Back in the (not so dark anymore)days, we used to wear Michael Jackson outfits, the once Afro-ed hair is now styled with 'wet-look' gel and the glove on the one hand. With jerking actions, moonwalking and so forth, we tried to emulate possibly the most popular pop artist of our generation. Little did we know or care that the album, Thriller, with hits like 'Billy Jean', 'Beat it' and, of course, the single 'Thriller' would become the best selling album of all times. Back the Stellenbosch, (and elseweher, I suppose) in our case the 'Vlei' to be exact, early 80s, every dance crew had their Michael Jackson look-a-likes, dance-a-likes. No was I said, in our case, the 'Vlei' undoubtedly it was a guy called 'Shaun' ( I cannot remember his surname, but the group was Crazier, I think)
In an article on the impact of Thriller, Times Online suggest that this was possibly the most influential album ever. Our very own Sunday Times, yesterday affirms it, at least for the 80s. This album announced not only the break with the disco of the 70s, in terms of musical genre and multi-media production, but also with the hegemony of The Beatles and Elvis Presley, whose albums maybe didn't sell that much, but certainly had a powerful influence on pop culture. Thriller, produced by the legendary Quincy Jones's impact is still felt up to today. The Times article states,
What matters is that Thriller redrew the map of pop. The most effective fusion of white and black popular music since Elvis Presley, Thriller took elements of pop, rock, soul and R&B, and melded them together to create something new. Twenty-five years later, you can still hear the Thriller sound all over the charts, sometimes blatantly, as in the faithful recreations of Justin Timberlake, but, less overtly, in almost all of the chart-dominating music that looks for the middle course between pop and R&B: from Gwen Stefani’s whoops on The Sweet Escape to Rihanna’s rock guitars on Shut Up and Drive.
It is tragic then that Jackson's personal struggles in terms of identity and sexuality have overshadowed his genius and the immense role that he could have played in the community he came from. He simply ( like so many others) spiraled out of control. Since the days of Jackson 5, the Jackson family represents the best that the black community has to offer the world, yet, the confluence of fame, money and the power of the entertainment industry, in forging warped images of success, remains up to today part of a cruel thriller that these people have to live through. Yes, they are no victims of circumstance beyond their control and decisions, but the force of this perfect storm, need to be taken into account in appreciating their contribution to our culture. All in all, I however maintain: Thriller remains on my 'best albums of all times' list.