‘Thriller’ Turns 40, Michael Jackson Returns To Billboard Charts

More than likely you have been seeing a lot of news, headlines and social media threads about Thriller, one of Michael Jackson’s most important albums and one of music’s most influential releases. The reason for the celebration is because of the 40th anniversary of the collection, which originally released on November 30, 1982.

The Quincy Jones-produced album is legend not only because MJ and Jones created it, but because of the culture shift it represents. Folks alive in 1982 can tell you where they were and what they were doing when they first heard “Thriller,” “Billie Jean” or the seminal “Beat It.” The videos for those songs also created music video history. What Baby Boomer or Gen Xer can forget the disclaimer that ran on television because Thriller was rumored to be disturbing and scary and perhaps not suitable for all audiences.

Now “Thriller” is a top view on YouTube and racks up plenty of flash mob dancing every Halloween season. And every song on that album has remained on high rotation for four decades.

Let’s look at Thriller by the numbers and by noting significant points in the album’s history.

  1. It is is considered one of the biggest albums and best-selling albums of all time, having been certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.
  2. It has sold more than 70 million copies worldwide since its release in 1982.
  3. The album took home a record-breaking number of Grammys in 1984: 8 in total, including Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male.
  4. In 2008, Thriller was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame by the Recording Academy.
  5. In December 2009, Thriller became the first – and still, the only – music video into the US National Film Registry. The Library of Congress gives this honor to “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant recordings.”
  6. Billboard ranked “Billie Jean” as 1983’s No. 2 song. It topped the charts in nine countries and went on to became Jackson’s best-selling solo single.
  7. At the time, the music video for “Thriller” was the most expensive video ever made, topping at around $1 million in production budget.
  8. The Thriller 40 anniversary album includes the original track list plus a handful or previously unreleased tracks and demos from the original album sessions, which include “Starlight,” the original version of “Thriller,” “The Toy,” “Got the Hots” and “Sunset Driver.”
  9. The original album went back to the Billboard top 200 this week by snagging the No. 7 spot.
  10. The 40th anniversary album moved 37,000 equivalent album units, which helped it make that leap on the Billboard chart. Of that number, 27,500 come from traditional album sales that mark a sales increase of 820% over those of the previous week.

The celebration is multi-pronged and designed to work well with holiday shopping and celebration season. For example, Jackson’s estate paired with Sony Music to celebrate an immersive experience that ran from November 18 – November 20 in several cities around the world, including New York City and Seoul. It was free to the public and included live performances, music video viewing and set recreations and culminated with the re-mastered release of the anniversary album, including the before-mentioned unreleased music. The documentary Thriller 40 was also released.

The remastered, anniversary double CD retails for $13.98 on the Michael Jackson website.

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