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On Nov. 30, 1982, Michael Jackson changed the world of music. Thriller was released that day. Although it contains just nine tracks and runs only 42 minutes, it remains one of the most influential albums ever made.
The album not only has the title track, but acts as a hit parade, with “The Girl Is Mine,” “Beat It,” “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing),” “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” and “Billie Jean” on one album.
Billboard notes that the album lifted the music industry out of its doldrums, as record sales continued to dip from 1980 to 1982. Thriller came at a time when black artists began dominating the charts, although the album itself took awhile to catch on.
“The Girl Is Mine,” Jackson’s duet with Paul McCartney, was the first single, released three weeks before Thriller. It was slammed by critics and is probably the worst track on the album. Thriller itself debuted on the charts on Dec. 25, reaching No. 11. In fact, the album wouldn’t be a clear success until 1983, as the rest of the album’s fantastic songs started being released as singles. The album spawned a record seven Top 10 singles.
There was “Billie Jean,” “Thriller” and “Beat It” and the music videos that went with them showed how powerful TV could be for music.
Here’s “Billie Jean,” which in this writer’s opinion remains one of the best pop songs ever written:
ABC News notes that Thriller went on to sell at least 110 million copies worldwide and won eight Grammys in 1984. It spent a staggering 37 weeks at the top of the Billboard 200 chart.
Happy 30th birthday Thriller. It's impossible to think of the music world without you.