25 Years Later, Jackson's 'Thriller' Remains the One to Beat

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Michael Jackson thrilled the world 25 years ago with "Thriller," and he's ready to do it again, this time with help from some friends.

He celebrates the lasting success of his masterpiece with the release today of "Thriller" 25, an expanded anniversary version of the nine-song original that includes seven bonus tracks. Among them: remakes featuring collaborations with Akon, will.i.am and Fergie, and updated vocals and production by Jackson. Kanye West contributes a remix, "Billie Jean 2008." The set closes with "For All Time," a song recorded but not finished during the 1982 "Thriller" sessions.

Also included is a bonus DVD with the "Thriller," "Beat It" and "Billie Jean" videos and Jackson's Emmy-nominated performance of "Billie Jean" from the NBC special "Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever."

The set comes in three versions: one with original cover art, one with a new "zombie" cover and a deluxe edition with a booklet.

"Thriller" sold more than 27 million copies in the USA, and Jackson earned a record-setting eight Grammys and 12 nominations in 1984. The album transformed pop music with its groundbreaking videos and an unprecedented seven top 10 singles.

Producer Quincy Jones says he's amazed the songs are still club staples.

"I'm astounded by it," Jones says. "I just went around the world -- Cambodia, China, Brazil, Africa — and at (midnight), they're playing 'Wanna Be Startin'' 'Somethin'' or 'Billie Jean.' It blows my mind that a record stands up that long."

Fledgling MTV, which until "Thriller" hadn't played videos by black artists, took off once "Billie Jean" and "Beat It" hit the airwaves. "Michael and MTV rode each other to glory," Jones says.

Then came the 14-minute "Thriller" video. "That defined the standards for video."

Will.i.am, who produced new versions of "Beat It," "The Girl Is Mine" and "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)," says the album inspired him as a youngster.

"It was the first time you saw things that were happening in the ghettos, and kids in the suburbs were copying it," he says. "It was like Broadway fused with street performance, and his wardrobe was fly. He made it possible to be yourself, and be free, and just do you."

The new album is part of a year-long celebration. Legacy Recordings today launches a 40-episode Thrillercast podcast available through iTunes, Zune, RSS and michaeljackson.com, featuring celebrities talking about hearing the original album. Also, XM Satellite Radio will launch a new channel, XM Thriller, dedicated to Jackson's music, which airs in March.

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