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Trivia / Thriller

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The album by Michael Jackson:

  • Breakthrough Hit: A virtually-forgotten fact in the wake of Thriller's massive success. This is the album that established Michael Jackson as a solo artist with a fully-fledged career of his own. Off the Wall came close to doing this, but like all his solo albums before it, it was still technically received as a side project, and given less public attention than the albums Jackson recorded with his brothers. After Thriller became such a blockbuster hit, the tables turned––suddenly, the Jacksons became the "side" project. Michael would begrudgingly participate in one more Jacksons album and tour, 1984's Victory, before finally throwing in the towel at the end of that year and leaving the family group forever.
  • Cut Song: Several of them, though not all are listed here:
    • "Carousel." Written by Michael Sembello, with lyrics about a man who "lost [his] heart, on the carousel, to a circus girl." Quincy Jones bumped it in favor of "Human Nature." The 2001 remaster of Thriller contains an excerpt as a bonus track, but the full song has been leaked. Sembello's demo was leaked also.
    • A Cover Version of Yellow Magic Orchestra's 1979 song "Behind the Mask". According to original songwriter Ryuichi Sakamoto, he had requested to hear Jackson's version, only for Epic Records (Sakamoto's US label at the time and Jackson's worldwide label) to state that they couldn't send him it, leading him to deny permission to release the song. Sakamoto joked in 2013 that if he did give permission, he'd "have ten different houses all over the world." Jackson's cover would become the go-to template for other artists' renditions (including a solo version by Sakamoto himself) before a remix was ultimately included on Michael in 2010. The original demo, consisting of Jackson and uncredited guitar and synth players performing over the Yellow Magic Orchestra version, was later included on the 40th anniversary edition of Thriller.
    • "Nite Line." Cut from the album, so writer Glen Ballard gave it to the Pointer Sisters instead. Has been leaked. Ballard's demo was leaked as well.
    • "Got the Hots." Was completed, but left off of Thriller. Siedah Garrett, who later worked with Jackson on "I Just Can't Stop Loving You" and "Man in the Mirror," would record her own version of the song with completely different lyrics and a different title, "Baby's Got It Bad," for her album Kiss of Life. The Japanese version of Thriller's 25th anniversary reissue added Jackson's version as a bonus track.
    • "She's Trouble." Also known as just "Trouble." Written specifically for Jackson by Terry Britten, but never made the cut. At least two versions by Jackson are out there. Britten's original demo was leaked also. It would later be given to British reggae-pop group Musical Youth, who released their version as a single from their second album Different Style!
    • "Hot Street." Working title was "Slapstick," written by Rod Temperton. Two versions by Jackson leaked; one for each title. (He later claimed that he really liked this one.)
  • Executive Meddling: A rare case where executive meddling actually benefited the artist in question. When "Billie Jean" was released as a single, MTV, then still in its infancy, and already notorious for rarely airing videos from black artists, refused to air the song's music video. CBS Records executive Walter Yetnikoff, Jackson's boss at the time, went ballistic upon finding out, and not only threatened to go public about the network's racial bias, but also completely pull all of CBS' music videos off the network unless the video was given airplay. This finally broke MTV's "color barrier", and kickstarted Jackson's runaway success on the network.
    Walter Yetnikoff: "I'm pulling everything we have off the air [...] I'm not going to give you any more videos. And I'm going to go public and fucking tell them about the fact you don't want to play music by a black guy."
  • Follow the Leader: Thriller changed the music industry in many ways. By becoming the best-selling record of all time, all pop musicians, including Jackson himself, tried in vain to surpass it. The use of elaborate music videos to promote the singles also set a trend that is still felt in pop music today. If an artist wants their hit single to be commercially successful, they're often forced to make a music video for it. Of course, this has led many people to be far more interested in the visuals than the actual music, an evolution many musicians and music fans regret.
  • Loony Fan: Quincy Jones claims that one source of inspiration for "Billie Jean" was a woman who approached Jackson, and accused him of fathering one of her twins.
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  • Troubled Production: Making the album went along smoothly, but post-production was another matter. All parties involved testified that, upon playing it back after its completion, it was a supreme disappointment. Jackson was in tears. Jones felt it was "unreleasable." Bruce Swedien, the recording and mixing engineer, thought it sounded like "dog doo." Not only were the mixes unsatisfactory, but the songs themselves were too long to fit comfortably on an LP, decimating the sound quality. The decision was made to delay the album by a week, remix all of the songs, and shorten them as much as possible; the full-length versions of some songs would later resurface as 12" singles.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • The final track list had some radically different changes made before their final mixes. Namely, "Billie Jean" originally had a drum machine/synth bass rhythm section instead of the final mix's live instruments, and "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)" was a completely different song altogether, with nothing in common with the album version besides the title. It was originally a mellow, Stevie Wonder-inspired piece instead of the pop funk of the album version.
    • Long as the Title Track's music video is, it could've been even longer. As played on a re-release CD bonus, there was a second verse of Vincent Price's rap, ending in "Can you dig it?"
    • Quincy Jones's wife was friends with Vincent Price's wife, which is how Vincent came to be included on "Thriller". According to Cassandra Peterson, Jackson originally wanted her to provide the rap in-character as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.
    • Price was originally going to Ad Lib a "spooky" monologue before it was decided at the very last minute that songwriter Rod Temperton ought to write a proper "rap" for him to perform — so last-minute, in fact, that Temperton wrote the lyrics on the way to the recording session.
    • The title track was originally a love song called "Starlight".
    • Quincy Jones wanted to trim the intro to "Billie Jean," thinking it was too long. Jackson persuaded him not to by saying that the intro was what made him want to dance, and as Jones later admitted, when Michael Jackson tells you that something makes him want to dance, you don't argue.
    • Enough material was recorded for the album to potentially release it as a double-LP, and Jackson initially wished to release it as such once recording sessions had finished. Producer Quincy Jones talked Jackson into making it a one-disc release to increase its commercial viability, and when the musician's proposed configuration proved infeasible, he had to be further talked into cutting down some of the remaining songs. Jackson, a notorious perfectionist, was reportedly upset when he had to cut out an entire record's worth of material in post-production. Much of the scrapped songs would later resurface in leaks and officially as both bonus content on reissues and remixed tracks for posthumous studio albums.
  • Writing by the Seat of Your Pants: Owing to a scheduling snafu which wouldn't allow him to write it earlier that morning, Rod Temperton was forced to write Vincent Price's spoken-work portion of "Thriller" while waiting for his car to drive him to the recording session.

The 1960s TV series: