Michael Jackson's masterpiece still a 'Thriller'

"The Girl Is Mine": Treacly, insipid, weak, embarrassing -- that's how detractors describe Jackson's gentle sparring match with his then-favorite Beatle, Paul McCartney. Borne forward on a beat light as hair mousse and synth flourishes supplied by the guys from Toto, it's a long way from the paranoid funk of "Billie Jean." But its spun-sugar vocal line is like the G-rated version of "Unchained Melody," and the cornball lyrics (I know, "doggone") invoke a show-tune Arcadia that both MJ and Macca fought to preserve as pop got ever filthier. The lift Jackson gives the word "endlessly" midsong can still make a listener feel like she's swimming in a sea of Love's Baby Soft. (Ann Powers) "Thriller": If ever a video killed the radio star, "Thriller" was it. The song was adequately groovy -- funked-out beat, lyrics seemingly lifted from some little kid's "scary storybook" -- but the video was legendary: bearing a price tag of $800,000, the 14-minute mini-film was the most expensive video of its time. Back then it was over the top; to today's viewer, jaded by bloated-budget videos, it still looks epic -- and deliciously campier than ever. That dialogue ("I'm not like other guys")! That Vincent Price rap interlude! And, most of all, those choreographed zombies, dancing in a style that -- thanks to Usher, Ne-Yo and Chris Brown -- still gets its close-up on MTV. (Baz Dreisinger)
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