While my thing has long been hip hop, the passing of Micheal Jackson kinda hit close to home. Not only have I recently discovered some gems in the Jackson 5 catalog (I was just listening to “All I Do Is Think of You” over and over just yesterday), Thriller was the first album that I “discovered” on my own, away from my parent’s (read: my mom) influence. At the young age of nine, I was smack dab in the middle of the “Thriller craze”. What can I say about that album that hasn’t been said already? Seven number one singles? Are you crazy? The thing was though, you can’t argue about the the impact that album and the songs that came off of it had on the whole pop culture. It’s impossible to measure the influence he had over pop music and pop culture. The white glove, the moon walk, the shrieks and shrills, the dancing. When Michael was burned during the making of a Pepsi commercial, it was MAJOR news.
I was right there in the middle of the Michael Jackson mania as well. Instead of the Johnas Brothers that my own daughter has today, I had Michael Jackson and growing up. The album’s influence would affect me for the next couple years. I tried to learn how to moon walk (never did really nail it down), I tried the dances, and I learned the words. My two female cousins, one a year younger than me, the other a year older than I, would put on our own dance routines and performances based on the Thriller album. I would watch eagerly during the Grammy’s and the American Music Awards and rooted for him to take home any award he was nominated for. I would watch attentively during his performances on the said shows. Before Micheal was engulfed by his own tortured past and personal demons, he was an articulate, albeit shy individual, but I listen to anything he had to say.
As I previously mentioned, I have been going back and exploring the Jackson 5 catalog a little more during my recent exploration of old funk/soul/jazz/R&B wax. In those years after Thriller, around ’85 and ’86, I would go back and listen to Off The Wall, which my mom owned on wax. It’s a great album in it’s own right with some great singles. I’m sure lots of people would love to sell 20 million copies, only to have people forget about it all the time. By the time Bad dropped, I was in junior high or a freshman in high school and it wasn’t “cool” to like Michael Jackson. I never bought the album, although I’ve listened to it many time from friends and the such. The rest of his catalog took place while I was into hip hop and therefore never really got into beyond hearing the singles played on the radio.
In this tribute episode of “This or That”, we’ll pick out favorite song from the classic album Thriller. As previously mentioned, there were SEVEN number one songs from the album. Seven “classic” songs. From the funkiness of “Billie Jean”, to the rock tinged “Beat It”, the dark “Thriller”, to the superstar duo of “The Girl Is Mine”, this album had something for just about any music lover. I could make an argument for a handful of songs found on Thriller. In those early days, and for a long time afterward, I went with “Beat It” as my favorite track off the Thriller album. The edgy guitar rock (yeah, I used “edgy” to describe a Michael Jackson song) sound appealed to my tastes of my early classic rock upbringing. The video was a favorite of mine as well. The “West Side Story” influenced video piqued mine as well as many people’s interest in dancing. Of course there is “Thriller”, the song was good in my book, but no one will EVER forget the video. It changed how videos were done and for the better. Later on though, I came to appreciate the musical composition that is “Billie Jean”. In the day, it was played almost at nausea, so I think that turned me off a little bit. You have to admit though, “Billie Jean,” is probably the funkiest song found on the album. I have to go with “Billie Jean.”
Yes, Michael Jackson had his imperfections. Some came from his some what tortured upbringing, some from misunderstandings and some were probably just straight up bad decisions from him. Despite these, you can’t argue that the man was a nothing short of a musical genius and his contributions to pop culture, music, and even videos will live on for a long time…..RIP in Mike.