Details are Everything: How Starlight Became Thriller
In the original demo recording the song was called Starlight and the hook was "Give me some Starlight, starlight sun". Apart from that the song was already remarkably close to the final version with the distinctive bass line played on two synthesizers.
But Michael Jackson wanted a title that would appeal more to young people so producer Quincy Jones sent Temperton away to rework it and he wrote two to three hundred titles before coming up with Midnight Man. But then the next day he woke up and just said one word. "Thriller". He could see it at the top of the Billboard charts. He could see it on merchandising.
Nobody who has ever worked on any sort of creative project will be at all surprised by this. All great works, whether they are songs, books, movies, plays or just a simple speech are never perfect on the first draft. They may be good, they may be promising but it's usually true that the first draft of anything is just the starting point.But what is interesting about Starlight is that when the song was already well developed Temperton, Jones, Jackson and others were all still struggling to make it even better, one tiny detail at a time.
One critical quality of someone who is good at their art or craft is that they never consider the first draft the final work. I've surprised people by handing in a speech numbered "draft 27". You might not always need that many revisions but the secret of creating quality is to keep working on rough versions, polishing them and searching for that title, twist, hook or whatever that makes a difference. After listening to the early Starlight demo recording don't think anyone would disagree that Temperton greatly improved the title and the hook, changing: