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MTV, race, and radio: How Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' prevailed during troubling times

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michael jackson thriller
michael jackson thriller

By any measure, Michael Jackson's Thriller was an unbelievable success — but at the time of its release, that success was far from assured. Between the death of popular AM radio, the backlash of disco that made DJs avoid playing "black music," and the birth of the rock-themed MTV, the 1980s brought with it a myriad of challenges that questioned the identity of the music industry as a whole and threatened the viability of Jackon's sixth studio album. Billboard has taken a look back at the launch of the iconic 30 year-old album, highlighting how the carefully planned release of a Paul McCartney duet single, masterfully choreographed videos, and one of the greatest performers of all time helped Epic/CBS Records push past the barriers that so many others in the industry succumbed to. Head to the source to see the history of Thriller, then proceed by playing any of the amazing singles that spawned from its release.