Not to be confused with Thriller, the album.
Single by Michael Jackson
from the album Thriller
Released January 23, 1984
Format CD single, 12'" single and 7" single
Recorded 1982
Genre Disco, funk
Length 5:57 (Album Version)
4:37 (Single Version)
Label Epic, CBS
Writer(s) Rod Temperton
Producer Quincy Jones
Michael Jackson singles chronology

"Say Say Say"


"Farewell My Summer Love"

Thriller track listing

"P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)"


This Is It track listing

"I Just Can't Stop Loving You"


"Beat It"

"Thriller" is a song recorded by American singer Michael Jackson and produced by Quincy Jones. It was released as the seventh and final single from Jackson's album Thriller (1982) on January 23, 1984.

Songwriter Rod Temperton wanted to write a theatrical song to suit Jackson's love of film. The music and lyrics evoke horror films, with sound effects such as thunder, footsteps and wind. It ends with a spoken-word sequence performed by horror actor Vincent Price.

"Thriller" received positive reviews and became the album's seventh top-ten single on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart. It reached the top of the charts in France and Belgium and the top ten in many other countries. It appears on several of Jackson's greatest hits albums.

The "Thriller" music video, directed by John Landis, premiered on MTV on December 2, 1983. In the video, Jackson becomes a zombie and performs a dance routine with a horde of the undead. Many elements of the video have had a lasting impact on popular culture, such as the zombie dance and Jackson's red jacket, and it was the first music video inducted into the National Film Registry.

Writing Edit

"Thriller" was written by British songwriter Rod Temperton, who had previously written for Jackson's 1979 album Off The Wall. Temperton said he wanted to write something "really theatrical" to suit Jackson's love of film. He improvised with bass and drum patterns until he developed the bassline that runs through the song, then wrote a chord progression that built to a climax. He recalled: "I wanted it to build and build – a bit like stretching an elastic band throughout the tune to heighten suspense."

Temperton's first version was titled "Starlight", with the chorus lyric: "Give me some starlight / Starlight sun". The production team, led by Quincy Jones, felt the song should be the title track, but that "Starlight" was not a strong album title. Instead, they wanted something "mysterious to match Michael’s evolving persona". Temperton considered several possible titles, including "Midnight Man", which Jones felt was "going in the right direction". Finally, he conceived "Thriller", but worried that it was "a crap word to sing ... It sounded terrible! However, we got Michael to spit it into the microphone a few times and it worked."

With the title settled, Temperton wrote lyrics within "a couple of hours". Temperton envisioned a spoken-word sequence for the end of the song, but did not know what form it should take. It was decided to have a famous voice from the horror genre perform it, and Jones' then-wife, Peggy Lipton, suggested her friend Vincent Price. Temperton composed the words for Price's part in a taxi on the way to the studio on the day of recording.

Composition Edit

"Thriller" is a disco-funk song. Set in the key of C-sharp mnor, the song has a moderate tempo of 120 beats per minute. The lyrics and sound effectson "Thriller" pertain to frightful elements and themes. At the beginning of the song, sound effects such as a creaking door, thunder, feet walking on wooden planks, winds and howling dogs are heard. The instrumentation consists of a Minimoog synthesizer, a Linn LM-1 drum machine, a Rhodes piano, a Roland Jupiter-8 synthesizer, an electric guitar, a pipe organ, and a horn section consisting of trumpet, trombone, flugelhorn, saxophone, and flute.

Recording Edit

"Thriller", along with the rest of the album, was recorded over eight weeks in 1982. It was recorded at Westlake Recording Studioson Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles, California.

Engineer Bruce Swedien had Jackson record his vocals in different approaches, doubling takes and recording at different distances from the microphone. Some background vocals were recorded in the Westlake shower stall. The bassline was recorded with two modified Minimoog synthesizers playing in unison.

To record the wolf howls, Swedien set up tape recorders up around his Great Dane in a barn overnight, but the dog never howled. Instead, Jackson recorded the howls himself. For the creaking doors, Swedien rented doors from the Universal Studios film lot, specially designed for sound effects, and recorded the hinges closely. Price recorded his part in two takes; Jones, acknowledging that doing a voice-over for a song is "difficult", praised Price and described his takes as "fabulous".

Music video Edit

The music video for "Thriller" premiered on MTV on December 2, 1983. It was directed by John Landis and written by Landis and Jackson. In the video, Jackson and his girlfriend (played by Ola Ray) are confronted by zombies while walking home from a movie theater; Jackson becomes a zombie and performs a dance routine with a horde of the undead. The video references numerous horror films.

Jackson contacted Landis after seeing his film An American Werewolf in London. The pair conceived a 13-minute short film with a budget much larger than previous music videos. Jackson's record company refused to finance it, believing Thriller had peaked, so a making-of documentary, Making Michael Jackson's Thriller, was produced to receive financing from television networks.

Michael Jackson's Thriller was launched to great anticipation and played regularly on MTV. It doubled sales of Thriller, and sold over a million copies on VHS, becoming the bestselling videotape at the time. It is credited for transforming music videos into a serious art form, breaking down racial barriers in popular entertainment, and popularizing the making-of documentary format

Many elements have had a lasting impact on popular culture, such as the zombie dance and Jackson's red jacket, designed by Landis' wife Deborah Nadoolman. Fans worldwide re-enact its zombie dance and it remains popular on YouTube. The Library of Congress described it as "the most famous music video of all time". In 2009, it became the first music video inducted into the National Film Registry as "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant.

Lyrics and audio Edit

Michael Jackson - Thriller Lyrics

Michael Jackson - Thriller - Thriller

Michael Jackson - Thriller - Thriller

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