Where Off the Wall
was pretty much straight good times, Thriller
introduced dread into Michael Jackson's solo work. By 1995's HIStory
, this element curdled into overwhelming self-regard and out-of-touchness, but here it's bracing. While Thriller
offers its share of cute ("The Girl Is Mine," a duet with Paul McCartney
that was the album's first single; "P.Y.T."), the most memorable cuts remain "Billie Jean," "Beat It," and "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'," all of which meld musical imagination and worried-mind lyrics.
There's also the title track, which takes a cue from Parliament's concept pieces in employing Vincent Price to warn that nonfunky forces will "terrorize y'all's neighborhood." Thriller, of course, continues to battle with the Eagles' first greatest-hits package for the title of biggest-selling U.S. long-player ever. Bonus material on this edition includes "Someone in the Dark," from Jackson's E.T. children's album, and a Quincy Jones interview in which the producer cites "My Sharona" as the inspiration for "Beat It"--and, even better, the real-life Billie Jean's claim that Michael was "the father of one of her twins." --Rickey Wright