Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' At 30: Classic Track-By-Track Review

Michael Jackson: His Life In Photos
GAB Archive/Redferns

November 30, 1982: Jackson releases "Thriller," which will becomes the world's best-selling album of all time.

Thirty years ago, Michael Jackson unleashed nine tracks that thrilled the world. Here's our look back at each song on his iconic 1982 album, "Thriller."


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Michael Jackson's "Thriller" was an album born of outsized ambitions. Having come into his own with the multiplatinum-selling "Off the Wall," Jackson wanted to make a record that would turn him into the biggest star in the world. That's not asking for too much, is it? But here's the incredible part: That's exactly what happened. And it began with the album's release on November 30, 1982 -- 30 years ago.

Helmed by producer Quincy Jones, Thriller was an album built for across-the-board acceptance. The tracks appealed variously to nearly every radio format - pop, R&B, adult-contemporary, and even rock. More importantly, its remarkable video clips - for "Billie Jean," "Beat It" and "Thriller" - helped break down racial and genre-based barriers at MTV, transforming the channel into a juggernaut of not just music video, but of fashion and marketing; and transforming the music industry as well.

The album's sales figures and performance on the Billboard charts are staggering.

"Thriller" is the best-selling studio album in U.S. history with 29 million sold, according to the RIAA. It is locked in a tie with the Eagles' collection "Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 for the overall domestic title. [Worldwide, estimates range as high as 110 million albums sold.] On the Billboard charts, the album became the first to generate seven Hot 100 top 10s -- with "Billie Jean" and "Beat It" going to No. 1. The album spent the most weeks (37) atop the Billboard 200 of any album by a single artist.

At the Grammys in 1984, the album won seven awards, including album and record of the year ("Beat It"). Jackson and Jones actually won an eighth award, best recording for children, for "E.T. the Extra Terrestrial."

And the superlatives go on and on.

Sadly, the stunning success of "Thriller" may have laid the groundwork for Jackson's own long and very public undoing. Having topped everyone else's accomplishments, Jackson -- who was driven in ways unlike almost any other artist -- was unable to top his own, though he never really stopped trying. A psychological examination of Jackson is not the agenda for today, however. We're just here to revel in the amazing sights and sounds of the pop era's most truly popular work: "Thriller."

"The Girl Is Mine"

"Thriller"

"Human Nature"

"P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)"

"The Lady In My Life"