Michael Jackson’s previous album ‘Off the Wall’ (1979) received strong critical acclaim and was also a commercial success, eventually selling over 20 million copies worldwide. The singer was upset about what he perceived to be the under-performance of the album and moved to Thriller. Jackson recorded 30 songs in 9 months for ‘Thriller‘ album at Westlake Recording Studios in Los Angeles with a production budget of $750,000. Nine of the songs were eventually included. Jackson wrote four songs for the record. Jackson was inspired to create an album where “every song was a killer”, and developed Thriller with that in mind.
Thriller was released on November 30, 1982, and sold one million copies worldwide per week at its peak. Thriller was well received by most critics. The album won a record-breaking eight Grammy Awards in 1984, including Album of the Year. Jackson won seven of the Grammys for the album. Thriller was recognized as the world’s best-selling album on February 7, 1984, when it was inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records. In 2009, Thriller was certified 29× platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, for shipments of at least 29 million copies in the US.
Before the success of Thriller, many felt Jackson had struggled to get MTV airing because he was black. His position persuaded MTV to begin airing “Billie Jean” and later “Beat It”, which led to a long partnership and later helped other black music artists to gain mainstream recognition. The popularity of his videos, helped to place the young channel on the map, and MTV’s focus shifted in favor of pop and R&B. Jackson transformed the medium of music video into an art form and promotional tool through the use of complex story lines, dance routines, special effects and cameo appearances by well known personalities. For a black artist in the 1980s to that point, Jackson’s success was unprecedented. According to The Washington Post, Thriller paved the way for other African-American artists. Time noted, “Jackson is the biggest thing since The Beatles. He is the hottest single phenomenon since Elvis Presley. He just may be the most popular black singer ever”.