Thursday, December 17, 2015

Michael Jackson, Death Becomes Him



I'm sure Michael Jackson is Moon Walking in his grave right now.

 The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the Estate of Michael Jackson, Epic Records and Legacy Recordings announced today that Michael Jackson’s THRILLER is the first album in RIAA Gold & Platinum Program history to be certified 30X multi-Platinum for U.S. sales, continuing The King of Pop’s reign as the biggest selling artist of all time with worldwide sales of over 100 million for Thriller and 1 billion overall.   

“RIAA has awarded Gold & Platinum records on behalf of the music business for nearly 60 years, but this is the first time an artist has crossed the 30X multi-Platinum plateau,” said Cary Sherman, Chairman & CEO, RIAA. “We are honored to celebrate the unique status ofThriller in Gold & Platinum history. What an exceptional achievement and testament toThriller’s enduring spot in our hearts and musical history.”

Michael Jackson’s masterpiece Thriller, produced by Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson, won a record setting 8 Grammys, more than any album ever, and has been earning awards and setting new standards of success since its release on November 30, 1982. Thriller spent nearly 2 ½ years on the Billboard album chart and holds a modern day record of 37 weeks at No. 1.  It was the first album in history to spend each of its first 80 weeks in the album chart’s Top 10, a feat only reached by one other album in the more than three decades since. During its 112th week on Billboard’s album chart, it became the first title ever to be certified RIAA 20X multi-Platinum (October 30, 1984). Worldwide, Thriller went to #1 in practically every country in the world, including the UK, France, Italy, Australia, Denmark, Belgium, South Africa, Spain, Ireland, New Zealand, Canada and apartheid South Africa.  

The album was acclaimed for its range and depth. Rolling Stone referred to the album as a “watershed” moment for Michael, and Newsweek prophetically wrote that “Michael’s voice haunts these songs, gives them heart…It is what will make this music endure.” Seven tracks from the album became Top 10 singles, and three, “Beat It,” “Billie Jean,” and “Thriller,” went No. 1. ALL nine assumed a permanent place in hearts and memories of everyone on the planet.


More than just an album, Thriller has remained a global cultural multi-media phenomenon for both the 20th and the 21st centuries, smashing musical barriers and changing the frontiers of pop forever. The music on Thriller is so dynamic and singular that it defied any definition of rock, pop or soul that had gone before. “Beat It” was a new kind of pop-rock hybrid and demolished the longstanding segregation between black and white music with Eddie Van Halen’s incendiary guitar. On “The Girl Is Mine,” a black man and a white man bantered about the same girl. On the same album were songs like the African-rooted “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” and the rhythm and blues-based “Billie Jean.” No one had ever released an album with such a vast range of material.

“Perhaps Michael’s most significant racial trailblazing came with music videos,” wrote Joe Vogel in Man in the Music. Fascinated with the fledgling art form, Michael wanted to tell a story and entertain on a grand scale. Despite the luscious cinematography, dramatic narrative and spectacular choreography of “Billie Jean,” a fledgling MTV, which was programming white rock artists almost exclusively, refused to play it. Epic persisted. Once the wall came crashing down, MTV’s ratings soared and a door was opened for a generation of African American artists. “He was MTV’s Jackie Robinson,” said cultural critic Touré. Next, came the unforgettable short film for “Beat It,” which featured Michael bringing two gangs together through the power of music and dance. And then there was “Thriller.” Premiered at the AVCO Theatre in Los Angeles in 1983, it sold out every night for three weeks. No other video before or since has generated such excitement and has such a hold on our attention, such that more than 30 years later we all share it as a collective memory and it remains the only music video to be inducted into the elite National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

The importance of Thriller was recognized by Michael Jackson’s industry peers at the Grammys.  Thriller was nominated in a record-breaking 12 categories, and won a history making eight, which stands as the record for most Grammy Awards to be won by any album. Seven of those Grammys that year were awarded to Michael for: Album of the Year; Record of the Year ("Beat It"); Best Male Pop Vocal Performance ("Thriller"); Best Engineered Recording, Non-Classical (Thriller); Best Male Rock Vocal Performance ("Beat It"); Best Male R&B Vocal Performance ("Billie Jean"); Best R&B Song ("Billie Jean"). (Michael's eighth Grammy that year was in the Best Recording for Children - Single or Album, Musical or Spoken category for "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial"). That same year, Michael Jackson took home eight American Music Awards and three MTV Video Music Awards. The following year, "The Making of Michael Jackson's Thriller" took home the Best Video Album trophy at the 27th Annual Grammy Awards.

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