The quarter-century mark carries weight for Thriller -- not necessarily for the anniversary of the album's release itself, although it offers as good an opportunity as ever to revisit one of the true pop phenomenons of the 20th century, but rather for another anniversary: Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, and Forever, the television special where Michael Jackson performed "Billie Jean" and unleashed the moonwalk, sending Thriller into the stratosphere. For those who hadn't paid attention to Off the Wall -- and despite its ...
The quarter-century mark carries weight for Thriller -- not necessarily for the anniversary of the album's release itself, although it offers as good an opportunity as ever to revisit one of the true pop phenomenons of the 20th century, but rather for another anniversary: Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, and Forever, the television special where Michael Jackson performed "Billie Jean" and unleashed the moonwalk, sending Thriller into the stratosphere. For those who hadn't paid attention to Off the Wall -- and despite its success there were some, often older listeners who didn't bother with discos -- this performance was the unveiling of a marvelous, mature Jackson, a musician whose growth seemed sudden, swift, staggering. Maturity isn't a word that was much associated with Jackson over the next 25 years. Not long after Thriller was logging its second year on the charts, well on its way to becoming the biggest album ever (a title it eventually lost to the Eagles' Their Greatest Hits, which is merely a technicality; that was a catalog item, not a supernova that burned up the charts), Jackson methodically turned himself into a man-child, first through his public appearance -- he was first seen with ET, then Emmanuel Lewis -- and that antiseptic mass appeal crept into his music, so by the tenth anniversary of Thriller, there was not much adult about his music. Because of this gradual morphing into something other, many listeners may have not listened to Michael Jackson or Thriller in years, maybe even two decades, so the album was given a much-hyped re-release in February 2008, with Epic/Legacy releasing Thriller 25 complete with bonus tracks and an extra DVD, in several different editions with different covers, too. There was so much hype surrounding this reissue that it's easy to overlook the fact that this is the second pumped-up reissue of Thriller within a decade. Six years earlier, Michael Jackson's Epic catalog was refurbished to coincide with the release of Invincible, so the album was given a bunch of bonus tracks and a new cover -- an outtake from the photo shoot that produced the gatefold pic of Jacko cuddling with a baby tiger, playing right into his frozen childhood -- and it didn't garner much attention, possibly because only two of the 12 bonus tracks were interesting (the rest were almost all interview snippets). Those two songs, "Someone in the Dark" and a demo of "Billie Jean," are left behind on that issue, and Thriller 25 likewise contains none of the assorted oddities and rarities MJ released during this era. Unlike the 2001 reissue, this is not targeted to listeners who care about digging deep into the vaults, curious about how the album was made and what was left behind. No, Thriller 25 is for fans who want to take a trip back and for younger listeners who may have never heard the entire album before -- and to rope the latter in, this reissue has five new remixes all featuring modern stars. That sounds more impressive on the surface than it actually is, as, for whatever reason, such Michael-mimicking superstars as Justin Timberlake and Chris Brown did not participate, but Kanye West, Akon, Fergie, and will.i.am did. By and large these are outright embarrassments -- only Akon has the guts to rework the original track, turning "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" into moody piano murk, so he gets credit for vision; it's not great, but it is better than Fergie parroting the lyrics of "Beat It" back to a recorded Jackson, and it's better than will.i.am turning "The Girl Is Mine" into a hapless dance number -- but it's also true that these artists can't help but seem small when compared to Michael. Kanye is the closest of these four to having anything close to the musical and cultural impact in 2008 as Jackson did in 1982-1983, but even that is a bit of a reach, as Kanye isn't nearly as close to being as omnipresent as Michael was at his peak.Of course, those were different times, as one listen to the proper album...
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Adams/Harris/Jackso; Bettis/Porcaro; Ingram/Jones; Jackson; Jackson/Thiam/Tuinf; Porcaro/Sherwood; Temperton. Very Good. In very good packaging. Jackson, Michael-Thriller 25th Anniversary by Jackson, Michael.