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  1. #1
    Rocket Surgeon Swish's Avatar
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    Week 39: 50 Albums That Changed Music

    Well, I'm sure many won't be surprised by the selection this week, but while I would agree that it's a pretty good record, I'm not so sure it was terribly influential musically as much as it was stylistically. And the record is Michael Jackson - Thriller (1982)

    Pure, startling genius from beginning to end, Michael Jackson and producer Quincy Jones seemed hellbent on creating the biggest, most universally appealing pop album ever made. Jones introduced elements of rock into soul and vice versa in such a way that it's now no surprise to hear a top record that mashes up more marginal genres into a form that will have universal relevance. Without this...no megastars such as Justin Timberlake or Madonna, no wide-appeal uber-producers such as Timbaland or Pharell Williams.


    Gee, I didn't realize JT was a megastar, or that MJ was responsible for Madonna, but I need to thank these people for pointing that out. Look, it was a very good record, but tell me who it influenced....please?

    Swish
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swish
    Well, I'm sure many won't be surprised by the selection this week, but while I would agree that it's a pretty good record, I'm not so sure it was terribly influential musically as much as it was stylistically. And the record is Michael Jackson - Thriller (1982)

    Pure, startling genius from beginning to end, Michael Jackson and producer Quincy Jones seemed hellbent on creating the biggest, most universally appealing pop album ever made. Jones introduced elements of rock into soul and vice versa in such a way that it's now no surprise to hear a top record that mashes up more marginal genres into a form that will have universal relevance. Without this...no megastars such as Justin Timberlake or Madonna, no wide-appeal uber-producers such as Timbaland or Pharell Williams.


    Gee, I didn't realize JT was a megastar, or that MJ was responsible for Madonna, but I need to thank these people for pointing that out. Look, it was a very good record, but tell me who it influenced....please?

    Swish
    I'm sorry, Swish: I agree that it's a very good record, but I'm not sure where you're coming from on the "who did it influence?" question. It's all over most pop records that have been released since. Talk about an album with wide and comprehensive influence in the last 30 years, and you have to mention this one as one of the tops; up there with the mid-80s records from Madonna, Bruce, R.E.M. and others, but probably more than any of those. Madonna is actually a quite correct reference by this silly magazine, given that Like a Virgin came out two years later, was huge, and took a lot from the Thriller playbook. And Thriller also, together with Prince 1999 and Purple Rain, was one of the first black records to get big play on MTV. And how exactly is Justin Timberlake not a megastar? The zillion-selling records, huge singles, big tour, grammys, critical raves, smash SNL appearance; I think he sorta qualfies as a megastar. Listen, I long for the period when there was less genre-balkanization and self-segregation of the pop landscape, so that when someone like MJ was huge everyone actually knew about it -- but in our less exalted times JT is about as close to megastar as it comes. So, from my persective, whereas they've listed a lot of great albums where I couldn't really see I wide influence, despite their quality, for this one I have absolutely no problem. Maybe it's because I'm the right age and I grew up with this stuff in the 80s. But I also think that people tend to highly undervalue the influence of pure pop records like this and tend to wildly overestimate the influence of indie or alternative or other more "legit" acts. Even London Calling by the Clash is a great example. Stupifyingly great album, I admit -- but direct influence of anyone major? I'm ready to believe it, but it's certainly much less than an album like this. So that's my perspective. Cheers.

  3. #3
    Rocket Surgeon Swish's Avatar
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    Gee, I didn't expect anyone to take the bait that fast...

    Quote Originally Posted by DariusNYC
    I'm sorry, Swish: I agree that it's a very good record, but I'm not sure where you're coming from on the "who did it influence?" question. It's all over most pop records that have been released since. Cheers.
    ...but there you were, lurking in the shadows. Nice job.

    Swish
    I call my bathroom Jim instead of John so I can tell people that I go to the Jim first thing every morning.

    If you say the word 'gullible' very slowly it sounds just like oranges.

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    Forum Regular likeitloud's Avatar
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    Back in the day, when any of these songs came on, I changed the channel, quickly,
    except for 1 track, "Beat It". Edwards lead break is outrageous. And he did it for free
    as a favor.
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  5. #5
    Forum Regular nobody's Avatar
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    This is one of those that falls under the category of records that I admit were influential but that I never liked and tend not to like much of what it influenced. Heck, I liked a few of the songs he had on Off The Wall way better than his Thriller stuff. Yes, sold by the boatloads, was incredibly popular, and influenced a whole slew of other acts whose primary goal was selling similarly obscene numbers of records; but that don't mena I gotta like it.

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    all around good guy Jim Clark's Avatar
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    I've never owned a single record by any Jackson. While far from an authority I'd surmise that almost any of the earlier Jackson 5 albums would be far more important from an "influence" standpoint. That's just someone from the outside looking in though and I certainly couldn't support that theory in a J or Darius debate. May be that I just see more redeeming qualities in the older stuff.

    I'd agree that Justin T is a megastar. I'm not sure how or why but it seems to be a pretty safe bet that he's wildly popular at least in this country.

    "Without this...no megastars such as Justin Timberlake or Madonna, no wide-appeal uber-producers such as Timbaland or Pharell Williams." if only. Times like these I realize just how far out of the mainstream I am.

    jc
    "Ahh, cartoons! America's only native art form. I don't count jazz 'cuz it sucks"- Bartholomew J. Simpson

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    Rocket Surgeon Swish's Avatar
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    I'm with you on that one Jimbo.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Clark
    I've never owned a single record by any Jackson. While far from an authority I'd surmise that almost any of the earlier Jackson 5 albums would be far more important from an "influence" standpoint. "Without this...no megastars such as Justin Timberlake or Madonna, no wide-appeal uber-producers such as Timbaland or Pharell Williams." if only. Times like these I realize just how far out of the mainstream I am.
    jc
    I never heard of Timbaland or Pharell Williams, and JT doesn't appeal to me in the least.I know he's a pop star and all that, but I think the majority of his fan base is made up of teenage girls and those who never grew out of that phase. Yes, he sells millions of records, but McDonald's sells billions of hamburgers, and not because they're the best.

    Swish
    I call my bathroom Jim instead of John so I can tell people that I go to the Jim first thing every morning.

    If you say the word 'gullible' very slowly it sounds just like oranges.

  8. #8
    Rae
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    Score one for pop music! I gotta agree with Darius on this one. I actually like Timberlake in almost all respects... my biggest reservation is that he is pretty much still recycling his 80s influences like Jackson rather than carving out his own distinct persona, but that's a small concern when his music is so agreeable. Honestly, guys, the worst I think you could call it is inoffensive.

    And Jim, c'mon! Your music listening would be appreciably better if Pharell and Timbaland didn't exist? I doubt it! Live and let live, my friend! Hip hop can and does peacefully coexist in a world that contains the Ramones. ;-)

    ~Rae

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    Close 'n PlayŽ user Troy's Avatar
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    Yes, I would definitely call timberlake a megastar and yes, I would definitely call him vanilla too. Lowest common denominator / mass appeal / fast food jive that other, normal people listen to. Easy-listening for his generation.

    I also agree that without Thriller, no Madonna. So thanks an AWFUL lot for that, there, Mike.

    The production values of Thriller sounded great in the early 80s, but so much of the popularity was the svengali aspect of the manufacured stardom thing vs. the actual music content similar to the Spice Girls album that was already on this list which we argued ad nauseum. The MTV hype machine was really revved up for this record. Remember "Captain EO" (or whatever it was) at Disneyland spawned the by the Jackson machine from the same timeframe? Yikes, that sucked hippo balls. Yeah, Thriller was 100X better than ANY Spit Girls, but so much of it's popularity was really just marketing hype.

    I still think "ABC" and "I Want You Back" are some of the best singles of it's, or any era though.

    Nice to see Darius and rae crawl out of the woodwork for this. Good day to you.

  10. #10
    all around good guy Jim Clark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rae
    Score one for pop music! I gotta agree with Darius on this one. I actually like Timberlake in almost all respects... my biggest reservation is that he is pretty much still recycling his 80s influences like Jackson rather than carving out his own distinct persona, but that's a small concern when his music is so agreeable. Honestly, guys, the worst I think you could call it is inoffensive.

    And Jim, c'mon! Your music listening would be appreciably better if Pharell and Timbaland didn't exist? I doubt it! Live and let live, my friend! Hip hop can and does peacefully coexist in a world that contains the Ramones. ;-)

    ~Rae
    2 words brother Rae - Wardrobe malfunction. With that simple and inelegant phrase we can skewer JT and a Jackson. I can peacefully exist with the music, I chose not to listen to it. When the likes of those 2 twits impose themselves on my daily living, it does get tiresome. Mikey certainly has had more than his fair share of moments in infamy. It doesn't impress me and turns me off even more. Of course there's the necessary component that I don't like the music to begin with. Guess few that I listen to regularly are 'famous' enough to be constantly inserting themselves into my life without invitation.

    jc
    Last edited by Jim Clark; 04-10-2007 at 04:13 AM.
    "Ahh, cartoons! America's only native art form. I don't count jazz 'cuz it sucks"- Bartholomew J. Simpson

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Clark
    2 words brother Rae - Wardrobe malfunction. With that simple and inelegant phrase we can skewer JT and a Jackson. I can peacefully exist with the music, I chose not to listen to it. When the likes of those 2 twits impose themselves on my daily living, it does get tiresome. Mikey certainly has had more than his fair share of moments in infamy. It doesn't impress me and turns me off even more. Of course there's the necessary component that I don't like the music to begin with. Guess few that I listen to regularly are 'famous' enough to be constantly inserting themselves into my life without invitation.

    jc
    I agree with most of what's been said in this thread (except Jim: I'm a bit surprised at your disdain for Michael's output). But while I know Thriller was a huge selling album, do you guys think it was more influential than Off the Wall? I'm not so sure.
    And the world will turn to flowing pink vapor stew.

  12. #12
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    I think any album that sells over 104 million copies has to be considered extremely influential. If it didn't influence artists, it sure influenced the entire world music industry. I don't own a single Michael Jackson song, but when any of Thriller's tunes hit the radio or are played at sporting events or clubs, I always find my foot tapping and I sure know an aweful lot of words... Damn those tunes are catchy.

    I don't think it's fair to blame MJ for Justin Timberlake though. Though he certainly made it easier for companies to push pop-stars.

  13. #13
    Forum Regular MindGoneHaywire's Avatar
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    I'd put a little less emphasis on the term 'influence' in a discussion of how this particular rec 'changed music.' Part of why is because of certain shifts that were taking place in the music business due to MJ & Prince, e.g. MTV opening up to African-American artists for the first time. The other, larger factor, is that this record yielded seven top-10 singles, which I think is unmatched--much like the sales totals for the record itself. I think that influence be damned, 7 charting singles, top 10 no less, changes music in a way that has less to do with influence and more to do with techniques: the technique of putting a record together, in the conceptual sense (and I'm not talking about 'concept albums,' obviously), production technique, concepts that involve specific attempts at crossover appeal; and a shift towards what we now know as 'urban pop.' Remember, AOR had spent 5 years or so killing top 40, which became a very uncool segment typified by You Light Up My Life, novelty songs (think Pina Colada, Dancin' Fool, Shaddup You Face, Stars On 45, Music Box Dancer, et al), a couple of very un-Queen-like Queen tracks, Christopher Cross, oddball country-ish offerings from everyone from Charlie Daniels to Rocky Burnette to a desperate-to-cross-over Kenny Rogers, various instrumentals like Herb Alpert's Rise, themes from films like Chariots Of Fire & Ice Castles & The Rose...and an occasional oddball breakthrough by AOR acts like Pink Floyd, Styx, Supertramp, and various ex-Beatles.

    NONE of which could reasonably be pointed to by a music-biz executive as a way to capitalize on a potential long-term formula. If there was a dominant form, it was disco, which was of course reviled by rock fans, but which was mostly a case of one-hit wonders, with, for fairly obvious reasons, not an area where career development seemed like it might be a wise investment. Then there was rap, which, in spite of the underground success of the Sugarhill Gang & then Grandmaster Flash, wasn't exactly a top-40 juggernaut. And if the rock audience hated disco, they absolutely loathed rap (though, interestingly, rap was more popular with a number of 'rock' fans than disco was or ever had been...none more notable than Rick Rubin).

    Meanwhile, AM was as uncool as Debby Boone by, say, 1978. Nobody wanted to listen to it, or be constrained by transistor radios with no FM band. And as top 40 AM died, it was replaced by fragments on the FM band--rock stations, and, now, stations that had leaned heavily on funk & James Brown, but now embraced disco and, later, rap (usually on shows devoted to it late at night or on the weekend or something). Early crossover attempts in the late 70s by FM stations to keep their rock audiences while also playing top 40 hits didn't really work out.

    Thriller changed ALL this, with Prince's help. Changed music. Because of how radio reacted to it. By 1983 stations that had played rock exclusively for literally decades were now top 40 stations, which was unthinkable to people who treated their rock stations as though they were houses of worship or something. And all of a sudden top 40 on the FM band became HUGE, which led to AM eventually becoming pretty much all-talk/news and, later, sports, and it marginalized the rock stations, while emboldening the 'urban' stations as rap became more popular later in the decade.

    By the time Madonna released her first album, the template was created to make her a superstar. She was better than the disco one-hitters, better-looking, sexier, and ripe for MTV as well. And rock fans started listening to Michael Jackson because he crossed over with the help of Eddie Van Halen, and to Prince because 1999 & Purple Rain rocked, and Madonna...because they knew if they sat through Madonna, they'd eventually hear a Bruce Springsteen song. Or, if you were willing to sit through Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton doing a duet, you'd eventually hear Twisted Sister. If you could make it through Shannon, you'd hear Elvis Costello. And fans of disco, which was now 'urban,' knew that if they endured Madness or Joe Jackson, they'd hear a Chaka Khan song. If they could roll with a Billy Idol song, they'd hear Earth, Wind & Fire. And for every play of a John Cougar Mellencamp song, there was a New Edition rec waiting to be spun.

    And for the most part, people didn't turn the dial, which was pretty amazing. But there was no more important catalyst than Thriller, due in part to the videos, in part to the duet with Paul McCartney, more than anything due to the collaboration with Eddie Van Halen that so many people saw performed live on television, but, also, because they actually liked the stuff.

    And in my opinion the reason they liked it, overall, had more to do with the songs & Jackson's considerable talents more so than the initial hook of EVH's solo on what for me was one of the weakest of the bunch.

    A couple of years ago I heard some of the first Justin Timberlake album. I expected to hate it. It reminded me of Michael Jackson. Not as good, but definitely in the same vein, and there was little I could say about it that was negative. Haven't listened since, and I've heard this or that that didn't strike me the same way, but there are damned sure worse recs one could be influenced by so far as I'm concerned.

    I don't like others.

  14. #14
    Rae
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    J, answer yr PMs, dammit! :-)

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  15. #15
    Suspended 3-LockBox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MindGoneHaywire
    By the time Madonna released her first album, the template was created to make her a superstar. She was better than the disco one-hitters, better-looking, sexier, and ripe for MTV as well. And rock fans started listening to Michael Jackson because he crossed over with the help of Eddie Van Halen, and to Prince because 1999 & Purple Rain rocked, and Madonna...because they knew if they sat through Madonna, they'd eventually hear a Bruce Springsteen song. Or, if you were willing to sit through Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton doing a duet, you'd eventually hear Twisted Sister. If you could make it through Shannon, you'd hear Elvis Costello. And fans of disco, which was now 'urban,' knew that if they endured Madness or Joe Jackson, they'd hear a Chaka Khan song. If they could roll with a Billy Idol song, they'd hear Earth, Wind & Fire. And for every play of a John Cougar Mellencamp song, there was a New Edition rec waiting to be spun.
    Where the hell did you live back then? You just described the sh!t for content radio stations where I grew up...of course you left out "for every Kool & The Gang song, they'd play Foreignor" or "if they could endure the Hill Street Blues Theme one more time, they might get to hear The Commodores".

    Islands in a stream, that is what we are...

    Gawd, has Top-40 radio always been lame or what?

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