Thirty-five years ago today, the album that changed the face of pop music forever arrived in stores: Michael Jackson‘s Thriller.
Released November 30, 1982, Thriller was a pop-culture phenomenon the likes of which we’ll probably never see again. It spent 37 weeks at #1, and spun off a then-unprecedented seven top-10 singles, including “Billie Jean,” “Beat It,” “Thriller,” “The Girl Is Mine,” “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” “PYT (Pretty Young Thing)” and “Human Nature.” At the 1984 Grammy Awards, Michael and Thriller won a record eight trophies.
With its mix of pop music, R&B, rock, funk and even The Beatles — courtesy of the Paul McCartney duet “The Girl Is Mine” — the songs on Thriller crossed every musical boundary and appealed to fans of all ages, races and cultures. And with today’s increasingly fractured pop culture scene, it’s safe to say that this kind of global domination by a single album is unlikely to be repeated.
Thriller also is credited with breaking the color barrier at MTV. In 1982, the channel rarely played videos by black artists — until “Billie Jean” came along. And Jackson’s clip for “Thriller,” directed by John Landis and featuring state-of-the-art special effects and over-the-top choreography, became the standard by which all subsequent music videos were judged. Thriller‘s influence on today’s pop, R&B and hip-hop stars singers also can’t be overestimated.
Thriller producer Quincy Jones says no album will ever be as successful as the album: “To me, it’s just a series of circumstances that I don’t think can ever be repeated, including MTV and Michael riding each other to glory.”
Perhaps the most obvious sign of Thriller‘s ensuring popularity is that in December 2015, the Recording Industry Association of America awarded the album their first-ever 30-times-platinum certification, for U.S. sales of over 30 million units. In February of this year, it crossed the 33-times platinum threshold. Worldwide, Thriller has sold over 66 million copies, earning it the Guinness world record for best-selling album of all time.
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