Michael Jackson
Off the Wall


4.0
excellent

Review

by Steven McMahan USER (49 Reviews)
March 27th, 2009 | 30 replies | 15,658 views


Release Date: 1979 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Well written, fun, extremely catchy, and more consistent than Thriller - it's easy to see why Off the Wall made Jackson a pop superstar.

2 of 2 thought this review was well written

For every artist that finds massive success in the music market (and for this review’s purpose, more “definitive” acts), there’s usually a specific album that propels them into the public eye and an audience with wide-open arms. Nevermind helped make Nirvana huge seemingly overnight, and established them as one of the biggest names in grunge. The hiring of almighty Bruce Dickinson coupled with the release of The Number of the Beast would transform Iron Maiden from a “quite successful” band to the definitive metal juggernaut they are now.* And although rapper Jay-Z made his best album the first time (in 1996), it was five years later when The Blueprint would re-establish him as one of most critically and commercially successful hip-hop artists.

After being part of the Jackson Five for more than half a decade (and being recognized as a musical prodigy by Rolling Stone, among others), Michael starred in a musical adaptation of The Wizard of Oz (“The Wiz”) and formed a relationship with composer Quincy Jones, who agreed to produce Jackon’s solo debut. Off the Wall would be the first album to generate four top 10 singles, and set the stage for Jackson to cement his place in history with the follow-up Thriller.

A few listens to Off the Wall should leave no doubt as to why it became such a huge success. Save for one exception, the album consists of bouncy and energetic R & B influenced pop (or quite poppy R & B) with close to no filler. Much like Thriller, it opens in grand fashion. “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough” wastes almost no time in grabbing your attention, with horns, strings, and guitar forming a rhythmic foundation for Jackson’s calm falsetto. At the two and a half minute mark, another horn section gives way to a short guitar solo. Although it does get repetitive to a slight degree, “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough” nonetheless accomplishes a feat that seems so uncommon in pop music – a high quality song with a running time just over six minutes. None of the nine tracks following it will quite match this opener, but rest assured that several of them come close.

Not only does “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough” open Off the Wall on a high note, it exhibits all the major strengths of the album. Horns, strings, electric guitar, and real drums are among the various instruments forming the sonic template for nearly the entire album, which means that Off the Wall doesn’t suffer from poor production – it’s quite the opposite. Not only does it sound excellent from a this production standpoint, but there are also enough instrumental hooks to make the music almost work well without a strong vocal performance. However, there’s no reason to worry about that.

As good as the music is, it’s Michael’s performance that truly elevates the pop here from good to excellent. There’s an irresistible charm that Jackson exudes almost every second that he’s singing, and a bare minimum of one great hook to be found in each song (save “She’s Out of My Life”). Jackson’s rather natural falsetto is far from annoying, his singing voice is far above average, and his delivery is spot on. Off the Wall sounds like the man is just having fun, and doing one heck of a job in the process

Although Michael Jackson the performer is much better than Jackson the songwriter, that doesn’t mean the songs he writes are weak in any form. On the contrary, his two songwriting contributions to Off the Wall, “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough” and “Workin’ Day and Night”, are both standout tracks, and “Get on the Floor” (co-written by Louis Johnson) is pretty good as well. Yet another comparison to Thriller is the star power present (or rather, behind) two of the songs. “Girlfriend” and “I Can’t Help It” are written by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder respectively; the former is a lighthearted song that might have fit in on an album like Help!, and “I Can’t Help It” kicks off the final trio of songs after the lone ballad “She’s Out of My Life”.

There’s one exception to almost every strength of Off the Wall, and that is “She’s Out of My Life”. Here, Jackson and his songwriting team opt for the ballad route, and the results are pretty average at best. The lyrical theme of a man heartbroken has potential, but instead of being emotional and heartfelt, Jackson sounds whiny, almost like a child who just needs a couple minutes to get over a slight physical injury. Backing synths don’t really help either, and thus “She’s Out of My Life” sticks out like a sore thumb placed in the middle of the album.

The last great strength of Off the Wall – consistency – is also the reason it’s bettered by Thriller. As mentioned before, nothing quite matches the opener “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough”, but the rest of the album stays at such a high quality you don’t necessarily notice. But even the best song isn’t able to reach the benchmark set by the 15-minute midsection of “Thriller”, “Beat it”, and “Billie Jean”. Superior or not, it should be obvious why the album made Michael Jackson a pop superstar: it’s catchy, fun, and well written, and with a running time shortly over 42 minutes, it’s too short to really get tedious. It’s not his best, but it still comes fairly close, and considering the artist in question, that’s saying a lot.

Recommended Tracks:
Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough
Workin’ Day and Night
Off the Wall
It’s the Falling in Love



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Comments:Add a Comment 
ninjuice
March 27th 2009



6758 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Album deserved a better review, and while I don’t think I completely delivered I’m fairly confident in this. I wish it wasn’t so long, and I tried not to make this a bunch of comparisons to Thriller.
There is one sentence I’m unsure of:

“Girlfriend” and “I Can’t Help It” are written by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder respectively;

Apparently, this is passive voice but I don’t know how else to word it so I really like it.
Lastly, this is written in the context of Thriller being a 4.5 or 5, so most people might or might not like it....This Message Edited On 03.27.09

badtaste
March 28th 2009



824 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Listened to this recently. Neat review. Pretty much agree with what you've said, although I like "She's Out of My Life" - it's a touching track.

Another note: I thought the album is more accurately described as disco/funk rather than R & B.

mutatedfreek
March 28th 2009



7351 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This album is better than Thriller IMO, not a bad review :-)

RoshanC
March 28th 2009



219 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This album wipes the floor with thriller, great review

timbo8
March 28th 2009



618 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i really gotta check this out

marksellsuswallets
March 28th 2009



4848 Comments


Don't Stop Till You Get Enough is still one my favorite MJ tunes. Up there with PYT and The Girl Is Mine.

ninjuice
March 28th 2009



6758 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nirvana were THE biggest grunge act, not one of the biggest.

I'm guessing you're right, sadly. Saying they are seems subjective though, even though that's any review will be.
Also, your Maiden example seems true to me.

I hoped it was. The text at the bottom was supposed to smaller but I guess I might get rid of it now.
i really gotta check this out

Yes you should.
Don't Stop Till You Get Enough is still one my favorite MJ tunes. Up there with PYT and The Girl Is Mine.

The Girl is Mine is the one real reason Thriller isn't a 5 for me, actually.

marksellsuswallets
March 28th 2009



4848 Comments


Really? I've always loved that song for some reason.

ninjuice
March 28th 2009



6758 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Idk it's ok but compared to everything else on the album it sucks.

cirq
July 10th 2009



9257 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

title song is so happy and uplifting, i love it

DeadStarShine
October 9th 2009



773 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Well, this is definitely not my favorite album of Michael Jackson. It has a lot of disco songs that I nomally despize, but he makes me it sound aceptable in my hears, but still not good. Don't stop till get enough, rock with you and she's out of my life are my favorites on this one.

blackwidowtx
February 11th 2010



1 Comments


I must say that I like a lot of MJ. Off the wall, thriller and bad are by far the ones that have the most hits. Girlfriend is one of my fav's and the title track.

Parallels
May 7th 2010



6640 Comments


oh my god this was bad. For a guy who can stand bands like Maroon 5 and Cyndi Lauper, i couldnt handle any of this. awful

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
May 7th 2010



14883 Comments


ya ok

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
June 21st 2011



14883 Comments


"i can't help it" is so fucking great

Chrisjon89
June 26th 2011



2960 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

^ agreed.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
August 13th 2011



14883 Comments


this album is amazing, a high 4.5


Collis
October 26th 2012



435 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

such a mint album.

Chrisjon89
October 26th 2012



2960 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

yeah, Girlfriend is pretty dodgy but album rules. well produced too

Collis
October 26th 2012



435 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

working day and night is probably my favorite. i much prefer the upbeat disco stuff.



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