In Artistic Value of Thriller [via JS], “Scorpeze” writes that many overlook Michael Jackson’s role as a songwriter and producer on his landmark albums and tend to overestimate Quincy Jones’ role. The post includes links to demos (Billie Jean, The Girl Is Mine) that MJ created for those records. Assuming they’re legit, it’s pretty amazing how close they are to the final product.
From a biz/marketing perspective, it’s also interesting to note how many risks MJ took on Thriller. There were so many things on there that people said you couldn’t do on a R&B record. But he did ‘em anyway and created the biggest selling album of all time.
people glaze over it now…but what soul/R&B figure could create a hit rock record that was embraced across the board…AND considered authentic by the rock audience?(the snobs may have been pissed off, but they werent the ones buying the records)…what soul/R&B cat was collaborating with Van Halen….and have it WORK?
it wasnt Prince….w/out Beat It, could you have a Let’s Go Crazy?
what other soul/R&B cat could get one of the Beatles on Black radio in the 80’s?
what soul/R&B cat would get Vincent Price to drop spoken word in the middle a funk/R&B cut cum horror movie?
who was else at the time was incorporating African chants and percussion at a time when everyone was whitening it up sonically(including MJ)…and who would reference Soul Makossa in the 80’s?
listen to the fact that a Black artist who was considered strictly soul/R&B decided to do a stylistic tour de force in one album when it hadnt been done before…
Thriller had: Funk straight R&B Quiet Storm MOR Pop Rock
…all in one album by a Black aritst when such a thing was not only unheard of but frowned upon…..
futhermore, on Thriller he spoke abt teen preganancy, gang violence, challenging the social constructs of manhood, the culture of gossip, emotional blackmail, obsession, false accusations of paternity, and belief in one’s self…
these are ARTISTIC RISKS….they could have gone horribly awry, but they didnt….he did the record HIS way….and in a rare occurence that we will only see once in a lifetime, hit the bulls-eye and pleased EVERYBODY…the effects of that had both deep positive and negative effects on his work and the entire music industry after that….
Looking back, it all seems perfectly logical. It’s easy to forget how much of a singular vision it took to pull off that unique combo of ideas.