[Hype Hype Hooray] When I Finally Sat Down and Listened to Thriller

Every [two weeks?] Jamie Hale takes a long, hard look at the music industry and the blog scene that feeds it. Here, he releases those findings and makes snarky, sarcastic remarks. Admittedly, both Jamie and Knox Road are a part of this scene. So sue us.

I’ve never heard Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Sure, I’ve heard “Thriller,” the song, but I never actually sat down and listened to the whole record it’s on. I’m not really ashamed to admit that.

But this week I decided I would finally do it. Why the hell not? Last month I decided I liked jams on crackers, and who ever thought THAT would happen! Maybe I would enjoy, nay, respect Mr. Jackson’s work at the apex of his strange career.

The other night, I sat down with a few fingers of rum and decided to make this crazy dream a reality. The following are the notes I took that fateful eve. (For fun, you can even put on Thriller as you read this! Join me, won’t you?)

“Wanna Be Startin’ Something”
-Oh this is some quality shit.
-Is he badass? Or is he a positive voice of the youth? Oh how tortured you were, Michael!
-I can’t stop imagining him as the frontman of the California Raisins. So smoooth.
-OK no, but for real, this song is waaay too long for an opener.

“Baby Be Mine”
-The “King of Pop” label made a lot more sense back then. “R&B Elvis” still would have been better.
-This is the song that plays in Heaven’s ice cream aisle. Nobody ever complains.
-OH what a great key change toward the end. Who produced this thing?

“The Girl is Mine”
-The “doggone” girl is mine? You can unclench your asshole now, Michael.
-It looks like Quincy Jones co-produced the record with Michael, so no surprises there.
-“I told you, I’m a lover not a fighter.” If had been drinking that rum there would have been a massive spit take.

-OK, but this MUST have been written as a Halloween song. Right??
-The sharp notes coupled with the extreme vocals makes for killer pop music. You can tell Michael’s working for it.
-Um, remember when Vincent Price was in “Thriller?” I sure didn’t.

“Beat It”
-Best. Intro. Ever.
-Why was everybody so determined in the ’80s? And why did they love to tell us all the time?
-The money they paid Eddie Van Halen for this guitar solo could feed a nation.

“Billie Jean”
-Three powerful back-to-back-to-back singles? Now that’s just not fair.
-The hiccups really are an awesome touch.
-I think what I like most about this album is how patient the songs are. They’re all built with care.
-Thriller is still the best-selling album in the U.S., according to Wikipedia! Number Two? Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) by The Eagles. That sounds about right.

“Human Nature”
-UGH. What an annoyingly fantastic song.
-It’s so glowingly heartfelt. This is a side of Michael that disappeared in his later days.

-This song is just so hot. It moves your feet and warms your soul.
-How great is that bridge? You just can’t beat those “na na na”s. “Like jimmies on a custard” my Pennsylvania kinfolk would say.

“Lady in My Life”
-One of two songs on the album to not be released as a single (the other was “Baby Be Mine”) but still a solid track.
-It has that perfect morning-after, bye-until-next-time vibe that the end of a 1984 Michael Jackson record should have.

In summary: Thriller is a crisp, brilliant album that deserves every ounce of respect it gets, and maybe a little more. Any notion of triteness should be written off with a casual “Meh, it was 1984” and fond forgiveness from the future. Once we look past his latter career, the unyielding fandom, and the ever-apparent industry musk, we can find a classic record by a true master.

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