Rolling Stone - 3 Stars
Personnel includes: Donna Summer (vocals); Michael Sembello, Bruce Springsteen, Steve Lukather (guitar); Jerry Hey, Ernie Watts (horns); Steve Porcaro (synthesizers); Paulinho Da Costa (percussion); James Ingram, Howard Hewitt, Christopher Cross, Michael Jackson, Peggy Lipton, Quincy Jones, Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, Lionel Richie, Brenda Russell, Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder (background vocals).
Funny how perspective changes things. Two albums were released in 1982, both produced by Quincy Jones and featuring largely the same session musicians. Both feature duets with rock superstars and rampant style shifting that veers from cool disco pulses to loud rock & roll guitars to show tune-like ballads. Both feature some of the most inspired singing of their creators' careers.
But Michael Jackson's THRILLER became the biggest-selling album of all time and DONNA SUMMER was a relative commercial flop which got some pretty scathingly negative reviews. Funny thing is, the albums are so similar that it's hard to explain the discrepancy. While there's no "Billie Jean" here, Summer's vocals and Jones's tight arrangements work well together, and even the unexpected touches like the impressive duet with Bruce Springsteen on "Protection" sound just fine. There's no explaining actress Dyan Cannon's backing vocal credits, though.