We are at the beginning of the 80s. At the time, Michael Jackson was already a star thanks to the success of the Jackson 5. If the singer had already unveiled five solo albums, his latest opus off the wall, the first on Epic Records, was a huge hit with audiences and industry professionals alike. Winner of a Grammy Award for its title Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough, the singer is however not satisfied with this performance and the tens of millions of records he has already sold during his existence. It needs to be bigger, stronger, more iconic. Accompanied by his friend Quincy Jones, Michael embarks on a new adventure entitled Thriller. A pharaonic project of which he still knows nothing of the future impact on world popular culture. Upon its release, the album topped charts around the world. Sold over a million copies in one month, the disc is a real hit machine. Today, as it prepares to celebrate the 40th anniversary of its release, it remains the best-selling in the history of music with more than 100 million copies sold across the globe.
Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’, Beat It, Billie Jeans, The Girl is Mine… The songs on the album will all leave an indelible mark on the world of pop. Yet one in particular will truly exceed Michael Jackson’s expectations and dreams: Thriller. But to establish the success of the title, the singer has persuaded, it is necessary to strike a blow. Always looking for new ideas, the one we now call ” the King of Pop “ discover the movie The Werewolf of London in 1981. He then contacted his director John Landis for the music video project for Thriller. Absolutely substantial, the budget for the video which is described as a real short film (it will last 13 minutes) is covered by a television channel which buys the rights to the making-of. Accompanied by the best, Michael Jackson will then throw himself body and soul into the production of this adventure, which, he is convinced, will revolutionize the music industry. At the end of 1983, a year after the release of the album, the world discovered with astonishment and fascination the video clip of Thriller.
Thanks to Thriller, Michael Jackson is not only breaking musical records. It changes mentalities. Refusing until then to broadcast black artists, the MTV channel will finally decide to buy the rights to the video clip. An immediate success since the audience rate will be up to 10 times higher than normal. “At the time, the first clip from the album – Billie Jean – MTV already didn’t want to play it. There was a form of ordinary racism. There was still a distinction between black music and white music. It took artists like MJ or Prince to break the colorline” reports Olivier Cachin, who has written several books on the world star, in Le Parisien. Edited in VHS, the video will sell more than nine million copies worldwide. In 2009, the clip will also be included in the National Film Registry of the United States Library of Congress for its importance. “cultural, historical or aesthetic”. Moreover, all contemporary directors agree that there was a before and an after Thriller.
On the production side, again, there is no shortage of anecdotes. Already at the time of filming, this insane project attracts all the greatest. From Fred Astaire to Jackie Kennedy Onassis via Marlon Brando, they all flock to the set to see this gem take shape. At the heart of the screenplay, the love story between Michael and a young actress named Ola Ray is a topic of conversation. Indeed, if some claim that the reality would have exceeded the fiction between the two artists, the spectator as for him, sees nothing but fire and prefers to fantasize in front of the lascivious dance steps of the singer. A choreography urged by some relatives of Michael to please the fairer sex. Bet paid off, not only is the clip a success, but the young man of barely 25 years old becomes a living legend adored around the world.
Ten years after his death, Michael Jackson continues to fascinate. And make a lot of money. Last year alone, it is estimated that the King of Pop generated $75 million in revenue. As for the artistic heritage of the singer, it remains priceless. If the last years of his life will be tainted by his disturbing physical evolution and the accusations of pedophilia against him, the artist who was about to go back on stage before his death leaves behind millions of frightened fans and remains, even today an endless source of inspiration.
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