording industry), he told his mother Katherine, and his producer Quincy Jones that his next album would be so great that the industry would have no choice to recognize it. Jackson was right. Not only did the follow up “Thriller” released in 1982 become a classic, it still holds the record of being the best selling album of all time, with sales of over 104 million copies world wide.
The album also won numerous awards including eight Grammy Awards including seven American Music Awards and eight Grammy Awards including Album of The Year. The album also showed the industry that Black singers are capable of incorporating all forms of music together that reaches music lovers of all races and generations, which made “Thriller” the classic that it is today. “I always wanted to do music that influences and inspires each generation“ Jackson said in an recent interview with Ebony Magazine. “Let‘s fact it, who wants mortality?” .To celebrate the 25th anniversary of this landmark album, Jackson decided to re-released the classic remastered with some new remixes of his hits by Wil. I. Am, Akon and Kanye West as well as a bonus song that didn’t make the final cut.
The Thriller begins with “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” a hot dance song that was a highlight in his concert tours. This song has hot beats, percussion, horns, a funky guitar solo by David Williams, lyrics about a jealous person who wants to cause drama to impress people, a hot call and response between Michael and the background vocalist, and the famous African chant that Grammy Award winner Rhianna sampled for her current “Don’t Stop The Music.” This is followed by “Baby Be Mine” a smooth midterm R&B song that has great keyboards and synsersizer performances by Greg Philligannes, and great vocal by Jackson does a great job phrasing, and singing mid and low ranges that blends well with the strings, and horns.
His duet with former Beatle and friend Paul Mc Cartney on “The Girl Is Mine” has a great combination of Pop and R&B showing that both American and British singers have Soul. What makes this song classic are the harmonizing between the legends as well as the spoken dialogue about who would be the better man for the female who captures their eye, while the title track still sounds as good as it does when I first heard it for the first time at the age of twelve. Between the sound effects, bass line taken from Rick James’ 1981 hit “Give It To Me Baby,” the haunting lyrics written by former Heatwave member Rod Temperton, Jackson’s ad-libbing and famous line hee-hee-hee and the haunting rap and laugh by the late Vincent Price, I can see why this is the most played song at Halloween parties.
Michael cuts loose on the Anti-Gang war song “Beat It., one of his first self-penned social conscious and messages songs that would later become many of subjects he would later write and produce. In addition to the lyrics about the consequences of taking part in gang violence, the song has a powerful rhythm section, beats courtesy of the drummer, and rock solo by Eddie Van Halen. “Billie Jean” is another classic and fan favorite that always get spins in clubs, that has people dancing and emulating his routine from the Motown 25 special. What makes this song hot and dramatic are Jackson’s vocals and ad-libs, the bass line and solos by Louis Johnson and Tom Scott, and lyrics dealing with a female claiming that a guy’s the father of her son.
“Human Nature” is a beautiful midterm ballad that has great instrumentation and arrangements by Pop group Toto, and Michael ad-libbing in falsetto, that was later sampled by SWV for the remix of their # 2 hit “Right Here.” “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” is my favorite song of the album. Co-written by Quincy Jones & James Ingram, this sexy and funky song has a hot rhythm section, Jackson, Ingram and former Shalamar member Howard Hewitt singing background through a vocoder, as well as sexy call and response between Michael and the female background vocalists including his sisters Janet & La Toya and Jackson speaking seductively, and blowing kisses towards of the song.
“The Lady in My Life” is one of Jackson’s soulful ballads to date. Not only does the song contain smooth and seductive music, it captures Michael’s ability to sing different ranges as well as sing harmony.
The Thriller continues with remixes of “The Girl Is Mine” and “PYT” by Will.I.Am, who did a great job giving these classics a comptemparry feel, making them sound as timeless as the original versions. The former has a hot combo of R&B, Rock and Hip Hop courtesy of the beats used from Lil’ Mama’s hit “Lip Gloss” as well as the percussion, strings and keyboards. It also features Jackson singing falsetto while Will raps, while the latter has hot percussion, horns, new lyrics written by Jackson and rap by Will.

Damn girl, you’re a sexy thing
Let me be your lil’ sex machine
You look good in dem jeans
I peel them off like a tangerine
I can see you on a magazine
Modeling maybe line
Yeah you can be my beauty queen
Yeah boo, let me be your king
A great song to play on the dance floor and in the bedroom.
Michael’s collaboration with Akon on “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ is hot! They both gave this classic an African and Sexy make over with new verses written with Giorgio Tuinfort, and sung by Akon who performs the song’s famous chant with Jackson ad-libbing and singing background. A Billboard Music and Grammy Award nomination is recommended. Black Eye Peas member Fergie joins Jackson on “Beat It” who’s Rock-Pop style vocals gives the song a dramatic feel, making listeners believe that she’s pleading for her kids not take part in gang violence. Kanye West gives Hip-Hop flavor to the classic ‘Billie Jean” by adding hard hitting beats and more strings and more ad-libs by Jackson while keeping the original bass lines and solos.
The Thriller with “For All Time” a beautiful ballad and unreleased song from the original sessions. Written by Steve Pocaro and produced by Jackson, the song has a great mixture of Pop, R&B and Adult Comptemporary music, Jackson singing the bride African style and touching lyrics about being in one’s corner through good and bad times.
“And maybe the walls will tumble
And sun my refuse to shine.
When I say I love you
Baby you gotta know that’s
For all time.
A nice song to be sung at weddings and graduations.

Listening to this release brought back many memories of being a Black kid in the projects, listening to good music that would later make an impact on my life and (unknowingly at that time) inspire me to pursue an interest and career in music and music history, and I have to say that I enjoyed reviewing this classic, though it would have been better had Jackson would have worked with SWV and recorded an updated version of their hits "Right Here" and "Human Nature." It would have been great since their remix is one of the most popular songs to contain a sample of his music, but the set was great, and it shows why Michael Jackson (It's about time that the media stops calling him Wacko Jacko and start addressing by his given name Michael Joesph Jackson) is still the King of Pop and an global Legend, Icon and Pioneer.

Unknown Facts about Thriller.

1. The album and song was orginally going to be called "Starlight" but songwriter Rod Temperton and Quincy Jones decided to rename the song "Thriller" instead.

2. "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" was originally recorded for Michael's 1979 album "Off The Wall"

3. His duet with former Beatle and friend Paul Mc Cartney was the first song recorded for the album.

4. Quincy Jones wanted Michael to change the title of "Billie Jean" to "Not My Lover" because he felt that the public would think that the song was about Tennis legend Billie Jean King. Jones also didn't Michael to use the bassline that made the song famous. Michael advocated, and won, and the song is now a classic. In his mother's auotbiography "My Family The Jacksons,' Katherine wrote how shocked she was when she heard first heard "Billie Jean" saying it was tough sounding, but later realize that the song was done to give his sound and image a little edge because he had felt that his image was too clean cut and that the song stuck a cord with her because they were many ladies who claimed that her sons had father their children.

5. Louis Johnson of the Funk/R&B duo The Johnson Brothers performed the famous bassline on "Billie Jean' and shared how Michael had him bring all of his guitars into the studio to find the perfect sound and they settled on the Yahama. Veteran Jazz Musician Tom Scott played the solo during the bridge of the song.

6.When Quincy called Rocker Eddie Van Halen to perform the famous guitar solo on "Beat It," he accepted the invitation but refuese to accept any form of financial payment or reward.

7. The song P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing) came to light when Quincy's ex-wife actress Peggy Lipton Jones brought home some lingerie called PYT, and Q as what he's called thought it would be a great idea for a song so he asked James Ingram to co-write the song. On Michael's The Ultimate Collection boxed set, there's a different version recorded more in a R&B ballad form then the one that's was released on "Thriller."

8. The album almost didn't get released. In his autobiography "Moonwalk," Michael wrote how he was in the middle of narrating the ET Storybook, and how when he heard the playback of "Thriller" it was so crappy that it brought tears to his eyes. He later learned that the album wasn't mixed properly so he, Q and engineer Bruce Swedian mixed one song a day befofe they were completely satisfied.

9. Michael's single "Human Nature" was first remade by Jazz musician Miles Davis.
In 1993, singing group SWV sampled the song for their debut single "Right Here/Human Nature" which topped the R&B Charts and peaked at # 2 on the Pop Charts behind Mariah Careys "Draemlover." The female trio had orignally released "Right Here" in the winter of 1992, but the A&R at their record label asked producer Teddy Riley (who would co-produce Jackson's last three studio albums) to remix the song, and not only did it become one of the top five summer jams of 1993, it was also featured on the soundtrack of "Free Willy" the first album to be released on Jackson's MJJ Record label. A year later rapper Nas also sampled the tune for his hit "It Aint' Hard To Tell," which was later used in his 1999 hit "Nas Is Like."

10. In 1995, Rapper LL Cool J and singing group Boyz II Men sampled "The Lady In My Life" for their Grammy Award winning single "Hey Lover" which topped the R&B Charts.

11. In 1996, singing group BLACKStreet remade "Billie Jean" as the B-side of their # 1 Grammy Award winning hit "No Diggity" while Wyclef Jean sampled "Beat It" for a remix he did for Michael's single "2 Bad" which is featured on his 1997 album "Blood On The Dance Floor." The song also features John Forte rapping, and DJ Funk Master Flex scratching on the turntables.

12. Monica sampled "PYT" for her hit "All Eyes On Me."

13. Grammy Award winner Rhianna sampled The chant of "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' for her current hit "Don't Stop The Music.

14. Singer/pianist Alicia Keys is currently performing "Human Nature" on her recent concert tour.