Friday, June 25, 2010

Why I Love...

... Michael Jackson's Off the Wall!

I feel bad for Off the Wall. Off the Wall is like the neglected younger sibling of Michael Jackson's (adult era) solo album family. Thriller is the annoyingly lovable eldest brother who everybody knows and adores. Bad is the cool, chill older brother who gets laid every weekend. HIStory is the moody, angry brother who you like sometimes but hate others., I don't have any clever family metaphors for Dangerous or Invincible but that's ok because I think you get the idea. Invincible aside, I think Off the Wall is one of Mike's most forgotten solo works. Which is a shame because I think it's one of his finest pieces.

Maybe I shouldn't say forgotten: Of course, no one can forget "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" and "Rock With You" but, most casual fans wouldn't be familiar with the other ear morsels (!) that the album has to offer.

Nugget of Knowledge: Off the Wall may be the first in the mind of some but, it is actually MJ's fifth solo studio album. (His first four solo albums were released under the Motown label back in the day.)

This little nugget of knowledge brings me to my first point of love: Off the Wall was when we got to see Mikey forreals. At this point in time, his creativity was no longer being confined by Berry Gordy & Co. Although Mike and his brothers had left Motown a while ago and had had more say in their music for some time, audiences could now enjoy MJ's freedom without having to expend extra effort trying to ignore his brothers in the background. (Except for Jackie who was, and still is, hot. And Marlon who was, and still is, ROCKIN' that mustache.) OtW was the first indication that Michael Jackson was not to be a child star that would fade into oblivion. He had [song]writing and composing chops in addition to his already proven singing chops. And he was serious about the music business - Off the Wall was MJ's first solo assault on the music industry. It should be renamed I'm HERE: You Bitches Best Get Used to Me.

Off the Wall was also a good plot foreshadowing of the happier times in the life of Michael Joesph Jackson, especially his musical success. It happened to be the first collaboration between him and Quincy Jones, a power duo that would churn out the subsequent mega-albums Thriller and Bad. It was also the first combination of MJ and British singer/songwriter, Rod Temperton. Rod wrote "Rock with You" for Off the Wall and would later go on to write the song "Thriller." OtW was a nice precursor to Thriller. It laid the groundwork for the collaborations that would bring Mikey big time success.

What I love most about Off the Wall though, is that we get young, happy Michael Jackson. The album was released in August of 1979, a couple weeks before his 21st birthday. I'm not sure how far back in history you have to go to find a carefree MJ, but I think if you stop at 1979 then you probably don't need to bother to go back much further. Yes, Mike was probably one of the most popular people in the world by then and yes, he was probably already a bit jaded by fame. But I don't think you ever again see the confident, carefree, happy Micheal that you see on Off the Wall; not musically at least. Michael Jackson was definitely an artist who could tell his audience where he was at with his music so you can tell there's a difference between Off the Wall-MJ and Thriller-MJ, a mere 3 years down the line.

A nice example of young, carefree, fraking adorable Michael Jackson (bow-tie!):

Besides all the implications of the album, the music itself is what really rocks my boat. Besides being a nice wrap-up to the disco era, Off the Wall is also pretty damn timeless. "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough," written and composed by Mike himself, is an absolute masterpiece. (Really, DSTYGE is saturated in awesome.) "Off the Wall" is a really fun and light "just chilax" tune. "Workin' Day and Night" has to be one of the happiest laments of a whipped boy who ain't gettin' any AND it's funky to boot.* And the unbridled joy of "Get on the Floor" (in addition to that killer bass line) makes it one of my favorite new MJ discoveries.

If you haven't heard the other stuff on Off the Wall than I highly suggest you hop on over to Wikipedia, look up them songs and then get your butt over to YouTube because you're seriously missing out.**

RIP Michael Jackson!

*I promise I will never use the phrase "to boot" ever again
**Also, I'd highly suggest the special edition of Off the Wall. It has some fun interviews with Quincy Jones and Rod Temperton. It also has two demos ("Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" & "Workin' Day and Night") featuring Janet & Randy banter and MJ's obnoxious/endearing laugh.

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