The 25th-anniversary edition of Michael Jackson's Thriller offers a strange juxtaposition of the timelessly transcendent and the tacky, disposable, and instantly dated. A quarter-century after its initial release, Thriller still feels like a high-water mark not just for Jackson, but for pop music as a whole. This is the Michael Jackson the world fell in love with, a preternaturally gifted man-child who sang about monsters and girls in a supple, tender falsetto that oozed playful charm. Thriller skips giddily from apex to apex, from the buttery ballad "Human Nature" to dark, pseudo-gritty rockers like "Beat It" to the funk-disco catchiness of "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'." And "Billie Jean" picks up exactly where Off The Wall left off—also marking perhaps the last time Jackson sang about sex with anything resembling conviction.
A brilliantly produced, ingeniously sequenced series of iconic, ubiquitous singles that have stood the test of time, Thriller is just about perfect. So how do you improve on perfection? Why, by handing the keys to the kingdom to Will.I.am, of course. Pop-rap's preeminent jackass reworks/ruins four tracks here, including a Fergie karaoke defilement of "Beat It," "The Girl Is Mine 2008" (which features an even-lamer-than-usual Will.I.Am verse), and Akon's guilty-pleasure cover of "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'." In foolishly tampering with perfection, this version of Thriller sullies the best of the past with the worst of the present.
Bonus Material Rating: D+