Thriller was not only the most successful of 80s albums, it was the most successful album of all time. Within a year of its release, Thriller had sold more than any other other album in history. The album still holds that title in 2010 with 65 to 110 million units sold worldwide.
Released in November, 1982, Thriller was Michael Jackson’s sixth studio album and the follow-up to 1979′s Off the Wall, which was critically and commercially acclaimed.
Thriller was a hybrid of pop and soul, R&B and rock, and even echoed disco dance music of the 70s. It soared up the charts and set the tone for all 80s music to come.
Michael Jackson, ever the over-achiever, also filmed a number of breakthrough videos for the album, many of which entered heavy rotation on MTV. Foremost among those was the album’s title track. Another single, Billie Jean became an iconic music video and established Michael Jackson as an MTV fixture.
80s Music Awards & Accomplishments
Most albums are lucky if they boast two or three singles, let alone any hits. However, of Thriller’s nine tracks, seven were released as singles and every single one of them made the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 list.
In 1984, the album broke records at the Grammys, earning eight awards.
Due to the success of Thriller, Michael Jackson is credited with having broken racial barriers, particularly with regards to MTV. The station has been noted for refusing to play videos by non-white artists, but once Thriller became the most successful of 80s albums, their policy started to change.
Note: MTV’s official statement on this matter is that they were a rock station and they didn’t play black artists because black artists didn’t make rock music. However, as 80s music evolved and MTV became more popular, they broadened their genres to better appeal to a wider audience.
In 2003Thriller ranked number 20 on Rolling Stone magazine’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.”
80s Albums & Videos
Thriller delivered three of the best music videos of all time. In fact, videos were a key component in marketing the album, and this set the stage for future 80s albums to use music videos as promotional tools. Using videos, Michael Jackson was able to elaborate on the songs. Each video functioned as a short film that told a story.
The video for the title track “Thriller” was groundbreaking. At 14 minutes, it told the story of a young couple leaving a theater where they’d just seen a horror film. It featured zombies and one of the most famous dance sequences in history.
“Billie Jean” tells the story of a man who claims he is not the father of his former lover’s child. As with all of Jackson’s other videos, it included iconic dance moves.
The “Beat It” video was a retelling of West Side Story and included fight-like street dancing.
In 2008, Thriller 25 was reissued as Thriller 25 and included remixes featuring contemporary artists, a previously unreleased song, and a DVD.
The year was 1984. MTV’s bad girl had the church ladies’ panties in a wad. But teen girls across the nation couldn’t get enough of her. And everyone awaited the much-anticipated release of her Like a Virgin album.
It was a disgrace to virgins and good girls everywhere! She was a hussy! A slut! A star! Madonna seduced the spotlight and cameras everywhere. She was (and is) an entertainer. She totally knew how to work a song, a video, and a stage.
And she knew how to put out hit after hit. Her Like a Virgin album was jam-packed with 80s music singles, and Madonna dominated the charts.
Anticipating Like a Virgin, Foremost Among 80s Albums
Leveraging off shock value and controversy, Madonna released her sophomore album in 1984, and the public was soaking it up before they heard her sing a single note. Chatter about the cutting-edge title, “Like a Virgin,” was mixed. Some said it was blasphemy. Others said it was brilliant.
Critics mostly dismissed the album, calling the title track a one-hit wonder, but once it became available, the public ate it up and Like a Virgin became a commercial success, an album so important to 80s music that it was celebrated twenty years later at the MTV Video Music Awards (and sealed with a sexy pair of kisses between Madonna and modern pop princesses Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera).
The album was dedicated to “all the virgins of the world,” and was a cacophony of disco and pop inspired hits like “Material Girl,” “Angel,” and “Dress You Up,” not to mention the title track, “Like a Virgin.”
80s Music and the MTV Generation
Madonna debuted the album’s first single by performing “Like a Virgin” at the first annual MTV Video Music Awards. Swathed in a white bustier (which would become one of her wardrobe staples) and a full skirt cinched with her signature “Boy Toy” belt, Madonna rolled around onstage, crooning the lyrics to her shocking new song.
The crowd went wild and MTV put the video for “Like a Virgin” into heavy rotation and so began a long, beneficial, and reciprocal relationship between Madonna and Music Television.
The Virgin Tour
If Like a Virgin was one of the most popular 80s albums, then the Virgin Tour was certainly one of the biggest concerts of the decade. 80s music had reached new heights thanks to MTV and the concerts exploded with the added television coverage.
A performance from her Virgin Tour of the song “Dress You Up” was captured on film and turned into a music video, which like all other Madonna videos, enjoyed heavy play. Concert goers flocked to big stadiums to see the Boy Toy live and in action.
With a full band, backup dancers, and a show that was completely choreographed, the concert was a hit, and eventually made its way to video.
Your 80s Music Collection
Your 80s music collection isn’t complete without the Virgin essentials:
Order the CD from Amazon or download this totally awesome album (or any of its singles) from: