DAR Music: A New Perspective On Michael Jackson's Thriller

By @Peagle05


I don’t even know if saying what I’m about to say is all that uncommon of an opinion, but Michael Jackson’s Thriller is not his best album. 


It’s his biggest by far. No question about it and the one that truly announced his presence to the world, but it is not at all his best. You could make an argument for any 3 of the other first 4 MJ albums but that’s not what we’re here for. Hell saying Thriller isn’t his best album isn’t even really what we’re here for. This is more of an examination of Thriller as it exists today in relation to the other albums and its place among them...and that place is this: in ranking them as we define albums being a cohesive unit as it relates to the songs pertaining to sequencing and overall flow of the project, Thriller is his 5th best album. 

Off The Wall

Dangerous

Bad

History Disc 2

Thriller

Invincible 



My main issue with Thriller has always been something that isn’t necessarily the fault of the album in any way at all...and that it’s not an album in the traditional sense anymore. Thriller is a victim of its own success. EVERY song on Thriller is a banger (except The Girl Is Mine, but even then, it’s not an inherently and objectively bad song like 2000 Watts is). Look at the tracklist, there is pure heat on that project. But you can also play that album at any song and feel totally fine skipping around it in any order. I would argue that Thriller exists now more as a mixtape than it does an album. And that’s due simply to the fact that every song on the album is so iconic, that they stand on their own. You can play any of the songs on Thriller anywhere and it’s getting things CRACKIN. Because everyone knows every song on that record. As a result, trying to listen to Thriller straight through feels different than the others. There are no deep cuts on Thriller...NONE. Look at the other albums:

Off The Wall: Burn This Disco Out, Get On The Floor

Bad: Liberian Girl, Leave Me Alone

Dangerous: She Drives Me Wild, Can’t Let Her Get Away, Who Is It, Give In To Me, Keep The Faith

These are all songs that even if they got a video, people don’t look at them like they do the standard and more well known MJ songs. And because these songs exist in the form they do, it makes those 3 albums FEEL like albums because there’s a buffer for the singles and big songs. But Thriller doesn’t have that because every song exists as a singular experience. It’s the reason Mike was chasing it for the rest of his career. He’s never done that since. He’s never given another project where each song can exist on its own. Which is where the mixtape comparison comes in. Yeah, you can listen to some classic mixtapes all the way through, but they aren’t really meant to be cohesive experiences. Thriller was meant to be that and just became so big that it no longer exists in that space. The most important album of MJ’s career was so good that it became hard to experience it as that. I can’t imagine creating something so good, that it becomes a completely different yet still classic experience with the passage of time. How many artists have a record to their name where every song can exist on its own? Not even Purple Rain exists in that form though I think it is the only Prince album that absolutely could, but Prince pulled off the trick that Mike couldn’t, and that’s creating a classic, iconic album that still flows like an album. Wherever you decide to start Purple Rain, you could let the rest of it ride and it’ll feel like a smooth trip. If you start Thriller from Billie Jean and let it ride, you know what it feels like? It feels like walking into another room. Yeah you’re in the same house, but the living room don’t serve the same function as the kitchen. 


So I’m saying all of this to say, yes Thriller is amazing. But because of the success it had, it doesn’t flow like the rest of MJ’s albums and no longer feels like an album in the traditional sense. It doesn’t take away from the greatness of it but it does change the way that I personally look at its place as a cohesive project and I believe that in a way, that’s what gives Thriller the mythical status that it continues to hold today. 

-Peagle

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