Yeah, the red jacket and the ghost gang dancing turned 25 this year. The album is being revamped and the Silver Jubilee edition is in stores now. But what actually reminded me of Thriller and made me listen to it (and yes, I even did the famous arm-swinging routine as well) throughout the week, was this- Signature performing the Bhangra mashed up with Thriller in Britain’s Got Talent’s first Semi Finals winning performance. If you haven’t seen it, you’ve been living in a cave.
Having said that, the magnitude of success of Thriller as an album to hold the Guiness Record of the most selling album worldwide does raise a lot of questions. Is it pop culture blown out of proportion? Is it showmanship winning over melody? Or is it just plain and simple-Jackson at its best. Sadly though, 25 years later after, the success story of Thriller still continues whereas Jackson has transformed into one of those zombie dancers (both physically and mentally) back and forth (Any one keeping count of the transformations, from Black to White to Nose to just Oh-I-donno-what’s that ?).
Personally for me, Thriller has been a kind of a wake up call to the Western culture. Yeah, I do agree that (a confession) that I started listening to English music when Doordarshan North-East used to play MLTR and Bryan Adams at the end of their 6:30 pm evening slot. And one day, the red jacket followed. The chills and thrills I got from the arm-swinging routine can best be described as speechless. I didn’t know this guy. He was a pretty bad actor when he proposes to that girl in the pink top. But what he just did with the zombies was PHENOMENAL. Little did I know that it was already 1992, and Thriller was a world wide rage by then, and well, Thriller was actually released a year before I was born 😀 1982. But then, what came up in the months that followed took my ears off from MJ’s Thriller. Because DD-NE shifted gears to go full throttle with 3 songs- Aerosmith -Crazy starring Alicia Silverstone and the red tatoo, Iron Maiden-Bring your Daughter and Judas Priest-Breaking the Law. What happened next is a complete different story to be dealt later. For the time being let’s concentrate on Thriller.
I personally believe that MJ has always lived under the shadow of a huge amount of success that he achieved from this album. Wanna be Starting Something opens the album on a very 80’s note and completely defines the sound of that era. Replete with the trumpets, the infectious echoes and choruses , I loved this song when I heard it almost a good ten years after the first time I saw the Thriller video. Baby Be Mine gets totally lost in the presence of the biggies. And then the first big one- MJ and Paul McCartney-The Girl is Mine. This track is a big one because of the artists that came together for the track, rather than the sheer quality of its melody.The 25th anniversary CD has Will.I.Am collaborating with MJ in a Hip Hop twist , which I almost overlooked and then, all my memories of the svelte vocals of McCartney got eroded by the “She Mine-wait I rock” rapping of Will.i.am. Ugh, why do they do this? And then, the Title track follows. Yay!!
More than the track, this is memorable as a musical, a story told with elaborate scenes and setup, an art that only and only MJ has mastered in. It all began with this 14 minute story called Thriller-with zombies, werewolve transformations, scary makeup and addictive dance moves. This has been almost a pinnacle which probably has never been touched again, not with any other track from any other album. Thriller-the video was IT. The track on the CD starts with the haunting sounds of a jammed wooden door struggling against the wind, and the werewolves howl. And it is still an open challenge to anyone,irrespective of the language he/she speaks, to not tap his foot while listening to this one. It spawned just too many pop culture references and clones worldwide that it is impossible to write about them all. But a few definitely should be.
The Phillipines Prisoners in orange jumpsuits going wild in their cell with the arm swinging routine and find YouTube Glory.
And of course the Signature Thriller Bhangra routine mentioned above. Ok, fine, I’m embedding this one coz I loved it. Shamon Mr.Madhu.
I have never tried listening to the Tracks that follow 5 and 6, coz I never liked Human Nature and it just didn’t convince me to go to the next button. I preferred to choose the previous button and go back to Tracks 5 and 6.
Now for the Monstrous ones. First up-Billie Jean. Immortalised by the Motown 25’s Live performance and the moonwalk that followed in the signature black suit with the white gloves et al (see image to the left if you still haven’t). Billie Jean’s Motown Live was MJ’s the moment which actually justifies the hysteria and madness that follows him in every MJ concert even now (if he were to perform). Billie Jean stands as the controversially speaking, Track No.1 among the equals, if it is not Beat it, or the Title track. The muted guitar strumming with the Woo is when you see the wallpaper image of MJ going with the lips saying a Woo and the finger pointed to that guy to the left. After so many years, Billie Jean is an integral element of the pop culture in which my generation grew. And of the many influences that this track gave, we have this year’s American Idol winner-David Cook,performing one of his most memorable performance, Chris Cornell’s take on the MJ biggie. For me , the original is always a winner and it can be second to none. He almost goes on the verge of shouting and at points it starts to crack. But then, it is an interesting arrangement.Just listen to the Chris Cornell’s version below and decide for yourself.[audio:http://leadguitar.free.fr/Chris_Cornell-Carry_On-2007-SAW/08-chris_cornell-billie_jean.mp3]
Track 6 to wind up: Beat It. Won’t say much, just one thing- the Killer of Thriller. Van Halen’s unforgettable guitar solo, the infectious guitar riff of Steve Lukather and the hard hitting vocals of MJ marks the end of Thriller for me. Just can’t Beat IT. Just BEAT IT. Van Halen goes crazy in the middle and takes the track to a totally different universe. No points guessing what track I’m listening to while I’m writing this one. And today, as I listen to this one, I don’t feel like deported to 1984. It sounds very much like 2008 like any other single released right now, only that, this ones much BETTER and BIGGER.
They’ve tried to include some unnecessary embellishments in the 25th anniversary special CD of Thriller featuring artistes like Fergie, Will.i.am and apparently Kanye West doing a take on Billie Jean. Am not buying that one. As for me to conclude, Thriller still gives me chills, thrills and I’d leave with some cool and more awesome links of Youtube Videos for your viewing pleasure.
Indian Thriller. Starring Cheeranjeevi Anna in the red jacket and playbacked by S.P.Balasubramaniam . The song goes -Goli Maar Goli Maar -which means, Shoot Bullets.
Wedding Thriller. Tux and Wedding Dresses and Thriller.
Thriller in the Tube,London.
David Cook- Billie Jean. American Idol Season 7 top 10 performance.
And of course, my favorite of them all, one of the most watched Youtube Videos –Signature in their Britain’s Got Talent-performing Tigerstyle – Nachna Onda Nei (a Bhangra mix of Billie Jean).