I have long struggled to articulate why I always feel a sense of rhythmic surprise and unease when the verse of Thriller breaks in over the bassline vamp, roughly [0:50 - 1:06] in the song.
If you asked me to transcribe how I hear it in my head, I would write something like:
(pickup) |Bar 1 |2 |3 |4 C♯m7 F♯7 It's close to mid-night, and something evil's lurking in the dark.
No matter how many times I've heard the song, my brain wants to hear "It's close to mid-" as a pickup to bar 1 of the verse, and it expects the i chord (C#m) to land square on the first beat of that bar 1. (and I am not the only one, many chord sites feature some version of the above!).
Of course, what actually happens is this:
(pickup) |Bar 1 |2 |3 |4 F♯7 C♯m7 F♯7 It's close to mid-night, and something evil's lurking in the dark.
The change to the F♯7 actually comes on the pickup measure before Bar 1, and the i chord doesn't appear until bar 2. In other words, the harmonic rhythm isn't aligning with the beginning and end of the melodic phrase, as you would expect.
When the F♯7 comes back around, harmonically I now want to hear that bar as Bar 1 of the next phrase because of the chord change, but my ear is still hearing the melody in that bar as a pickup to the following bar:
|Bar 1 |2 |3 |4 F♯7 C♯m7 Under the moonlight you see a sight that almost stops your heart
I think what is going on is a tension between the harmonic rhythm and the melodic phrase length. It's like the harmonic and melodic phrases have been displaced by one bar, causing me to perceive the verse as having some kind of uneven phrase length.
I am curious though if someone has a more precise analysis of what is going on here. In any case it is a wonderful effect that still succeeds in subverting my expectations even after who knows how many listens.