Michael Jackson’s Thriller Turns 30: How The Video To “Thriller” Changed The Game



There will never be another musical genius like Michael Jackson. Now that that’s out of the way, today marks the 30th anniversary of MJ’s classic sixth studio album, Thriller. One album produced greats like “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” “Thriller,” “Beat It,” “Billie Jean” and “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing).” As usual he outdid himself with a project draped in smooth vocals, feel-good lyrics and melodic instrumentation. But aside from the album’s greatness, Thriller is etched in history books for one reason: the video to “Thriller.”

When Thriller (the album) debuted in 1982 airwaves weren’t exactly flooded with videos by black artists. MJ changed that. It’s been widely reported that MJ singlehandedly integrated MTV. According to various reports, CBS Records President Walter Yetnikoff pressured MTV to play MJ’s music by threatening not to send them any more records, which led to “Billie Jean” and “Beat It” receiving airtime on the network. This would later open the door for artists like Whitney Houston and Prince.

It was the album’s third single, “Thriller,” that would change the game for how music videos are done. As a child it was terrifying to watch. Like some sort of awesome horror flick. But the brilliance of the 13 minute video wasn’t lost on those over the age of five. The video was a mini film taking viewers through the journey of a couple as they encounter the terror of creepy goblins. The choreography is unmatched to this day. The gory of it all, the plot, the dance moves, oh how we love the dance moves, is why “Thriller” will always be considered the best video of all time.

“Thriller” was so influential it sparked the mini-movie music videos phenomenon we stills see today. From Beastie Boys‘ “Make Some Noise” to Paula Abdul‘s “Rush Rush” to Lady Gaga‘s “Telephone,” making music videos that were an event, an experience, was not popularized until MJ. One of the most notable examples of “Thrillers” influence on an artist is Kanye West‘s 30 minute “Runaway” video. Creating a music video that people would want to watch for 30 minutes is only possible because of MJ.

MJ is forever an icon. He has so many classics compiling a list of the greatest wouldn’t do his catalog justice. But there’s no mention of MJ without noting the groundbreaking video to “Thriller.” Long live the King!

[Photo: Getty Images]

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