Monday, September 19, 2016

"Thriller" by Michael Jackson

Top 10 Alert!
Platinum Record Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  1793
Date:  02/11/1984
Debut:  20
Peak:  4
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Pop, Dance, R&B

Pop Bits:  Just when you thought Jackson's Thriller album was out of gas after spawning a record-setting six Top 10 singles, this monster song comes along. Helped by a 13-minute video that made a big splash on MTV, the song debuted at #20 and headed directly for the Top 10, peaking higher than the LP's previous three singles. It also became the album's third platinum selling single. Of course, the song hit #1 at Dance while also getting to #3 R&B and #24 AC. The hype over the song and the video pushed Thriller back into the #1 spot for an additional seventeen weeks before it finally gave up the spot to the Footloose soundtrack. It was an amazing way to close out the historic run of the album. It would be over three years before Jackson would again start another amazing run of singles from his album Bad.

ReduxReview:  Here is the genius of Michael Jackson. He's thinking: "Okay. I've already set records and it's been amazing, but I still think there is room for more. What can I do to really push this thing over the finish line. I know! I'll do an expensive conceptual horror music video with a movie director and really play it up and even film how I'm doing all this as another movie!" I'm guessing some folks thought he was nuts, but in the end this was a marketing person's wet dream. It was just a brilliant move. First off, the song was great. It was an epic dance track that was better than Thriller's previous few singles. Second, the video. We all knew this was happening and the countdown just to see the damn thing got more press than the real news. The hype was amazing. And it delivered. Lastly, if the video wasn't enough, there was also the "making of" documentary. What?? Of course I'll watch that! All of this was just unheard of at the time and it paid off handsomely. I remember gathering with friends on the day of its MTV premier (December 2, 1983) and anxiously awaiting for the video to start. We had already been in love with the song for months already, so a horror-themed video was just icing on the cake for us. It truly was a spectacle and a great way to finish the whole Thriller era.


Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) This song was written by Rod Temperton whose two other contributions to Thriller were the only ones not released as singles - "The Lady in My Life" and "Baby Be Mine." Initially this song was written with the title "Starlight Sun" (or alternately just "Starlight"). However, producer Quincy Jones didn't like the title and since Temperton's previous composition for Jackson, "Off the Wall," ended up being that album's title, Jones was looking for another song that would also double as the new album's title. Initially Temperton came up with "Midnight Man," but then he woke up one morning with the word "thriller" in his head. It seemed to click and the song progressed from there. One of the early demos of "Starlight" can be heard on YouTube. 2) The famous spoken word part of the song came courtesy of horror movie legend Vincent Price. When looking for an actor to do the part, Jones suggested Price as he was a friend of his then-wife Peggy Lipton. Price agreed and he recorded the famous "rap" in two takes. For his services Price was offered a flat fee of $20,000 or a cut of the album's royalties. Unfortunately, the aging actor just decided to take the flat fee and ended up missing out on millions of dollars in royalties. Price would pass away in 1993.  3)  The video for the song was directed by John Landis. Mostly known for his 1978 hit National Lampoon's Animal House, Landis also did 1980's An American Werewolf in London. Jackson had seen that horror flick and like the way Landis did the transformation scenes. He wanted to incorporate something similar into the video, so he asked Landis the helm the shoot.


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