Study Guide

Thriller Lyrics

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Under the moonlight
You see a sight that almost stops your heart

Quick Thought

Brainstorm: what kinds of heart-stopping creatures usually appear under moonlight?

Deep Thought

"Thriller," like the Twilight series, lays it on thick when it comes to haunting archetypes. 

You should have come up with werewolves first—most werewolves become werewolves only under moonlight. Duh. But you might have also produced zombies (they're undead and they like nighttime), vampires (they typically have trouble with most forms of natural light, although some recent popular vamps have changed the rules), or ghosts (usually invisible during the day, although it depends on the ghost). 

Got any others?

There ain't no second chance
Against the thing with the forty eyes, girl

Quick Thought

What is "the thing with the forty eyes"?

Deep Thought

There are plenty of ancient precedents for creatures covered with eyes. The Greek mythological figure Argus, for example, was a guardian monster covered head-to-toe with eyes. But when his Goddess boss, Hera, became upset with him, she took all his eyes and used them to decorate the plumes of the first peacock.

Another famous eye-covered creature comes straight out of the biblical Book of Revelation, in which "the Four Living Creatures" are covered with eyes "in front and in back." But the Living Creatures in the last book of the New Testament are not usually interpreted as monsters. They are friends of the Lamb of God (Jesus), sometimes imagined to represent the four great New Testament gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).

The only thing that's odd about the appearance of such a beast in "Thriller" is that Michael Jackson was a Jehovah's Witness—a denomination of modern Christianity that believes strongly in the apocalypse as it is prophesied in the Book of Revelation. Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the events described in Revelation (which include a global fall from grace followed by the restoration to heaven of a select group of people, 144,000 in total) began to take effect in 1914. Jehovah's Witnesses also believe in the power of beast, the devilish power summed up by the number "666."

To be sure that there was no confusion, the "Thriller" video opens with the following disclaimer from MJ: "Due to my strong personal convictions, I wish to stress that this film in no way endorses belief in the occult." Phew.

There's no escaping the jaws of the alien this time

Quick Thought

Actually, Michael Jackson was communing with aliens—namely, E.T.—at the exact time of the release of Thriller.

Deep Thought

Just weeks before Thriller came out, MCA Records released a children's album that was a narrated version of the E.T. story (the movie was a 1982 hit). 

The album, produced by Quincy Jones and narrated by Michael Jackson, sent the managers at CBS/Epic into a tizzy, and they even filed lawsuits over the deal, worried that promotions for Thriller would be overshadowed by all the adorable pictures of Michael with the beloved alien.

Thriller still became the best-selling album of all time, and the love for the E.T. album lasted, too. Someone at MTV got all emotional after MJ's death reflecting on his feelings about it. MJ had feelings, too. According to a sound effects guy, Bruce Cannon, who worked on both albums, Jackson "was very emotionally involved when he was performing, reading the lines—at times he almost breaks into tears telling parts of the E.T. story" (source).

The foulest stench is in the air
The funk of forty thousand years

Quick Thought

The "funk of forty thousand years" is the rotting-corpse odor of the entire history of human beings.

Deep Thought

The Homo sapiens species as we known it now dates back about 40,000 years. It was also around that time that the species-wide "Cultural Revolution" occurred: human-type beings developed the ability to create "technologies, languages, understandings, and ordered interpersonal relations" (source), what we now know as human "culture."

Fossils of even older types of Homo sapiens date back at least as far as 375,000 years. Three hundred seventy-five thousand, however, does not really roll off the tongue as a song lyric. And if forty thousand years of funk was disgusting, three hundred seventy-five thousand is unimaginable.

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