MJ’s ‘Off the Wall’ at 35: Track-by-Track Album Review
By Kenneth Partridge
There comes a time in every young man’s life when he must put on a snug tuxedo and gleaming white socks and go his own way. For Michael Jackson, that time was 35 years ago, on August 10, 1979. It was then, weeks shy of his 21st birthday, that Jackson released Off the Wall, the album that established him as a grown-up solo superstar and set the stage for his coronation as King of Pop.
Off the Wall didn’t sell as well as MJ’s follow-up, 1982’s world-devouring chart beast Thriller, but song for song, it’s arguably the stronger album. Produced by Quincy Jones, who Jackson had befriended on the set of the 1978 Wizard of Oz reboot The Wiz, Off the Wall introduces the Michael many fans would prefer to remember most.
Those aggressive grunts and hiccups hadn’t yet come to dominate his singing. He’s not playing a monster or a gangster or dressing like a Klingon general. Lyrically, he doesn’t take hyper-defensive stances against gossipy critics or those who would abuse the trust of elephants.
Despite all the sadness he’d already experienced, Jackson puts on a brave face. During what he later described as “one of the most difficult periods” of his life, he manages to look and sound like a fresh-faced kid with boundless talent and energy. And that comes across from the opening seconds.
“You know, I was … I was wondering, you know, if you could keep on,” he half-stammers at the start of the leadoff track, “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.” It’s like he’s addressing not just some girl, but a whole planet of girls — and guys and housewives and truck drivers and grandmas — he’s about to seduce with music and charisma he barely understands. “Because the force,” he says, “it’s got a lot of power.”Michael Jackson’s Thriller at 30: Classic Track-by-Track
Indeed, the force was strong in MJ. On these 10 disco-funk burners and cottony pop tunes, he’s boyish yet confident, sexy yet naïve — the Luke Skywalker of pop. The first two singles, “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” and “Rock With You,” were nightlife anthems, and both topped the Billboard Hot 100. While the album peaked at No. 3, it would be the last time this notorious perfectionist would settle for anything less than No. 1. From here on out, Jackson owned the pop charts.
In the years that followed, the music got weirder and tougher, and Michael grew stranger and more reclusive. By 1987’s Bad, he’d waved a gloved hand goodbye to the last traces of normalcy. But on Off the Wall, this otherworldly being is just here to make us swoon and dance. Resistance is futile. Read on to get our track-by-track take of this pop masterwork.Michael’s Top 50 Billboard Hits
| Photos: Michael’s Life In Pictures
“Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”: Here’s where little Mikey becomes a man. “Touch me,” he urges, singing self-penned lyrics over music he’s written himself. “And I feel on fire.” Interestingly, Jackson delivers this come-on in a falsetto that’s far from masculine. It’s not exactly feminine, either. As rival Prince would say of himself years later, MJ is neither your woman nor your man; he’s “something that you’ll never understand.” One thing everyone can understand: This song’s irresistible disco-ball shimmer and rhythmic snap. You’ve heard it a million times, and you never get enough.
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Quelle: Billboard / Kenneth Partridge / MJ-Upbeat.com