September 2010: My 3-year-old daughter, well versed in the Number Ones collection, sings the chorus of "Beat It" as "don'tchu wanna see the BEEEES!" and is terrified by nothing so much as the Vincent Price "Thriller" voiceover. Jackson 5 comes on the radio one day. She goes, punctuated by claps: ''I. Want. To. See. Michael. Jackson. But! He! Is! IN! HEAVEN!!"
December 2015: The now-9-year-old fourth grader and I make a too-rare visit to a record store before a road trip with our no-aux-cord-stereo car. We're each buying a CD for the ride. I think she might go for the new Bieber or Adele something Top 40ish, or one of her heavy-rotation favorites—Beyoncé or Janelle Monáe, maybe. But she makes a beeline for the Michael Jackson discs and starts debating between Off the Wall and Thriller. She picks Thriller (because she knows more of the songs), takes the booklet out in the car, giggles at the booklet's little New Yorker–ish drawings and reads every lyric as we go. –Zach Dionne