Michael Jackson circa 1982 was indeed King of Pop. I’m no huge fan of Pop Music but when it’s done this well you have to admire it even if it’s embarrassing to do so.
Of course everyone had heard of Michael Jackson – it was impossible not to have. With hindsight one cannot think of a Pop artist that rose to the summit so triumphantly. The only downside being that the singles from Thriller (and the album in its entirety) would never be surpassed by the artist.
The difference was that the singles from Thriller were so now in 1982/3 that they changed how singles were released. That album was masterful marketing of a very strong product.
When Billie Jean rocketed to the top of the U.K. Singles Chart, even though it wasn’t “my bag” you just watched it weekly on Top Of The Pops knowing that it should be Number One. I can’t think of many artists I’d say that about. The beat in Billie Jean is so strong that even people that hate the dancefloor will glance and look for a spot to dance. one of the strongest Pop records I’ve ever heard.
Beat It whilst it cannot be considered as better than Billie Jean is a rare venture into a rockier sound. Yes, it’s clean and sharp (and safe) but if Jacko had followed up Thriller with a heavier album it strangely may have widened his already huge audience? Arguably Prince spotted this and Purple Rain was a phenomenally successful album partially down to Jacko missing a trick? Prince The Rollings Stones to Jacko’s Pop/Funk Beatles?
Thriller (as a single) was overshadowed by the album – and the video. It remains one of the most creative music videos of all time still. That beat. Jacko had pop beats down to sheer perfection. If he hadn’t been so off the wall himself and delivered (ironically) a darker album the possibilities to credibly top Thriller could have been possible?