Writer(s): Rod Temperton (see lyrics here)
Released: November 12, 1983
First Charted: November 19, 1983
Peak: 4 US, 4 CB, 11 RR, 24 AC, 3 RB, 42 AR, 10 UK, 3 CN, 3 AU, 5 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales (in millions): 7.5 US, 0.6 UK, 9.52 world (includes US + UK)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 956.0 video, 356.82 streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
The song was conceived from the beginning as the title cut from the album. Rod Temperton, the songwriter, experimented with the titles “Starlight” and “Midnight Man” before coming up with “Thriller.” He was interested in writing something theatrical to suit Jackson’s love of movies. W-S They decided to include a spoken-word intro and, at the suggestion of producer Quincy Jones then-wife Peggy Lipton, brought in horror movie icon Vincent Price. W-S
The album was met with monstrous success, eventually becoming the biggest seller of all time. “Billie Jean” and “Beat It” were #1 hits and four other songs had gone top ten. Still, the album was starting to wane and Jackson wanted to do something to juice sales. Considering how big his videos for “Billie Jean” and “Beat It” were, his manager, Frank DiLeo, suggested a third music video. Epic, Jackson’s record company, wasn’t interested in another video because they believed the album had peaked. However, Showtime and MTV both put up money for the video, whose eventual $900,000 budget was the biggest ever for a music video. W-V
Jackson tapped director John Landis, who’d done An American Werewolf in London, to direct the nearly-fourteen-minute, zombie-themed mini-movie. The resulting landmark video has been hailed by some as the greatest of all time. It transformed music videos into a serious art form and broke down racial barriers in popular entertainment. W-V The Library of Congress called it “the most famous music video of all time” W-V and it became the first video inducted into the National Film Registry in 2009.
The song entered the Billboard Hot 100 at a then astonishing #20. When it leapt to #7 the next week it became the seventh top-10 hit from the album, an unprecedented feat. It accomplished Jackson’s goal of boosting interest in the album; sales of Thriller doubled. W-V Years later, it still charts every year around Halloween, thanks to its horror theme.
First posted 11/28/2020; last updated 10/29/2022.