Michael Jackson’s pop masterpiece Thriller has become the first album to sell over 30 million copies in the United States, according to the RIAA. The iconic ’80s breakthrough album has sold over 100 million copies worldwide.
Overall, Jackson has sold more than one billion total albums to date, and has long been recognized as the highest selling recording artist of all time.
Layered in melodic pop brilliance by jazz musician/star producer Quincy Jones, Thriller was released to international acclaim in 1982. The album spent 37 weeks at the top of Billboard’s album charts, and charted in the top 100 for two and half years after its release. In total, seven tracks off of Thriller became Billboard top ten singles.
And the record was not just loved by fans. Critics hailed it as one of the finest releases in history, and it won eight Grammy awards at the 1983 ceremony from 12 nominations.
Going 30 times platinum in the U.S. has been a long time coming for Thriller; the album was certified 20 times platinum (having sold 20 million copies) less than two years from its initial release. After that, it has seen slow and steady sales — a classic by any measure.
Though Jackson passed away in June of 2009 on the verge of bankruptcy, posthumous album sales skyrocketed, with over $2 billion in earnings since his death by some estimates.
To break down Jackson’s worldwide popularity in concrete terms, after he died so many people were searching the star’s name on Google that the company initially thought it was a DDoS attack, and disallowed his name as a search term for thirty minutes. Sites such as Twitter and Wikipedia also suffered total outages from overuse. Overall internet traffic globally following the announcement is estimated to have surged from 11-20 percent.
“It is crystal clear that Michael Jackson is simply the greatest and biggest artist of all time,” Epic Records chairman and CEO LA Reid said in a statement issued about the recent certification. “Not only are his charts hits and sales stats staggering, but his pure musicality was other-worldly. Thriller was groundbreaking and electrifying … it was perfection. I am extremely proud that Michael is the heart and soul of Epic Records and he will forever remain the one-and-only King of Pop.”