Michael Jackson's Halloween Hit 'Thriller' Is as Popular as Ever Despite Leaving Neverland Fallout
Though public perception of Michael Jackson has become even more divisive since the release of the HBO documentary Leaving Neverland — which resurfaced sexual abuse claims against Jackson earlier this year — the legendary musician’s 1982 hit “Thriller” seems to have survived largely unscathed.
As Halloween approaches, towns across the United States have hosted “Thriller” walks and parades as an homage to the song’s music video, which features Jackson dressed up as both a werewolf and a zombie. During the video, Jackson leads a group of zombies in the famous “Thriller” dance.
On Saturday, the city of Macon, Georgia held their “13th Annual ‘Thriller’ Parade.” According to the website, the two-hour parade featured “100 zombies of all ages” who performed the “Thriller” dance together at 9 p.m. Similar events were held in Lexington, Kentucky, La Crescent, Wisconsin and Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Jackson’s two sons, Prince Michael and Blanket “Bigi” Jackson, also hosted their third annual “Thriller Night” costume party with the Heal Los Angeles Foundation — an organization which was founded to further the cause of Jackson’s Heal the World Foundation and improve the conditions of those in Los Angeles — on Saturday.
As recently as last year, “Thriller” remained the top Halloween song, according to Billboard’s charts. Billboard collected the data by a formula blending digital sales, radio airplay and streaming, as measured by Nielsen Music.
Earlier this month, Billboard reported that streaming increased 22 percent in the 31-week period following the documentary’s release. On the other hand, radio airplay of Jackson’s songs decreased 32 percent in the same period.
Leaving Neverland was released in January and focuses on the stories of two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who claim that Jackson sexually abused them both as children. Prior to his death, the star had repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, and he was acquitted in a child sex abuse case leveled against him in California in 2005.
Still, the documentary had a lasting impact on Michael’s legacy; several radio stations took Michael’s hits out of rotation and the star’s 2,700-acre Neverland Ranch (now renamed Sycamore Valley Ranch) was put on the market at 70 percent off its original list price.
Though a musical based on the life and career of Jackson, titled MJ, was cancelled ahead of its anticipated Chicago run in response to the documentary, Variety now reports that it is set to open on Broadway in August 2020.