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Michael Jackson Thriller 25 [review]

Be it Kanye West, Justin Timberlake, Chris Brown or a plethora of other current artists, Michael Jackson's legacy lives on, and it's only fitting that his seminal album, Thriller, which is not only one of 3 album to stay in the Billboard 100 for an entire year, but it's the best selling album, ever. So, it's only right that, 25 years removed from it's release, a special 25th Anniversary Edition is unearthed. Is it worth it, though...

For the diehard MJ fan, yes. This thing is the complete package, from the immediate hits like "Billie Jean" and "Beat It" to more hidden gems like "The Lady In My Life" and "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'". Many talk nowadays about being "in the pocket", that area within a great track where your voice not only fits perfectly, but it truly becomes another instrument. That was Michael's gift back then. Frankly, I'm not sure what Michael was talkin' about on most of the album (what the hell is a "mama-say-mama-sah-ma-ma-coo-sa"), but there was that feeling, that Soul, that oomph that just, damn, it just worked. "Billie Jean" was a song about a stalker trying to say Mike fathered her kid, but without knowing that, the lyrics come off like random, schizo gibberish that you can get your groove on to. Tracks like "The Girl Is Mine" with Paul McCartney, are beautiful stories that back then end up in a playful back and forth between two buddies who are trying to one up their homey, which nowadays become fodder for the ego like "Same Girl". Smooth RnB for the jheri nation.

I could go on, about how "P.Y.T." is such a dope track that Kanye can make it a hit today, to how "The Lady In My Life" is possibly one of the most seductive tracks from one of the Pop scene's most atypical figures, ever. Or how "Thriller" is still ice-cold, with that rubberband synth funk and those accenting saxaphones - this is one crypt keepin' jam! Alas, the main reason my audience might pick this one up is for the 2008 reworks of these hits. My thing is, some of these come off as trying to mimic that old style for a new era, which isn't really what needs to be done. Michael proved with "Butterflies" that he can morph into any situation, and doesn't need to be cloaked in that "oh, I remember that" feel. will.i.am's "The Girl Is Mine 2008" tries to boom-bap the original, but falters with the synth washes and that corny bass. And where's Paul McCartney? Their whole tit-for-tat made this track - removing him for will's bullshit cooing is just insulting. The party don't stop, as will keeps it moving with his 2008 rendition of "P.Y.T.", which is just insulting and even with Michael rockin' a new rendition on his lyrics, essentially rewriting the track, that Black Eyed Peas feel of the beat just doesn't feel right. will is no MC, and he shows it, with his lazy "hotter than Maybeline" nonsense. Akon comes right in with his 2008 version of "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'", and I am torn. While I am not feeling Akon trying to sound loverman, talkin' about hittin' it off until the early morn, but I do like how he freaked the "mama-say" stuff over that bouncy track. I am kind of missing Michael on this, but with his background, the worldly feel of this one works well. Fergie doing "Beat It 2008"? Hated it! And why was Kanye West given "Billie Jean" to remix, as opposed to doing something like a special "Good Life" with Michael ad-libbing or adding a new verse? MJ singing the chrous to "Good Life" would have been a good look, nice mixtape style thing, but we are treated to a slowed-down "Beat It" with "Stronger" drums. Sort of a waste...

The CD version of this package ends with "For All Time", a previously unreleased cut from the Thriller sessions, and seems like more of a throwaway. It's good to have mid-tempo Michael Jackson cuts to tide you over, but this one reminds me of many of MJ's later cuts. It's a nice heart-strumming number, would fit perfect in a cheesy 80's teen movie, during a montage of two secret lovers necking in the woods.

Thriller encapsulates a moment in music time, and this special edition dropping during Black History Month is a good look. MJ broke the MTV color barrier, getting massive TV play and ultimately shaping the constraints of the music video. Today's YouTube artist would be nothing without the strides Michael took back in the day. I would just hope that, instead of getting these rehashed staples in Thriller history, we could have gotten more unreleased jams, or some all-new, original music from Michael, again ala "Butterflies" or something of that flavor. Do the 5 remixes cheapen the disc? Depends on the listener, but they might also help breathe new life into this material for a newcomer who might love Akon but not know about Michael Jackson. Plus, the DVD portion includes the "Beat It" performance that Chris Brown rocked at the 2K7 VMAs, and is essential viewing for anyone trying to be a serious dancer today.

rock the dub gives Thriller 25 a 3.75 out of 5 stars. Personally, I could have done without the 2008 revisits to these hits, but vintage Michael Jackson is much better that current Soulja Boy. Where is Michael's album of new material?

Burn Deez: "The Lady In My Life", "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' 2008", "Billie Jean"

Thriller 25 is in stores today! Grab a copy before some 50 year old with a backpack full of activator jacks you of your copy!


Bonus Beats: Thriller 25 Promo Video

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I disagree with you only about one thing bro....
PYT. This rendition of it is pretty sick if you give it another listen. This is actually an old demo version of what we know today as "PYT". This history behind this song goes like this.... MJ and Greg Phillinganes made a demo version of PYT for "MJ: The Ultimate Collection". It's track 6 on Disc 2.
After hearing this, Quincy Jones wanted to make it more upbeat and made the version that everyone knows. PYT........TLC.
Try to find that demo version if you can. I think Will I Am's production on the new version is impeccable. It's all European, Dance, and House ..with real soul influence. I mean the synths are sick, but the keys, strings, brass....the breakdown.
Maybe you're not into Will but he shouldn't be labeled and judged as a rapper. Maybe there is a hip-hop influence but this music is not RAP. I think it fits and it is the best song on the album....as far as remixes go. The originals....obviously shit on everything.
I will agree with you about THe Girl Is Mine.... could have been better.