Last Updated on 11/24/2022 by てんしょく飯
The monster album that sold over 100 million copies worldwide and became the “biggest-selling album in the history of mankind” is now back with a new level of excitement! The 40th anniversary edition of “Michael Jackson Thriller 40” (“Thriller 40th Anniversary Expanded Edition”) was released on November 18, 2022. Thriller 40″ was released on November 18.
Thriller 40 Immersive Experience Event” was held.
To commemorate this event, “Thriller 40″ Immersive Experience Event” is being held in NYC for 3 days only from November 18 (November 10-13 in Dusseldorf, Germany). I visited the exhibition on Saturday, November 19, the middle day of the event.
This type of immersive experience event has been held in recent years, taking the 2D worldview of paintings, books, and movies that have deep-rooted fans and sublimating it through the use of cutting-edge technologies such as sound and video, and while inheriting the DNA of the original, literally promoting a new interpretation of the same work in “another dimension” to appeal to fans both old and new. There is no end to the number of such events in recent years. Until recently, it would have been customary to have to go all the way to a theme park to experience such events, but in NYC, where I live, the Harry Potter store, where visitors can “experience magic with the latest technology” while shopping for related goods, has become extremely popular, and similar events have been held in other cities as well. In NYC, where I live, there is a Harry Potter shop where visitors can shop for Harry Potter-related goods while “experiencing magic with the latest technology.” A digital Van Gogh exhibition that uses interactive projection mapping technology to immerse visitors in the world of Van Gogh’s paintings is also gaining popularity worldwide. Whether the medium is paper, vinyl records, or CDs, this is a boom in the use of cutting-edge technology to examine the question, “What happens when a work of art that has only existed in 2D is cooked with cutting-edge technology? This is a boom in the verification of artworks that have only existed in 2D form.
I had imagined that the Michael Jackson event I visited this time would be an extension of this trend, but I was completely taken aback.
The “Thriller 40” immersive experience, which was personally guided by an executive from Sony Music New York, consists of five major pillars. Needless to say, the foundation of the event is the aforementioned historical monster album, “Thriller,” which was certified by Guinness World Records as the “best-selling album of all time” in 1985, and more specifically, the worldview of the music videos of several hit singles from the same album.
After passing through the reception desk and the black curtains, you are suddenly in the “Billie Jean” room. This is the first one. At the foot of the room, there is a torn English newspaper, a fire hydrant, and an old-fashioned pay phone booth, the last one of which was recently removed from the news in NYC. Yes, this is a recreation of the set of the song’s music video. The audience dances the famous dance moves from the song, following the instructions on the screen as to when to strike the “signature pose. The final result is a 10-second “Billie Jean in her own skin” music video, which can be downloaded from a QR code.
At first, I didn’t notice them because I was in the crowd, but when I turned around, I noticed a man walking in a zigzag pattern at a very fast pace, and I noticed two “suspicious men in trench coats and sunglasses” who had followed Michael in the music video for the same song, hiding behind a phone booth or a billboard, and the video was shown on a loop. They were suddenly dancing to the music video, which was playing on a loop.
In the back of the room, the iconic “Michael’s feet light up every time he walks” from the “Billie Jean” music video was carefully reproduced by projection mapping, along with yellow dead leaves (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, please review the music video). The “foot” is carefully reproduced by projection mapping along with the yellow dead leaves (if you don’t know what it is, please review the music video). The trick is that your feet light up when you step in time with the original music video projected on the screen in front of you, and while you are engrossed in this, a man in a suspicious trench coat who was hiding in the shadows comes running up to you. It’s not only digital interaction, but also analog entanglement, like an old-fashioned haunted house.
Next up was a must-see attraction that I was reminded to experience. ＜I was nervous when a staff member wearing a Thriller 40 commemorative T-shirt led me to a door that was strictly restricted and told me to take the best position as soon as it opened, but behind the door was a set that resembled a movie theater with the word “Thriller” painted on it. If you don’t get it here, you can’t call yourself a Michael Jackson fan. Expectations are high, even if you don’t want them to be.
Following a costumed “impersonator,” we are led into a dark room lined with bright red seats that look like movie theater seats. As we were enjoying the 4D “Thriller” music video on the huge screen in front of us, smoke began to billow out from the room. Everyone in the audience was scurrying around with twinkling eyes, thinking that this was the only way to get a glimpse of the thing.
Then, from behind the smoke, about 10 “spoof zombies” appeared, crawling on the ground, shoulders crunched, and began to form a triangular formation. Yes, today’s main attraction: the Thriller Dance of the spoof zombies! Even if you don’t live in the U.S. or have never heard of “Thriller” in real time, you will be happy to see the zombie moves performed in front of you as part of your pop culture education. Zombies in disguise also parade through the audience, scaring them and taking selfies with them while they are zombies. This is the second pillar.
After enjoying the zombies’ enthusiastic performance, we followed their path up the stairs to the second floor. The third pillar of the event is the “360 Reality Audio” experience corner, Sony’s latest technology that supports the sound aspect of the newly released “Thriller <40th Anniversary Expanded Edition>”. According to the official website, 360 Reality Audio is “a new music experience that uses Sony’s object-based 360 stereoscopic audio technology” and “each sound source, including vocals, chorus and instruments, is positioned and placed in a spherical space. You can experience an immersive three-dimensional sound field as if you are surrounded by the live performance of the artist.” According to the staff’s explanation, Michael Jackson was the first artist to have his entire catalog of songs converted to this 360 Reality Audio. Of course, the newly released “Thriller 40” album is also backed by this technology, but this is the only place where visitors can enjoy the songs from the album in a space where 13 speakers have been strategically placed by experts. The system allows visitors to tell the system what song they want to listen to from the album, and when I experienced the system, “Beat It Tonight” was requested. The song is famous for Eddie Van Halen’s incendiary guitar solo, and I was surprised by the overwhelming sense of realism and the grain of the sound, which made it easy to imagine even his fingering.
Of course, it was not an open space, but there was a section where one could listen to the entire recording with headphones. I was greedy and listened to all the songs up to the first chorus. There were two types of headphones used, one was a Sony wireless noise-canceling stereo headset (WH-1000XM5). The other was an Audio-Technica wireless (ATH-HL7BT). Both are naturally 360 Reality Audio compatible models, but the author chose the Sony model.
I realized that the voice I heard through my headphones was huskier and had more of an edge than what I had assumed to be Michael’s voice. I could almost hear his upper and lower lips colliding, not to mention his breathing, and even the sound of his fingers tapping on the keyboard. This was a different experience from the “Thriller,” which introduced me to the unknown world of Western music 40 years ago, when I was a second grader living in a provincial city in Japan, and which I have listened to many times since.
I was the most surprised myself when I was listening to it, but I am sure that this was a “Thriller rewrite” experience born from my first awareness of the depth and detail brought about by the new sensation of sound particles “coming up” through the stereoscopic sound technology of 360 Reality Audio. At the same time, there is a big difference in the mental landscape brought about by having listened to this film with the experience of 40 years since then, when I became an adult, listened to various kinds of music, and learned to understand the English language. The clearer the sound, the more the reason why each sound and lyric had to exist as they did sticks in my discerning ears after 40 years. I knew it was coming, but “Thriller” is still great. There are not many moments when the fact that this album is the “biggest-selling album in the history of mankind” becomes so clear.
The fourth pillar is the “Beat It Tonight” room. It is a recreation of the set of the music video for the song, with a stack of old-fashioned retro box TVs, a billiard table, and the ’80s-inspired Pac-Man and Donkey Kong video game consoles. In the center is a counter called a “bar” where visitors can get a Pepsi (those of a certain age may remember Michael’s appearance in the Pepsi commercial), snacks, and other items.
As I was looking around and taking pictures, I heard a flurry of activity. I turn around to see a man standing in a heap at the bar counter. The music video was a gang war, but the only thing being recreated was the fight between the two bosses, one black and the other white. The battle scene with the light dance steps was a charming sight. What I personally found interesting was that now that the fashion of the 80’s had run its course (or was it two?), the impersonator cast blended in normally with their surroundings without any sense of incongruity. Without the choreography, it could have looked like a drunken hipster moping.
Finally, the fifth and final pillar of the show was the merchandise store that we had been waiting for. Aside from the newly released CDs and analogs, there were key chains, mugs, T-shirts, sweatshirts, and gorgeous commemorative stadium jackets in a wide price range of $25 to $300 (approx. 3,500 to 42,000 yen).
Other attractions included a thriller photo corner where visitors posed in front of a screen against a graveyard backdrop and their faces on the screen turned into zombies (again, with a QR code for sharing, of course), a “graveyard immersion” experience wearing VR headsets, reminiscent of the music video for “P.Y.T.,” a Standing in front of a giant screen showing a compilation of visuals of the top singles from “Thriller”, you can see the diamonds and black sequins (which are very much like a “graveyard immersion experience”) that cover the entire visual, as if you were clearing away a spider’s web. The diamonds and black sequins (Michael! ) “peels off” to reveal Michael’s iconic photographs in their entirety.
The post COVID-19 NYC is attracting tourists back from all over the world, and this immersive event was also crowded with people of all ages, men, women, and families, speaking not only English but also Spanish, French, and Arabic, just from what I could hear. It was truly a scene befitting the 40th anniversary of a historic classic that broke down barriers of genre and race. A black grandmother and her grandson, who I chatted with, told me how they used to entertain their grandmother by dancing to songs from “Thriller” when she was a little girl. Everyone was smiling the whole time, and it was a great event with nothing but peace.