Darkness falls across the land, the midnight hour is close at hand. Creatures crawl in search of blood, to terrorize your neighborhood. And whosoever shall be found without the soul for getting down, must stand and face the hounds of hell, and rot inside a corpse's shell. The foulest stench is in the air. The funk of forty thousand years. And grisly ghouls from every tomb are closing in to seal your doom. And though you fight to stay alive, your body starts to shiver, for no mere mortal can resist the evil of the thriller.
I had to take a break from Battle of the Covers, mostly because they were ridiculously time consuming and I was getting worn out. But I'm back with a Halloween-themed request by Jcarr, and plan to continue the series on a reduced schedule (maybe 1-2 per week) afterwards.
It's hard to imagine "Thriller" as anything other than what it was, but in songwriter Rod Temperton's rough drafts the song was actually titled "Starlight," and the now famous hook "Thriller! In the night..." was nearly "Starlight! Starlight sun..." Talk about bullets dodged. With the song finally written, and written properly, it was given to Michael Jackson and producer Quincy Jones to be made into music. Jones decided music wasn't good enough, and with Jackson and the rest of the crew made it into magic. The team used every trick they could to get just the right sound, from having Jackson repeatedly sing his lines at various distances from the mic to recording the backing vocals in one of the building's showers (because everything sounds better when sung in the shower). To give the track a little extra terror, sound effects, such as the creaking doors, the thunderclaps, and the howling coyote, were lifted from old Hollywood films. To top it all off, Vincent Price, a man whose voice was horror, was brought in to do some voice-overs in the song. It only took two takes to get the perfect feel out of Price. Unsurprisingly the song was a solid hit, topping Billboard's Dance Music/Club Play Singles Chart before it had even been given it's official airplay release. Upon finally being released (the last of seven singles released off the Thriller album) it easily broke into the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number four.
While there was no effort spared in making "Thriller" the best song it could be, it's the music video that made the song into legend. Essentially a "cinematic short," the 13-minute video with the million dollar production budget (unprecedented for a music video at the time) is often called the greatest music video in history. Directed by John Landis (Blues Brothers, An American Werewolf in London), the first major Hollywood director to do a music video, the video actually outsold the song itself, with over 9 million copies of the video purchased. It's credited with revolutionizing music videos, and has even been included as part of the Library of Congress' National Film Registry. Over thirty years later Thriller is still a bit of a global sensation, with elements of the music video's dance routine being slipped into various films, TV shows, Super Bowl commercials, and college football practices. Dance studios around the country offer full "Thriller Dance" classes, and there is even an annual international dance event known as Thrill The World, where people from around the world gather in various locations to re-enact the dance. They set a record in 2009 with nearly 23,000 people in 33 countries participating.
Obviously the original "Thriller" set a high bar, and it's hard to imagine a cover being anything other than an abomination, but that didn't stop us from doing "Smells Like Teen Spirit," and it won't stop us here. So, which is the best (or least worst) cover of "Thriller?"
Ten Masked Men - (2000)
Ian Brown - (2005)
Imogen Heap - (2010)
The Animal in Me - (2011)
Phillip Phillips - (2012)
Easy Star All Stars - (2012)
Chuck Billy - (2013)