'Thriller 40' Revisits the Seismic Shift of the Biggest Selling Album of All Time

The doc is available to stream now

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The pathway to Thriller began at the 1980 Grammy Awards. You see, the August before, a 21-year-old artist by the name of Michael Jackson had released an album by the name of Off The Wall that was pretty darn legendary. Michael was nominated for two categories—”Disco Recording,” and “Male R&B Vocal Performance.” He lost the former, won the latter, and was devastated. That, folks, was it, the bear was officially poked—Michael instantly vowed to create the biggest-selling album of all-time, and did just that. Exactly forty years to the day the music video for “Thriller” premiered, Showtime’s new documentary Thriller 40 made its own debut, giving you exclusive behind the scenes access to never before seen video and audio footage.

The documentary covers the cultural significance of the album that has sold over 100 million records and counting, had seven Top 10 records, broke down the racial and cultural barriers early MTV set, established music videos as an art-form, brought forth the iconic Motown 25 performance and its respective moonwalk, and set records at the 1984 AMAs and Grammy Awards respectively. Four decades later, Thriller is still setting records, which is precisely why there is a brand new documentary being created in its honor.

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Directed by Nelson George, Thriller 40 is loaded with fascinating gems straight from the MJ archives, and features appearances from Usher, Mary J. Blige, Misty Copeland,, and more. You may think you know everything there is to know about Thriller already through some of the other documentaries/specials you’ve watched in the past, but here are seven reasons to give Thriller 40 a watch (seven in honor of seven top ten singles of course).

1. You get to see footage of Michael and Paul McCartney recording "The Girl Is Mine"

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The never before seen video and audio clips of Michael are probably the biggest reasons to tune in if you are already super familiar with Thriller, and one of the first treats you get are shots of Michael and Paul McCartney recording their duet "The Girl Is Mine," which was released as the first single off Thriller in October 1982. "The Girl Is Mine" peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it the first of seven hit singles from the record.

2. You get to hear the early stage demos

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The early demos of songs like "Billie Jean," "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'," and "Thriller" (which was previously called something else) are quite fascinating to hear, and gives you insight into the musical genius Michael was. There's also a segment where is playing rare audio of MJ making different sounds as he was working through records, and there's one thing Michael did that definitely will make you laugh. We're not going to spoil it though.

3. You find out how Michael got his masters

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There's an incredible story in this documentary about how Michael wound up getting his master recordings at the age of 24/25, that's quite crazy. This story was one that was completely new to us, so it's definitely possible that will be brand new to you as well. Considering how hard it typically is for artists to get their masters—again, this is crazy.

4. You get a rare glimpse of MJ turning into the 'Thriller' Werewolf

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There is some behind the scenes footage of the costume and makeup process for the "Thriller" short film, but it's not what you see in this particular segment, which shows the first werewolf costume the makeup and design team came up with that was nixed in favor of the one we end up seeing in the video. Those rare shots are super cool.

5. There's never before seen footage of "Thriller's" dance rehearsals

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To that point, there's new footage of the dance rehearsals for "Thriller" that are sprinkled in with some of the behind the scenes clips that were already available on the internet as a part of the short film's official making the video segment that was aired years ago. It's also a possibility that you haven't seen the existing footage either—you'll be getting treated regardless of what category you fall into.

6. There's a cool story in there about Michael's Pepsi contract

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There's a rare story in the documentary about Michael's contract with Pepsi that came about as a result of The Jackson's 1984 Victory Tour. In short, Michael wasn't fond of the deal with Pepsi, but they were the ones sponsoring the tour. MJ had two very specific set of stipulations that the company had to adhere to, and you'll have to watch the doc for that.

7. Clips of The Victory Tour is shown in high quality

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There are several high quality clips of The Victory Tour shown in the doc (we're talking 4K quality), and by the looks of it, there appears to be enough compiled that we could possibly get a full film out of it one day. The 40th anniversary for those concerts actually takes place next summer, so maybe we'll get hit with a surprise in the near future. One can only hope...

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