Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Michael Jackson: Thriller [Epic, 1982]
The best-selling album of the millennium was clearly a hits-plus-filler job from the beginning--what we couldn't know is how brilliantly every hit but "P.Y.T." would thrive on mass exposure and public pleasure. The inexhaustible "Beat It" broadcasts Eddie Van Halen wielding his might in the service of the antimacho that is his secret vice. "The Girl Is Mine" got interracial love on the radio and proved cuter than "Michelle." "Wanna Be Startin' Something" starts something every time an air or floor jock starts it up. "Billie Jean" is Michael's clearest statement to date on sexuality and stardom. And "Thriller" is the rare song that's improved by its video, which fleshes out the not-quite-a-joke scariness of "the funk of 40,000 years" for (Michael and) his (white) fans. A