Michael Jackson, aptly dubbed the King of Pop, was one of those people who never failed to produce hit after hit.He was one of a kind. It is without a doubt that Jackson produced some of the most memorable music in history.


As a dancer and a performer, Jackson was an androgynous boy-man figure who broke down racial barriers becoming the first black performer on MTV. He turned the music video into an art form, giving modern pop music a huge space in which to flourish.

Thriller was released nearly 30 years ago, on December 2, 1983. At the time it was the most expensive music video ever made and to date, is Jackson's most viewed video with over 192 million hits on YouTube.


The first African-american artist to have their own video on MTV on high rotation was Michael Jackson.

It was only with the phenomenal success of the star's Thriller album in 1983 that music channel MTV and its harsh color barrier format were broken.


Until then, record companies wouldn't budget for videos by their black artists since they didn't think MTV would play them, so the network could make the argument that they simply didn't have any good videos by black artists that were worthy.

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That argument went out the window when Jackson made the "Billie Jean" video, which was startlingly innovative, and a precursor to the video game Dance Dance Revolution, as some scenes showed Jackson performing his dance moves by stepping on squares as they would light up.

Even the airing of his hit songs Billie Jean and Beat It - two songs enjoying enormous success on American radio waves were initially rejected by MTV. Despite the production value and Jackson's star quality, MTV didn't play the video until the song was already a #1 hit.

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Walter Yetnikoff, who was head of CBS Records (Jackson's was signed to its subsidiary, Epic), recalls threatening to pull all CBS videos from MTV if they didn't play "Billie Jean." He says he threatened to bring Jackson's producer Quincy Jones in on it as well, and the network acquiesced.

Billie Jean Lyrics

It was only when MTV realised the money it stood to lose due to its exclusionary format that it allowed Jackson to be aired. Incidentally, both of Jackson's videos went on to become "two of the most popular videos ever aired on MTV" - putting to rest MTV's belief that it was only R and R which its target demographic desired.


When MTV started playing the clip, it was first put in medium rotation, then promoted to heavy rotation when viewers loved it. When the video for "Beat It" was delivered, that one also went into hot rotation. For a two month stretch in the summer of 1983, both videos were getting constant airplay, establishing Jackson as a video star.

Jackson’s USD$500,000 video extravaganza “Thriller” was jointly funded by selling the broadcast rights, 60% to the cable network “Showtime” and 40% to MTV itself in December, 1983.

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The video was a cultural milestone, introducing elaborate choreography, costumes and dialogue into the format. It also introduced the concept of the long-form music video, where a mini-movie was made for a song, then edited down for the short version.


The long version of "Thriller" runs nearly 14 minutes, but had remarkable longevity, easily racking up over 100 million views when it showed up on YouTube. MTV usually ran the short version, which ran a little under five minutes but still contained about a minute of non-song content in a storyline that omits most of the movie the couple is watching at the beginning.

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