Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ passes 30-million mark in U.S. sales

Michael Jackson, left, with producer Quincy Jones with Grammys for Jackson's album 'Thriller' in 1984.

Michael Jackson, left, with producer Quincy Jones with Grammys for Jackson’s album ‘Thriller’ in 1984.

(Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times)

Adele’s third album, “25,” is on fire commercially, but it still has a long way to go to catch the biggest selling album of all time: Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” That record has crossed a milestone no other album has ever achieved, surpassing U.S. sales of 30 million copies.

The 1982 multiple Grammy Award-winning album has been certified at the 30-million mark by the Recording Industry Assn. Of America, which monitors shipments in the U.S. by record companies. Its worldwide total has exceeded 100 million, according to Jackson’s label, Epic Records.

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“RIAA has awarded gold and platinum records on behalf of the music business for nearly 60 years, but this is the first time an artist has crossed the 30X multi-platinum plateau,” RIAA Chief Executive Cary Sherman said in a statement. “What an exceptional achievement and testament to ‘Thriller’s’ enduring spot in our hearts and musical history.”


“Thriller” was nominated for 12 Grammy Awards in 1983, and took home seven. It also became the first album to cross the 20-million mark, just under two years after its release on Nov. 30, 1982.

“Not only are his charts hits and sales stats staggering, but his pure musicality was other-worldly,” Epic Records Chairman L.A. Reid said in the same statement. “ ‘Thriller’ was groundbreaking and was perfection.”

The videos for several hits from “Thriller” also became cultural groundbreakers in the MTV era, helping break the color barrier for which the cable network had been criticized early on.

Additionally, the watershed “Thriller” video remains the only music video ever inducted into the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.

“Thriller” has long been neck-and-neck with the Eagles’ collection “Their Greatest Hits: 1971-1975” for the No. 1 all-time slot on the RIAA’s best-sellers chart. The Southern California band’s album remains close behind “Thriller,” at the 29-million certification mark.

Those are two of only nine albums ever to pass the 20-million sales plateau, according to the RIAA, along with collections from Billy Joel, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, AC/DC, Garth Brooks, Fleetwood Mac and Shania Twain.

Adele’s “25” has sold more than 5 million copies during its first three weeks of release, and Billboard has projected it will pass the 6-million mark by the end of the year, because it arrived at the busiest time of the year in the music business.

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