The Story Behind Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”
Michael Jackson x Thriller equals a transcendent piece of art. A horror tinged song and music video that became so popular, not just during Spooky SZN, it became on of the biggest selling songs of all-time.
For an artist who made a career out of iconic songs and videos, Thriller still stands out. Dropping in 1984, the single has sold over 14 million units to date and was well received critically.
The original version of the song was titled “Starlight”, with the chorus lyric: “Give me some starlight / Starlight sun”. But legendary producer Quincy Jones wanted the song to be the title track and that “Starlight” was not a strong album title. Instead, Jones and Jackson wanted something “mysterious to match Michael’s evolving persona”. They considered several titles, including “Midnight Man”, before finally settling on “Thriller” and taking a darker tone with the song even adding legendary horror voice Vincent Price to talk over the track. A bold and risky move for the then squeaky clean young pop star. It turned out better than Jackson could’ve imagined as Thriller was the catalyst that catapulted him from your standard pop singer to “The King of Pop”.
The epic music video played a major part in the song’s success as well. Coming in at just under 14 mins, it was more short film than music video. Directed by John Landis, fresh off directing An American Werewolf In London, the video ties together a narrative featuring Jackson and actress Ola Ray on a date that, to put it mildly, goes awry. The video is heavily inspired by horror films of the 1950s with zombies and werewolves around every corner. And of course the video’s most iconic scene, Jackson leads a group of zombies in a dance routine choreographed by dance/choreographer/legend Michael Peters. An iconic scene copied, recreated, parodied thousands of times since and will continue to be so well into the future.
The music video racked up the accolades. it was listed as the “Greatest Video” on VH1’s “VH1: 100 Greatest Videos”. MTV listed the music video as being the “Greatest Music Video Ever Made” on their list, “MTV: 100 Greatest Music Videos Ever Made”. On YouTube the video has been viewed nearly a billion times.
We hope you enjoyed this look at Michael Jackson x Thriller. Check out more of our Spooky SZN #CultureClassics:
- “Somebody’s Watching Me” by Rockwell
- List: Horror Films by Black Directors
- Candyman x Tales From The Hood
Written by @TalentedMrFord