Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall” (1979)

Released in 1979, Michael Jackson’s album “Off the Wall” was the liberation that he needed from the confines of his overbearing and controlling family. This album was the product of a boy who was raised by his father and trained for the industry and as a result, Jackson grew up before the industry’s eyes while leaving his brothers behind. “Off the Wall” was released after filming “The Wiz” in New York City where he soaked in the influence of artists he worked with. Quincy Jones – the music producer on “The Wiz” – also worked with Jackson on the album.

Although record sales for “Off the Wall” were not as high as later albums (for example, “Thriller), it is definitely one of Jackson’s stronger albums. Also, the album’s sound was more influenced by one set genre unlike “Thriller” which jumped between genres to appeal to the masses.

“Off the Wall” was released toward the end of the disco era and therefore, the album has an intense disco sound – aside from a few ballads like “She’s Out of My Life.” Jackson did not just copy the typical disco sound but instead, he made it his own. He expanded the disco basics with arrangements full of dense layers of strings, horns, and beats that were originally unheard of. Despite that, the underlying funk of the genre was still there.

The main theme of the album is “putting your worries behind you, dancing, and having an overall good time” and can be shown in the best possible opening song for the album because it highlights the strengths of the album. Here is “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough”:

The theme of the song is the power of romantic love and although he did not have that experience at the time, listeners still here something deeper – something more intense. This understanding goes way beyond words. They are able to relate to the music and not just hear the lyrics, but feel the music as well.

This song is basically Jackson’s attempt at “hitting on someone” but considering he’s trying to do so in falsetto… I don’t think that’s the most masculine way of approaching the situation. Because of the song’s irresistible disco feel, you can hear this song a million times and never get enough (ha, get it?)

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