Off the Wall – Michael Jackson – 1979
Claimed Sales: 20m
First listen?: Yes
Format Listened?: Apple Music
Managing to avoid listening through Michael Jackson’s extensive discography for most of my life was one of the main catalysts for starting a series like this, the cultural impact of pretty much all of his Epic Records released albums is undeniable. Off the Wall was as close to a debut album an act can have following 4 solo studio albums and 10 albums in The Jackson 5. Taken as such, it’s one of the strongest statements of intent in pop, and was the first sign of ‘Michael Jackson The World Conquering Superstar’ that the world saw. Of course, this isn’t a debut album and that Motown legacy shines throughout the whole album, most noticeably in how self assured Michael’s performance is. He oozes with confidence on the title track, here he’s a performer and not just a singer owning the spotlight even as his own layered vocals filter in behind him. Workin’ Day In Night is danceable funk, while Get On The Floor makes you want to do exactly that. Of course the opening duo of Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough and Rock With You are probably the final triumph of the disco genre, super smooth and steeped in grooviness they are still outstanding tracks nearly 40 years on. That moment on the chorus of Rock With You when there’s a clap right before ‘All night’ is so perfectly produced by Quincy Jones; genius touches like this come song after song here. As a record it’s wonderfully consistent in style, ironic considering the genre hopping that would follow just a few years later on Thriller. Even with the missteps of the painfully sincere ballad She’s Out Of My Life and the slightly misguided Paul McCartney ‘cover’ Girlfriend, overall Off the Wall is a tightly packed set of Disco Pop that set the standard for solo stars of the era. It’s the sound of an artist on the cusp of true greatness and hearing it for the first time makes MJ’s eventual world domination all the more obvious.
Will I listen again?: I doubt this will be the last time I make my way through MJ’s back catalogue
Best Track: Rock With You is just a joy to hear. That song is so damn smooth.