Off the Wall is probably Michael Jackson’s best album and it may very well be my favourite. I’m non-committal about this because my opinion and preferences change all the time, but my mind has landed on this particular album more than any he has released. After 20 years of listening to Michael Jackson, I have come to the conclusion that this particular album is magic and is as close as we will ever get to pop perfection.
There is a sense of innocence and joyfulness to this album that seems to disappear on his later cuts and while some of Michael’s later stuff has started to date (slightly, mind), Off the Wall has remained stubbornly fresh. It’s as if Quincy and Michael went into this album with no pressure whatsoever and there only goal was to make the very best music they could.
Is there a song that can best Don’t stop till you get enough for the title of the best album intro? The song is so catchy that it borders on the annoying. And Rock with you is, again like Don’t stop, perfect – annoyingly so. I’ve tried on many occasions to not succumb to the pop seduction of Rock with you, but have never managed to get further than when Michael sings “so we can rock forever” before I abandon my pride and start to bust a move.
That is the beauty and the curse of Off the Wall, it could just be too good and too seductive and too perfected. There is too much sugar in this dish and not enough protein or complicated carbohydrates. This album makes you want to dance and sing so much that you can get exhausted by the time you’ve come to the 5th track – I know it’s an odd reason to criticize an album, but it does make me want to dance too much.
If I was listening to this album for the very first time, I wouldn’t think there was much to this Michael Jackson chap except from the fact that he makes very good pop/disco records. This would be the case until my ears heard She’s out of my life. I personally can’t listen to this song without thinking of Eddie Murphy, but, to this day, Michael’s performance on this song remains powerful. It’s like the man is baring his soul to the listener and it makes you feel uncomfortable. That same soul can be found on what is actually my favourite song on this album, I can’t help it, which was written by another legend called Stevie Wonder. These two tracks remind you just how utterly unique Michael was and how epic his vocal talent was.
And god bless Quincy – this whole album sounds faultless, every aspect of it and a lot of credit needs to be rested at his door. I have a theory that Off the Wall is the most Quincy influenced of the three albums he made with Michael and as I said in the beginning, it is probably the best of the lot. Probably.