Michael Jackson In Videogames

Sources: Paste | All Things Michael


Last week, in the introduction to our gallery of 33 different screenshots of musicians in videogames, we promised that we’d have a special follow-up gallery featuring nothing but Michael Jackson. The King of Pop, who would have turned 56 two weeks from today, was a huge videogame fan, which is no surprise considering his love of cartoons and the fact that he lived in an amusement park. He showed up in a variety of games, both as the hero of games built entirely around his music and image, and in smaller, unexpected cameo roles in other places. One developer even announced a posthumous MMORPG based on Jackson’s life that’s now seemingly cancelled. Here are screenshots from every major game Jackson appeared in, including three significantly different versions of his most famous game, Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker.


The arcade version of Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker was a beat-em-‘up where Jackson used dance magic to beat Mr. Big’s thugs.


The home version of Moonwalker for the Genesis was more dance-focused than the arcade version.


The poorly received PC version of Moonwalker had little in common with its more famous arcade and console brethren.


MJ’s next game appearance came in 2000, with a cameo as Space Michael in Sega’s rhythm game Space Channel 5


Later in 2000 Jackson inexplicably showed up as a master of the sweet science in Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2


Michael could even beat up himself in Ready 2 Rumble


Space Michael returned with a larger role in 2002’s Space Channel 5 Part 2


After his untimely death Michael starred in 2010’s Michael Jackson: The Experience, a rhythm and singing game that featured many of his most beloved songs.


A massively multiplayer online game called Planet Michael was announced in 2010, but only a few pieces of concept art have been released. It’s presumably been cancelled.


Of all his game appearances, the Genesis version of Moonwalker probably remains Michael’s best known in America.


Read more at Paste

World’s First: Michael Jackson To Premiere A Place With No Name Music Video On Twitter

Sources: Metro | All Things Michael


He revolutionised the music video in his lifetime and now Michael Jackson is set to make music history from beyond the grave by being the first artist to premiere a music video exclusively on Twitter.

A Place With No Name will be the second single to be taken from the late star’s latest posthumous album, Xscape, which went to number one in the UK on release earlier this year.

The track serves as the follow-up to Jackson’s previous single, Love Never Felt So Good, featuring Justin Timberlake.

The video will be revealed via the Bad singer’s official Twitter account @MichaelJackson tomorrow at 10pm.

Directed by Samuel Bayer (The Rolling Stones, Nirvana), it will also be simultaneously broadcast on the Sony screen in Times Square, New York.

A spokesperson for UK-based fanclub, the Michael Jackson World Network told metro.co.uk:’It’s great to see Michael’s Estate continue his legacy the way he created it, which was all about innovation.

‘As fans, we’re blessed to still have a stream of new projects being released that can excite us! Doing this is new ways that haven’t been done before is a great way to also continue the publics interest Michael Jackson.’

Here’s the audio of Michael Jackson’s A Place With No Name for you to enjoy in the meantime:


Read more at Metro

25 Fashionable Moments In Album Cover Art

Sources: Paste – By Mari Andrew| All Things Michael

The fashion adage, “Dress like you’re on an album cover,” isn’t used enough. In the case of these 25 albums, that could mean: make your shoulder pads wider, your tie skinnier and your flattop higher. What it really means is: look your best and push the envelope, just like these icons whose funky, sleek or understated style was immortalized by cover art.


Help!, The Beatles: Because proper outerwear is always stylish. There’s nothing fashionable about shivering or getting soaked for lack of jacket.

album7beatleshelp2Purple Rain, Prince: Prince is the only man in history–and that includes men on US currency, Lord Byron, Italian noblemen, and Jerry Seinfeld–who could make a ruffled collar look sexy.


Nightclubbing, Grace Jones: One of the most iconic hairstyle of the early 80s was Grace Jones’ flattop. In 2014, our most iconic haircut is Macklemore’s “The Macklemore.”


Read more at Paste

Michael Jackson: Purpose and Passion that Touched the World

Sources: Valorie Burton (Published June 26, 2009) | All Things Michael


I was standing in the nose-bleed seats on the fifth level of Mile High Stadium with my parents, my cousin Tyrone, his dad – and most importantly, my binoculars.  This was my first concert.  I was never an excitable kid, but when Michael Jackson stepped onto the stage with his brothers for the “Victory” tour concert that night, my hands flailed in the air and I screamed uncontrollably – like one of those silly girls I’d previously made fun of from old footage of The Beatles.  I was in 7th grade and I thought he was the cutest, sweetest, most talented, most entertaining guy in the world.  His photo graced the inside of my locker at school.  I marveled at his dance moves, regularly sliding backwards across the kitchen floor in my socks fruitlessly attempting to moonwalk.  I sat for hours and listened to every song on the Thriller album, memorizing all the words, and when the Thriller video came out, my parents let me stay up late one night to see it. 


We wonder how people can feel emotional when someone they never knew passes.  But the truth is, in this media age, we let many people into our lives that we don’t know – we buy their music, watch their movies, and invite them into our homes through our television sets.  In moments with people we know and care about, these entertainers and public figures become a part of both our milestones and everyday moments.  We don’t know them personally, but the gifts they share become a memorable part of our life experience.

I often write about the importance of knowing your purpose – and how that purpose emerges from your innate talents.  And even though his talent is far beyond what most of us can imagine for ourselves, he was an example of the power of using what God gave you to make an impact.   Your purpose can be as simple as “bringing joy,” “provoking thought,” or “influencing attitudes” – in his case, he probably did all three through music and entertainment.

Your purpose should answer this simple question:  How is someone’s life better because they cross your path?   Besides elevating the music industry and breaking records, Michael Jackson gave millions of us entertainment that made us smile, dance, and connect with the people around us – and I can say for sure that my life has been richer for it.

Coachable moment:

How is someone’s life better because they cross your path?  You don’t have to be a megastar or have immense talent to have an impact.  Know your gift and use it to the best of your ability.

Michael Jackson, 10,000 Hours And The Roots Of Creative Genius

Sources: OUP Blog – By Arturo Hernandez | All Things Michael


That any person could become an expert in something if they simply spend about 3 hours per day for ten years learning it is an appealing concept. This idea, first championed by Ericsson and brought to prominence by Gladwell, has now taken root in the popular media. It attempts to discuss these differences in terms of the environment. The idea is that practice with the purpose of constantly gathering feedback and improving can lead any person to become an expert. If becoming an expert requires 10,000 hours, does a prodigy need 20,000. Lets consider, Michael Jackson, as an example of a prodigy. He grew up in a musical family in Gary, Indiana just outside Chicago. His father Joe played in an R&B band. All of his siblings played music in one way or another. Unlike his siblings and father, Jackson did not really play any instruments. However, he would compose songs in his head using his voice. One morning he came in and had written a song which eventually became ‘Beat It’. In the studio, he would sing each of the different parts including the various instruments. Then the producers and artists in the studio would work on putting the song together, following his arrangements. studio-michael-jackson-22216220-500-189 Work in cognitive neuroscience has begun to shed light on the brain systems involved in creativity as being linked to psychometric IQ. Work by Neubauer and Fink suggests that these two different types of abilities, psychometric IQ and expertise, involve differential activity in the frontal and parietal lobes. They also appear for different types of tasks. In one study, taxi drivers were split into a high and low group depending on their performance on a paper and pencil IQ test. The results showed that both groups did equally well on familiar routes. The differences appeared between groups when they were compared on unfamiliar routes. In this condition, those with high IQs outperformed those with low IQ. So expertise can develop but the flexibility to handle new situations and improvise requires more than just practice. Reports of Michael Jackson’s IQ are unreliable. However, he is purported to have had over 10,000 books in his reading collection and to have been an avid reader. His interviews reveal a person who was very eloquent and well spoken. And clearly he was able to integrate various different types of strands of music into interesting novel blends. If we were to lay this out across time, we have perhaps the roots of early genius. It is a person who has an unusual amount of exposure in a domain that starts at an early age. This would lead to the ability to play music very well. Michael_Jackson_with_the_Reagans Jackson came from a family filled with many successful musicians. Many were successful as recording artists. Perhaps Michael started earlier than his siblings. One conclusion we can draw from this natural experiment is that creative genius requires more than 10,000 hours. In the case of Michael Jackson, he read profusely and had very rich life experiences. He tried to meld these experiences into a blended musical genre that is uniquely his and yet distinctly resonant with known musical styles. The kind of creativity is not restricted to prodigies like Michael Jackson. Language, our ultimate achievement as a human race, is something that no other animal species on this planet shares with us. The seeds of language exist all over the animal kingdom. There are birds that can use syntax to create elaborate songs. Chinchillas can recognize basic human speech. Higher primates can develop extensive vocabularies and use relatively sophisticated language. But only one species was able to take all of these various pieces and combine them into a much richer whole. Every human is born with the potential to develop much larger frontal lobes which interconnect with attention, motor, and sensory areas of the brain. It is in these enlarged cortical areas that we can see the roots of creative genius. So while 10,000 hours will create efficiency within restricted areas of the brain, only the use of more general purpose brain areas serve to develop true creativity.

Arturo Hernandez is currently Professor of Psychology and Director of the Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience graduate program at the University of Houston. He is the author of The Bilingual Brain. His major research interest is in the neural underpinnings of bilingual language processing and second language acquisition in children and adults. He has used a variety of neuroimaging methods as well as behavioral techniques to investigate these phenomena which have been published in a number of peer reviewed journal articles. His research is currently funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development. You can follow him on Twitter @DrAEHernandez. Read his previous blog posts.

Read more at OUP Blog

Why Is It “Human Nature?”

Sources: Daily Kos – By Nicoletta | All Things Michael


The other night Michael Jackson’s song came on the radio, “Billie Jean”! When I hear that song from the “Thriller” album, or especially this one, “Human Nature,” I’m reminded of Tel Aviv, Israel, the month I spent there when I was 26! Music can transport you to another place and time, there’s alchemy between those notes!

“Looking out across the nighttime
The city winks a sleepless eye
Hear her voice shake my window
Sweet seducing”

It was during the time of the Lebanon War, one of the Lebanon Wars I should say, because that area seems to have wars every 5 to 10 years or less. Do they look at people like one would look at dust, take their military weapons, guns, explosives and use them like a dust cloth to do a form of spring cleaning? Is that where Mel Brooks got the idea for his title, Springtime for Hitler, the musical within his musical, The Producers?

“If they say, “Why? Why?”
Tell ‘em that is human nature
“Why, why, does he do me that way?”
If they say, “Why? Why?”
Tell ‘em that is human nature
“Why, why, does he do me that way?”

That war was an especially violent war, NATO sent troops from all over, I’m not sure how many countries were represented, but NATO forces wear their respective countries military uniforms, so it was like a military version of “It’s a Small World After All”. When I’d go to the square next to the Hilton Hotel for an espresso, it was like sitting in an English garden made up of troops instead of flowers! Over there were the Tunisians, over there the Algerians, the French, the Spanish, the Italians, all so young, I too was so young!

“Looking out across the morning
The city’s heart begins to beat
Reaching out, I touch her shoulder
I’m dreaming of the street”

I still recall the first day I was there and went jogging, I sat down on a park bench to watch some young children play soccer, in the far off distance I could hear the sound of bombs exploding, the children were oblivious to it, focused only on that soccer ball. How do you live day in and day out with the threat of violence, do you become numb, does it just become a part of life, no different than waking up and hearing a bird sing, or just a car backfiring? Do air raid sirens become as common place as our ambulances in which we know to pull to side of the road, do you just go on living because you’re living?

“Reaching out to touch a stranger
Electric eyes are ev’rywhere
See that girl, she knows I’m watching
She likes the way I stare”

Why those songs remind me so much of Tel Aviv, is seeing those troops dancing down the street with a boom box under their arm playing “Billie Jean”, bombs going off to the north but young boys dancing in the street to “Billie Jean”. I realized then and there the power of music, it’s ability to connect us, to cross borders, to bring together those of different religious persuasions, to lift our spirits! How universal music is, what tied all these NATO troops together was music, they loved American music and they loved Michael Jackson.

“If they say, “Why? Why?”
Tell ‘em that is human nature
“Why, why, does he do me that way?”
If they say, “Why? Why?”
Tell ‘em that is human nature
“Why, why, does he do me that way?”
I like livin’ this way yeah”

Last night I thought again of that area of the world, wondering about the family of the young man I met while I put together a world unity drum circle, we’ve stayed in touch through social media, he’s a documentarian but wants to document mans goodness not its anger. I wonder about the young children, will they grow up like the other Palestinian I knew many years ago who watched the brother-in-law he loved shot and killed, he grew up to hate humanity, to become a violent individual, never forgiving what was done to his family. I wonder how many more angry young men this round will create, how anyone in their right mind can think that bombing can resolve issues. I also recall meeting an Israeli attorney, he fought for Palestinians, represented them in court, fought for their rights! His mother survived the concentration camps, he as an Israeli didn’t want to inflict similar acts of degradation towards another human being, like that which was inflicted on his mother, he did not want to be aligned with hatred of his fellow man.

“If they say, “Why? Why?”
Tell ‘em that is human nature
“Why, why, does he do me that way?”
If they say, “Why? Why?”
Tell ‘em that is human nature
“Why, why, does he do me that way?”

I then thought of the children in El Salvador, orphaned from the war there back in the 80’s, how I cried, not just cried but sobbed when I saw a documentary on the orphans of the war. The man I was dating at the time asked me if I knew anyone there, you’re so emotional. I said no! He then said, well why are you so upset, if you don’t know anyone. I remember thinking, do you have to know someone, do they have to be part of your family for you to care about the pain and suffering inflicted on other human beings, on children, aren’t all the children of the world our responsibility? Wouldn’t you as a parent want another parent to care for your child if you no longer were able to, if you were shot and thrown into a huge pit while your child was made to watch? Where’s mans humanity towards his fellow man?

“If they say, “Why? Why?”
Tell ‘em that is human nature
“Why, why, does he do me that way?”
If they say, “Why? Why?”

Tell ‘em that is human nature
“Why, why, does he do me that way?”

Is it human nature, because if it is I don’t like living this way!


Read more at Daily Kos


“I’m starting with the man in the mirror,
I’m asking him to change his ways;
And no message could have been any clearer,
If you wanna make the world a better place,
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change!”

“Hope is such a beautiful word, but it often seems very fragile. Life is still being needlessly hurt and destroyed.” ― Michael Jackson

“We have to heal our wounded world. The chaos, despair, and senseless destruction we see today are a result of the alienation that people feel from each other and their environment.” ― Michael Jackson


5 Reasons We’ll Never See Another Artist Like Michael Jackson

Sources: Hit Fix (Published June 25, 2014) | All Things Michael


Five years ago today Michael Jackson died. It feels like it was yesterday. His music still floods the airwaves and theaters and his popularity remains undiminished.

Here are five reasons we’ll never see the likes of his singular talent again:

1. He had time to develop: There’s no real development process anymore: whether it’s the immediacy of “American Idol,” “The Voice,” etc., or YouTube, wanna-be artists get exposure often way before they are ready—even though they think they are. Jackson and his brothers incubated in Gary, Ind., away from any spotlight. Though Michael became famous at a very, very early age, that was only after the Jackson 5 had worked their way up through local talent shows, regional tours and more before Motown signed them in 1968.


2. He was born a star: Jackson came alive on stage in a way that only a handful of artists since the advent of modern entertainment have: Elvis, Jackson, Springsteen. These aren’t artists who simply enjoyed/enjoy being on stage: They crave it and have to have it and feel more alive on stage than anywhere else. There is a magic that happens when the lights go down and they walk on the stage that can’t be taught, it can’t be learned. It can be nurtured, but you’re either born with it or you’re not and 99.999% of all performers aren’t. Jackson was.

3. He worked hard: Jackson had an unbelievable amount of talent bestowed upon him by the talent gods, but he then took those gifts and worked on them incessantly. He studied Gene Kelly’s dance moves, he practiced singing and worked to find different places his voice could go. He was constantly trying to improve and up his game. There never seemed to be a moment where he felt like he could rest on his laurels.

4. He didn’t play it safe: It’s easy to forget how adventurous he was musically because the risks he took have since cleared the path for other artists. When “Beat It” came out, the thought of having a rock solo by the likes of Eddie Van Halen on a pop/R&B track was unheard of…and he encountered plenty of push back. Just like pioneers always do.  He transcended genres with a fearless abandon and commitment to pushing music forward.

5. He could sing: His stage presence and dance ability were so otherworldly, it’s easy to overlook what a great vocalist he was. Listen to those records: the tear in his voice on “She’s Out Of My Life,” the hopeful determination in “Man In The Mirror,” unbridled joy on “The Way You Make Me Feel,” the growl in “Dirty Diana.”  He had range and strength, but he also had emotion. Not that many artists have that hat trick.

Read more at Hitfix

Moonwalking Forward: The Posthumous Chart Legacy of Michael Jackson

Source: Pitchfolk – By Chris Molanphy | All Things Michael

Photo by Neal Preston

Photo by Neal Preston

Hey, did you hear that awesome Michael Jackson song that popped into the Top 20 a month ago? It just materialized all the way up at No. 14 on Billboard’s Hot 100 one week in late May, and it was better than anything on the chart that week. Supple, propulsive, impossible not to dance to—it was a reminder of everything that made the late Jackson great.

The name of this killer cut? “Billie Jean”.

The all-time pop classic, which spent seven weeks at No. 1 in 1983, re-debuted on Billboard’s premier song chart, 31 years after it fell off, for a very modern reason: YouTube. In May, a video of high-school junior Brett Nichols recreating Jackson’s immortal Motown 25 performance of “Billie Jean” live in front of his whole California school, and absolutely crushing it, went viral. It racked up more than 11 million views in a week, according to Billboard.

Any YouTube video that uses at least 30 seconds of an original recording now counts toward that song on Billboard’s charts. So that huge viewing total sent “Billie Jean” to No. 2 on Billboard’s Streaming Songs chart; its streaming numbers among all songs that week were second only to 2014 chart-topper “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea. Because Streaming Songs is now a component of the Hot 100, “Billie Jean” was able to reappear on the big chart. For that one week, its No. 14 rank was actually two notches higher than “Love Never Felt So Good”, the “new” Jackson single reimagined by producer Timbaland and currently being promoted to radio by Sony.

This delightful oddity tells us something about what’s happened to the charts since Michael joined the choir invisible five years ago this week—and what’s happened to Jackson’s legacy.

YouTube did exist the year Jackson died, but it wasn’t a factor in Billboard. In 2009, the labels had only just stopped fighting YouTube, let alone figuring out how to monetize and generate hits on it. (The industry’s YouTube-partnering Vevo channel would launch six months after Jackson passed.)

What’s more, old songs like “Billie Jean” generally weren’t eligible to appear on the Hot 100 in 2009. A major overhaul of chart policy since then has reshaped both the single and especially the album charts—a liberalization Jackson’s death inspired. (More on that in a moment.)

But of course, what’s most poignant about the video of the 17-year-old Brett Nichols that sent “Billie Jean” back to the Hot 100 is the knowledge that the kid was basically a preadolescent when Jackson died. He stands in for the millions of millennials who’ve embraced Jackson since his death—a generational embrace of a performer whose best days as a performer were behind him when they were all born. Watching Nichols recreate Jackson’s galvanizing performance move for move—from hat-toss to moonwalk—is more a powerful homage to his legacy than any encomium you might have read this week on the five-year anniversary of Jackson’s death.

I wrote one of those encomia back in 2009, for my former Idolator column “100 & Single,” running down all of the amazing sales and chart achievements Jackson tallied during his lifetime. As I wrote at the time, “Jackson is one of very few acts for whom chart achievements serve as a fairly accurate barometer for artistic and cultural impact…We won’t see his like again.” To recap in brief, the feats I chronicled in that 2009 article were as follows:

Youngest act to top the Hot 100. When the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” reached the penthouse in January 1970, lead singer Michael was just shy of 11 and a half.

First act to launch with four No. 1 singles. “I Want You Back” was followed in Billboard’s top slot by the Jacksons’ “ABC”, “The Love You Save” and “I’ll Be There”, a then-unprecedented feat.

Most Top 10 hits pulled from a single album. First Off the Wall produced four Top 10s (tying a then-record, in 1979–80), and then Thriller generated seven Top 10s in 1982‒84, starting with “The Girl Is Mine” and ending with “Thriller”.

First R&B-to-rock chart crossover. Billboard’s Album Rock chart, launched in 1981, was still in its infancy when Jackson’s Eddie Van Halen–supported “Beat It” made its debut in April 1983. It peaked at No. 14 on the Rock chart, making Jackson the first African-American to score a serious AOR hit.

First album to spawn five No. 1 hits. From the fall of 1987 to the summer of 1988, Jackson’sBad spun off the chart-toppers “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”, “Bad”, “The Way You Make Me Feel”, “Man in the Mirror”, and “Dirty Diana”. Prior to that, the upper limit had been four.

First song to debut at No. 1 on the Hot 100. Jackson’s last chart milestone came in 1995, when “You Are Not Alone” burst onto Billboard’s flagship chart in the top slot, another then-unprecedented feat.

World’s top-selling album: Thriller still handily outdistances all worldwide challengers.

Five years later, all of these records are essentially still intact: another testament to Jackson’s inimitable legacy. Obviously the “firsts” can’t ever be taken away—even though the Jackson 5’s record of four career-launching No. 1s was actually beaten in 1991 by Mariah Carey, who led off her career with five; and “Beat It”’s R&B-to-rock crossover was later outshone by bigger AOR hits like Robert Cray’s “Smoking Gun” or Lenny Kravitz’s “Are You Gonna Go My Way”. The debut at No. 1 by “You Are Not Alone” in 1995 is still notable, even though it has been followed by another 20 chart-topping debuts; such debuts have actually increased in frequency since Jackson died—seven more songs have duplicated the feat since 2009, including smashes by the likes of Eminem,Britney SpearsLady Gaga and Ke$ha.

As for the other records, since 2009, the walls of Fortress Jackson have been scaled, but not breached. No one younger than 16-year-old Lorde has reached No. 1 since ’09, leaving 11-year-old Michael’s record intact. The Thriller record of seven Top 10s from a single album hasn’t been seriously challenged since Bruce Springsteen and Janet Jackson tied it in 1986 and 1991, respectively; since 2009 no one’s pulled more than six Top 10s in a single album-release cycle.

Just one Jackson record has been equaled since 2009, and it was nearly beaten: Bad’s quintuplet of No. 1 songs from a single album. In 2010–11, Katy Perry managed to tie the record with five chart-topping singles from the original release of her Teenage Dream album; if she hadn’t stalled at No. 3 with the album’s sixth single, “The One That Got Away” (apt title), she’d have taken the record from Jackson. (A subsequent No. 1 from a rerelease of the Dream album, “Part of Me”, doesn’t count for the record books.)

So the Jackson chart dossier holds up quite well. About the only chart or sales feats that have seen any change since Jackson passed happened within the first year after his death.

The big one was a change to Billboard chart policy with far-reaching effects: the elimination of the catalog rule preventing old albums and singles from appearing on the magazine’s flagship charts. Throughout the SoundScan era, Billboard had long maintained rules that removed old discs from the Billboard 200 album chart. Albums were yanked after they were older than two years and fell below the top half of the chart—lest discs like Journey’s Greatest Hits, Bob Marley’s Legend or Led Zeppelin IV ride the chart every week for eternity.

The problem, in the weeks immediately after Jackson’s death in the summer of 2009, was that his old albums Number Ones (2003) and Thriller (1982) became two of the top-selling albums in America; the former was actually the top-seller for a month and a half that July and August. ButBillboard’s rule hid that fact from the public; chart-watchers were confused and frustrated that Jackson wasn’t scoring the posthumous No. 1 album he deserved. Finally, later that year, inspired by Jackson’s sales feats, the magazine changed the rule. Now on the Billboard 200, as much as one-fourth of a typical week’s chart may be older albums—Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd fans have Jackson to thank for these stalwart bands being allowed to jostle for chart position with the likes of Iggy Azalea and Luke Bryan. On the Hot 100, Billboard also loosened its criteria for allowing old songs to reappear on the chart—any song with enough sales or streaming points to rank among the Top 50 is allowed to reappear on the chart. Beneficiaries since Jackson’s death have included the late Whitney Houston, the unkillable Bon Jovi and, as noted above, Jackson himself. It is appropriate, if depressing, that Michael would be the one to effect a change that reminds us, weekly, just how big old music is. After all, it’s the Jackson estate that has emerged as the biggest money-maker of any musical act, living or dead, since his passing.

The other change in the record books since Jackson died has been subtler, and oddly muted: the record for biggest-selling U.S. album. As noted above, on a global scale, Thriller bests all comers, even when sales-figure hype is taken into account. However, it’s been a tighter horserace at home, and in the record books of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

When Jackson died in June 2009, Thriller was actually one million in sales behind the Eagles’ perennial best-selling 1976 compilation Their Greatest Hits, 1971–1975—28 million for the former, 29 million for the latter as of that month, according to the RIAA. Indeed, the Eagles disc had quietly taken the record away from Jackson as far back as 1999. (The 90s were good to the Eagles—a decade in which they reunited and toured endlessly, and a new generation of Garth Brooks–era country acts cited the band as a formative influence, particularly the early country-flavored hits captured on the 1976 hits disc.) In my 2009 column on Jackson’s feats, I wrote, “You don’t have to be a virulent Don Henley-hater to find this standing offensive—a bloody hits compilation, topping one of the greatest original pop recordings of all time?”

In August 2009, however, less than two months after, Thriller was recertified by the RIAA at 29 million in sales. And that’s where the two discs still stand, nearly five years later—a two-album tiebetween the Eagles greatest-hits disc and Thriller as America’s all-time top-selling album. I think I speak for pop fans everywhere when I say it’d be nice if Jackson’s album could sew the record up already and retake the crown. Surely, Thriller has sold enough by now?

According to the helpful folks at Nielsen SoundScan, since Jackson’s death in the last week of June 2009, Thriller has sold just shy of two million copies (1.905 million). In that same period, the Eagles’ Their Greatest Hits 1971–1975 has only shifted about a half-million. Slam-dunk, right?

There are several problems with this back-of-the-envelope math, however. For one thing, the Eagles hits disc hasn’t been recertified since 2006; a full RIAA audit might well turn up a couple more million in sales, and prior to Jackson’s death Thriller wasn’t selling all that well (although a 2008 reissue undoubtedly helped). Additionally, SoundScan and the RIAA measure different things—albums sold and albums shipped. While many more music fans buy digital albums now, for stalwart acts like these two, physical goods still sell, and there are likely millions of Jackson and Eagles albums in the retail pipeline. Finally, albums are only recertified when labels request an audit from the RIAA. Sony (Jackson’s conglomerate) and Warner (the Eagles’) might well have their own reasons for holding off on asking for that next multiplatinum sales tier, including the possibility of mutually assured destruction.

Still, in all, five years later, it’s an anticlimax for Thriller to remain stuck at 29-times-platinum—tied with Glenn Frey and Don Henley, and with a triple-diamond certification tantalizingly close. Sony Music and the keepers of the Jackson estate have been heavily focused lately on getting Michael back on the radio and reanimating his live presence with smoke and mirrors. Honestly? If they really want to do his legacy justice, they should get the late Jackson the one career plaudit he loved more than anything: a sales record all to himself. Just ask Brett Nichols’s teenage classmates in that packed gym what album they think deserves the all-time title.


Read more at Pitchfork