Review Summary: Career defining? No. Career launching? YES.
Long before the public scrutiny, before the plastic surgeries, before the success of albums like Thriller
there was a young man named Michael Jackson preparing for his most dangerous endeavor that would ultimately make him the King of Pop. Jackson had already been held as a household name to some degree from his childhood work with the Jackson 5, and his brief childhood solo acts, despite all this, Jackson was tired of being held to the Motown image that he had been forced to hold on to all his childhood music career. Teaming up with master producer Quincy Jones, the young-adult Michael Jackson was ready to make his first solo pop album to be known as Off The Wall
. This duo of singer and producer was truly a match made in musical heaven as Off The Wall
was an incredible pop success at the time, but now stands as just a prequel to the legendary pop discography to come about later on in Jackson’s career.
The biggest hit spawned from this pop endeavor is, “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough” which amazingly was writing by Jackson himself. He had even recorded a demo version of the song to show to Quincy that he had record at his home with the help of his young sister Janet Jackson. The song takes a classic disco vibe felt throughout the whole album and used it to its highest potential. The song uses many different sound effects as backing music like experimental percussion and some brief horns. All of this topped with Jacksons classic high-pitched voice singing lyrics that are impressive written by someone who has had most of his other songs written for them in the past. Lyrics like, “Touch Me And I Feel On Fire/Ain't Nothin' Like A Love Desire (Ooh)/I'm Melting (I'm Melting)/Like Hot Candle Wax Sensation (Ah Sensation) /Lovely Where We're At (Ooh),” showed a decent sign of maturity in Jackson, obviously trying to shake his innocent childlike image. The album flows onward without a dramatic change in sound, but it’s understandable as to why taking a safe approach would be best for a musical departure such as this. The second single following “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough” is “Rock With You”. This song still has that same disco vibe but with less backing instrumentals and features more of a simple beat with a loud and powerfully building vocals that explode in the chorus, “I wanna rock with you (all night)/Dance you in the day (sunlight)/I wanna rock with you (all night)/We're gonna rock the night away.”
While not a single, the song “Workin’ Day And Night” reached critical success with its build on the sound of “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough” introduced. As a strong standout it’s a wonder that this song was not released as a single as in many respects it is one of the best songs on the album, probably better than “Don’t Stop” as well. The similarities drawn to this song and the first single of the album probably come from the fact that Jackson wrote “Workin’ Day And Night” solo as well. This shows Jackson’s dedication and put a clear focus on the direction he wants to take with his music.
Other songs like the title track “Off The Wall” reflects music that Jackson would create in the future. The title track begins with a creepy buzzing noise and laughing, plus a musical riff that parallels Jackson’s most successful song “Thriller” that at this point is three years from being in existence. Another parallel to Jackson’s hit album Thriller
is the song “Girlfriend” written by well defined pop-legend Paul McCartney, whom Jackson would later do a duet with on Thriller
with the song “The Girl Is Mine,” which is some manner could be describe as part two Off The Wall’s
“Girlfriend” track. “Girlfriend” is the classic example as mainstream pop on the album with its light and fluffy tone, giving it that sweet flowing feeling. The lyrics like, “Girlfriend/I'm Gonna Show Your Boyfriend (Yeah)/Show Him (Woo Hoo)/The Letters I've Been Savin' (Yeah)/Show Him How You Feel Inside/An' How Love Could Not Be Denied (Oh No),” also expand greatly on this tone.
Naturally, no Michael Jackson album would be complete without a cheesy, but undeniably catchy ballad. On Off The Wall
this is the song “She’s Out Of My Life,” a very slow and mellow dramatic tear jerker song about losing your love. The way the song is sung even is done in a manner as if Jackson is sobbing obviously fake tears as the song is recorded. “She's Out Of My Life/And I Don't Know Whether To Laugh Or Cry/I Don't Know Whether To Live Or Die/And It Cuts Like A Knife,” while they read emotionally tolling, when sung in context it gets nearly humorous that leaves somewhat of a cut in the albums flow, but still, the album wouldn’t be complete without it. While Off The Wall
has its flaws it is a nessessary beginning chapter in Jackson’s beyond successful career as the King of Pop.