The [Friday] Papers
By Steve Rhodes
"As the music world begins to assess the complicated legacy of the man who crowned himself the King of Pop, there is no denying that Michael Jackson's climb from humble beginnings amid the belching smokestacks of Gary, Ind., to the top of the charts and worldwide superstardom will rank beside those of Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and the Beatles as one of the most extraordinary rags-to-riches stories ever," Jim DeRogatis writes.
My least favorite Michael Jackson song is "Thriller." Can't stand the hokey video, either.
But I always thought - and assumed others thought - that Thriller was Jackson's best record.
Not being the total Jackson aficianado, it appears I've made an amateur mistake.
"Released on Nov. 30, 1982, the singer's sixth solo studio album Thriller became one of the bestselling discs of all time, with sales estimated as falling anywhere between 40 and 100 million copies worldwide," DeRogatis writes. "But despite the much-vaunted impact of its genre-blurring sounds on radio and the pop charts - it spawned six Top 10 singles, including the back-to-back No. 1 hits "Billie Jean" and "Beat It" - and the fact that its big-budget videos broke the unofficial color barrier at MTV, real fans never thought it his finest work.
"That honor belongs to Off the Wall, the 1979 album that actually pioneered the mix of funk, disco, pop, soul, jazz and rock polished for mainstream consumption on Thriller. With songs such as "Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough" and "Rock with You," and collaborations with superstars such as Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney, who clearly viewed the then 20-year-old star as a peer, Off the Wall is the album hardcore fans reach for, including celebrated acolytes such as Justin Timberlake and Usher."
Come to think of it, I'm not that fond of "Beat It." Again, hokey.
But "Billie Jean"!
And "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'," "PYT" and "Human Nature" . . .
But I yield to the experts on this one.
"The album title that suited him best was Off the Wall, his brilliant 1979 release, and that is not intended as a slight," Kot writes." With Off the Wall and large portions of the more calculated but still thrilling Thriller (1982), Jackson took artistic risks that paid off handsomely in commercial success. His music felt daring, provocative and exuberant, crossing lines of gender and genre."
Kot also had this to say:
"Under the guiding hand of producer Quincy Jones, Jackson poured his personality quirks into music that bridged hard rock and disco, funk and pop, fantasy and reality. He made the personal, no matter how eccentric, seem endearing and universal."
And I'm glad DeRo mentioned this; Jackson's performance on this song is impossibly mature.
"For that matter, more moving than anything on Thriller is the 1972 ballad "Ben," another No. 1 hit and a song that Jackson, right at the start of his solo career, invested with so much emotion that it instantly transcended its origins as a love song to a killer rat from a B-grade horror film."
"Thriller's lyrics deal with generally darker themes, including paranoia and the supernatural.
"With a production budget of $750,000, recording sessions took place between April and November 1982 at Westlake Recording Studios in Los Angeles, California. Assisted by producer Quincy Jones, Jackson wrote four of Thriller's nine tracks. Following the release of the album's first single 'The Girl Is Mine,' some observers assumed Thriller would only be a minor hit record. With the release of the second single 'Billie Jean,' the album topped the charts in many countries. At its peak, the album was selling a million copies a week worldwide. In just over a year, Thriller became - and currently remains - the best-selling album of all time."
"In 1973, Jackson's father began a secret affair with a woman 20 years younger than him; the couple had a child in secret. In 1980, Joseph Jackson told his family of the affair and child. Jackson, already angry with his father over his childhood abuse, felt so betrayed that he fell out with Joseph Jackson for many years. The period saw the singer become deeply unhappy; Jackson explained, "Even at home, I'm lonely. I sit in my room sometimes and cry. It's so hard to make friends . . . I sometimes walk around the neighborhood at night, just hoping to find someone to talk to. But I just end up coming home."
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Posted on June 26, 2009
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