David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 285: Michael Jackson (Thriller)

September 20, 2023

Anybody who knows me should have seen this coming.

The second I typed as part of my "Day 283" blog the line, "I could turn this blog over to ChatGPT (and trust me, that is really tempting)," everyone should have been expecting an AI-generated Day 284. Only a football game prevented that, but, alas, on Day 285, we arrive here anyway.

In doing so, I decided to pick an incredibly famous song by an international superstar, in part because I likely would have absolutely nothing original to say about them anyway, but also because such a song would test the artificial intelligence much more than a song by Straitjacket Fits, for example (although now I am interested in how ChatGPT even interprets a question like, "What is the impact of Straitjacket Fits?").

That meant either Madonna, maybe "Like A Virgin," or Michael Jackson, something off of Thriller. In the end, I avoided the potential sex talk and went with Jackson's "Thriller," wondering if ChatGPT might need to factor in four cultural icons: Jackson, Quincy Jones, Jon Landis, and Vincent Price, the latter two suggesting my implication that the song is relatively insignificant without the mini-movie of its video.

So, I first asked, since some of these blogs take an angle of social impact, "What is the impact of Michael Jackson's song 'Thriller?'"

The result: a 7-point overview of key ways "Thriller" "had a profound and lasting impact on the music industry and popular culture." Landis does get named as part of the second point, but no reference to Price or Jones. The 7th, and final point, that "the success of 'Thriller' allowed Michael Jackson to use his platform for philanthropic efforts," seems a stretch. Maybe Thriller more than "Thriller" allowed that. Let's face it, "Billie Jean" and "Beat It" had already launched him into another stratosphere.

All in all, attempt #1 to use ChatGPT for "Thriller" was a snoozefest, probably a B- effort.1

So, I asked a new question, seeing if ChatGPT could provide a more personal angle, which clearly is a predominant angle for this song series. Knowing it couldn't (I hope to God) capture anything directly from my life, I figured the question "What effect did Michael Jackson's song 'Thriller' have on people in their 20s?" might get me something interesting.

In the end, it was my first reminder that the quality of the question matters in terms of a quality answer, as AI answered broadly, not specifically about those of us 23 or 24 when the song was released: "Michael Jackson's song 'Thriller' has had a lasting impact on people of all ages, including those in their 20s, since its release in 1982. While its initial release predates many individuals in their 20s today, its influence has transcended generations." Then ChatGPT proceeds to enumerate 6 effects "'Thriller' had on people in their 20s. A few of these are recasting of the 7 impactful ways from question 1, with the most recurring idea coming in "Halloween Tradition."

Still mostly a snoozefest of an answer, but since the teacher didn't ask the question correctly, probably a B effort.2

The Halloween thread, though, gave me hope that maybe I could ask about "Thriller" within the context of Halloween rock and pop songs, an approach often done in this song series. So, question #3 was, "How does Michael Jackson's song 'Thriller' compare with other musical hits played at Halloween?" Sensing a theme, I note that the response is basically 7 enumerated points (I think I see how I could subvert ChatGPT when assigning essays; "if I see a bulleted or numbered list, you will redo!!"), basically comparing "Thriller" to 6 "other popular Halloween-themed songs." While not saying it directly, AI suggests "Thriller" is more significanct than the other songs, because there are 3 defining factors: "Horror Theme," "Iconic Music Video," and "Cultural Phenomenon." The other contenders have only 2 or 1 defining element for the title of best Halloween song.

The choices of the other songs are interesting: "Monster Mash" -- yeah, definitely. "Ghostbusters" -- I get it. "Time Warp" -- o.k., that's a given. "Superstition" -- a bit of a stretch, but almost always played at Halloween. However, "The Addams Family Theme" and "This Is Halloween," from The Nightmare Before Christmas"? Not so sure. You can imagine my horror at not finding a certain werewolf song listed. Teacher's bias sneaking in.

D+.3 Not thorough enough with the comparisons, Mr. AI (Ms. AI? What is AI's preferred pronouns?).

One more time, I declare. I gotta get ChatGPT off its game. "How is Michael Jackson's song 'Thriller' despised?" I know that I am still not posing the best question, but I was interested in how it handles leading questions. What did I get? You guessed it, a list (7 again) of reasons why any song might have its haters, although ChatGPT says it is a little more nicely, "there may be individuals or groups who do not appreciate the song for various reasons." I am glad AI has been grounded in political correctness.

6 of those reasons are pretty generic ("individual tastes," "commercialism," "overexposure," etc.), but one reason does tie to the controversies in Jackson's personal life. Our AI friend doesn't go into any depth about this, spewing out the very superficial: "Michael Jackson's personal life and controversies have at times overshadowed his musical achievements. Some individuals may have negative perceptions of him due to these controversies, which could affect their opinion of 'Thriller' by association."

Back to yawn-able responses: probably B- territory again.4

I am tempted to ask ChatGPT about those controversies, but then I remember why I didn't choose "Like A Virgin" for this experiment. I think I have seen enough. Time for me to fall back on my artificially-twisted intelligence.

1ChatGPT. "What is the impact of Michael Jackson's song 'Thriller?'" Question asked on September 10, 2023. https://chat.openai.com/

2ChatGPT. "What effect did Michael Jackson's song 'Thriller' have on people in their 20s?" Question asked on September 10, 2023. https://chat.openai.com/

3ChatGPT. "How does Michael Jackson's song 'Thriller' compare with other musical hits played at Halloween?" Question asked on September 10, 2023. https://chat.openai.com/

4ChatGPT. "How is Michael Jackson's song 'Thriller' despised?" Question asked on September 10, 2023. https://chat.openai.com/

Jackson, Michael. "Thriller." Thriller. Epic, 1982. Link here (as if you need it)

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Day 286: The Hitmen "Bates Motel"

See complete list here.