The Synth Sounds of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”

My second MusicRadar article celebrates the 40th anniversary of Michael Jackson’s 1982 mega-hit Thriller. Still the greatest-selling album of all time, Thriller ushered iconic cultural changes to the album format, music videos, and dance moves. Created in response to a decline in the popularity of disco, Michael and producer Quincy Jones assembled an A-team of musicians and pursued a more ‘cinematic’ sound by enlisting synth programmers known for their work on Hollywood soundtracks.

Most of the big, iconic synthesizers of the early 80s make an appearance on Thriller, as well as some cutting-edge (for the time) new samplers and digital synths. My article concentrates on the Synclavier II, ARP 2600, E-mu Emulator I, Yamaha CS-80 and Linndrum sounds that appear throughout the album.

While researching the album, I learnt that the title track’s iconic bassline was not a Minimoog, as popularly believed, but in fact an ARP 2600. Two great resources that I found are the Stories in the Room podcast, hosted by Thriller synth programmer Anthony Marinelli, as well as the book Let’s Make HIStory by Brice Najar.

You can read the full article below.