Like any an aging child star, Michael Jackson has had to grow up gracefully in public in order to survive.
Until now, he’s understandably clung to the remnants of his original Peter Pan of Motown image while cautiously considering the role of the young prince. Off the Will marks Jackson’s first decisive step toward a mature show-business personality, and except for some so-so material, it’s a complete success.
A slick, sophisticated R&B-pop showcase with a definite disco slant, Off the Wall presents Michael Jackson as the Stevie Wonder of the Eighties. This resemblance is strongest on “I Can’t Help It” (cowritten by Wonder), in which Jackson’s vocal syncopation is reminiscent of the master’s breathless, dreamy stutter.
Throughout, Jackson’s feathery-timbred tenor is extraordinarily beautiful. It slides smoothly into a startling falsetto that’s used very daringly. The singer’s ultradramatic phrasing, which rakes huge emotional risks and wins every time, wrings the last drop of pathos from Tom Bahler’s tear-jerker, “She’s Out of My Life.” “Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough” (written and coproduced by Jackson) is one of a handful of recent disco releases that works both as a dance track and as an aural extravaganza comparable to Earth, Wind and Fire’s “Boogie Wonderland.” The rest of the dance music touches several grooves, from jazzy South American to mainstream pop funk.
A triumph for producer Quincy Jones as well as for Michael Jackson, Off the Wall represents discofied post-Motown glamour at its classiest. ~ Rolling Stone – By Stephen Holden
Michael Jackson had recorded solo prior to the release of Off the Wall in 1979, but this was his breakthrough, the album that established him as an artist of astonishing talent and a bright star in his own right. This was a visionary album, a record that found a way to break disco wide open into a new world where the beat was undeniable, but not the primary focus — it was part of a colorful tapestry of lush ballads and strings, smooth soul and pop, soft rock, and alluring funk. Its roots hearken back to the Jacksons‘ huge mid-’70s hit “Dancing Machine,” but this is an enormously fresh record, one that remains vibrant and giddily exciting years after its release. This is certainly due to Jackson‘s emergence as a blindingly gifted vocalist, equally skilled with overwrought ballads as “She’s Out of My Life” as driving dancefloor shakers as “Working Day and Night” and “Get on the Floor,” where his asides are as gripping as his delivery on the verses. It’s also due to the brilliant songwriting, an intoxicating blend of strong melodies, rhythmic hooks, and indelible construction. Most of all, its success is due to the sound constructed by Jackson and producer Quincy Jones, a dazzling array of disco beats, funk guitars, clean mainstream pop, and unashamed (and therefore affecting) schmaltz that is utterly thrilling in its utter joy. This is highly professional, highly crafted music, and its details are evident, but the overall effect is nothing but pure pleasure. Jackson and Jones expanded this approach on the blockbuster Thriller, often with equally stunning results, but they never bettered it.