Record Machine: Off The Wall by Michael Jackson

With what would have been Michael Jackson’s 55th birthday approaching on August 29th, let’s talk a little bit about his first solo album that is considered separate from The Jackson 5: Off The Wall. Released 34 years ago on August 10, 1979, it is a magnificent production.

“Rock With You” is one of my favorite Michael Jackson songs, and it was because of a sudden urge to listen to it that I dug into the closet in my mother’s basement. In an old LP box, my dad had stashed away all the records that he insisted were gifts and not part of his regular taste. These included Off The Wall, Thriller, and the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. Into disco and dance music, he was not.

(That certainly never stopped me from saying, “Sure they were gifts, Dad. Sure they were.”)

Whoever it was that gifted him Off The Wall, I thank them because this is such a great album, and it’s just one more example of Michael Jackson’s otherworldly skills as a vocalist. “Rock With You” is so much more adult than his previous Jackson 5 output, and it’s just made for sexy dancing.

Equally fantastic is “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” another dance-y tune where Jackson appears to be having so much fun. If you’ve pushed play on the video, I challenge you not to move along to that beat wherever you are right now.

Also interesting is that Paul McCartney has a writing credit on the album, with the song “Girlfriend.” His band Wings recorded it the year before for London Town, but the two had recently started a working relationship. To me, it sounds like a McCartney song, even though I wasn’t super-familiar with either version until the past year or so. Still, I think Jackson performs it better.

The better “famous person” writing credit is the Stevie Wonder-penned “I Can’t Help It.” It is Jackson at his crooning best. The song also reminds me of some of Janet Jackson’s later output, with a splash of Sade.

At some point, I’ll be talking about Thriller too, but I’m sure there are plenty of you reading who are Off The Wall fans. Tell me your favorite songs from the album.

  1. A picture of Michael Jackson's "Off the Wall" next to a record player.Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough
  2. Rock With You
  3. Workin’ Day and Night
  4. Get On The Floor
  5. Off The Wall
  6. Girlfriend
  7. She’s Out of My Life
  8. I Can’t Help It
  9. It’s the Falling in Love
  10. Burn This Disco Out


By Sara Habein

Sara Habein is the author of Infinite Disposable, a collection of microfiction, and her work has appeared on The Rumpus, Pajiba and Word Riot, among others. Her book reviews and other commentary appear at Glorified Love Letters, and she is the co-manager of Electric City Creative.

4 replies on “Record Machine: Off The Wall by Michael Jackson”

I was browising the record machine posts to see how they’re laid out as I wanted to write one and literally shouted, “Someone did Off The Wall!” when I spotted this. Great breakdown of the album. Michael Jackson was my first celeb crush, and I grew up on Off The Wall, Thriller and Bad as a very young child. I loom forward to you writing on Thriller.

Record Machine is kind of my ongoing music column gig, but plenty of other people write music posts that are not titled Record Machine. :)

Yes, I’ll be getting to Thriller at some point. My system for picking out records has more or less been, “Hmm… which one am I in the mood for this week?” It’s been a mix of old and new, single and album, so far. I’m glad you enjoyed this one!

Leave a Reply