Top 100 Album Review: #68 – Off The Wall, Michael Jackson (1979)

Transitory Vibes.

Not childish like the Jackson 5 but not quite mature like Thriller.  


Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #68/100
My Rating: StarStarStarStarStar

When I came out of my house, I knew something was wrong: why is my car light on? It took a few more seconds to process, but someone had thrown a rock through the passenger side door stealing everything not tied down. My change drawer was raided along with my sun visor CD case. Assessing the loses, I found the jewell case for Off the Wall underneath the seat. Not even a few weeks in my possession, it was empty. I had been bumping this awesome album everywhere, and now it was over….

Until I realized it was still in the CD player — the only thing that wasn’t stolen.

This was around 2008 before MJ died. I was diving deep into his discography when the legend passed. What makes Off the Wall so different than his other adult solo work is the fact that it’s his first entry and thus the most innocent. There is no super fandom for MJ to contend with via political statements or anti-media harangues. This makes for a fun free listen — every song is a pop hit single.



MJ released several solo albums for Motown, but it was still tethered to the idea of the Jackson 5. In the usual Berry Gordy style, MJ was not in control of any of the direction or musical representation of his work. Off the Wall was a chance to work with MJ’s talent to create something new.

The creative minds that were recruited to help were Quincy Jones (who would go on to work with MJ on his next two albums) and Rod Temperton (a member of the band Heatwave who would pen songs for this album and more). The album also boasts songs written by Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney.


  1. Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough 6:02
  2. Rock With You 3:38
  3. Working Day And Night 5:12
  4. Get On The Floor 4:44
  5. Off The Wall 4:04
  6. Girlfriend 3:04
  7. She’s Out Of My Life 3:36
  8. I Can’t Help It 4:27
  9. It’s The Falling In Love 3:46
  10. Burn This Disco Out 3:38

[BEST TRACK – Rock With You]

I need to get my love for Rod Temperton off my chest. The man wrote killer songs. Anyone who could pen Boogie Nights, Thriller, Give Me the Night, and more is seriously connected to the funk. Rock With You is another example of prime Temperton: tasteful use of disco flair with killer hooks.

I want to rock with you (all night)
Dance you into day (sunlight)
I want to rock with you (all night)
Rock the night away.

[BEST TRACK RUNNER UP: Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough]

But let’s not pretend that MJ couldn’t write songs. The opening track is his best work from Off the Wall and an instant party favorite 🍰.

So tonight gotta leave that nine to five upon the shelf
And just enjoy yourself
Groove, let the madness in the music get to you
Life ain’t so bad at all
If you live it off the wall


The start of a weird working relationships, Paul McCartney originally wrote this song for MJ but decided to perform it himself with his band Wings. Without John Lennon to reel him in, it’s a complete sap of a song that MJ turns into a somewhat loveable B-Side. It can’t compete with The Girl is Mine though where MJ and Paul pretend to fight over the same girl.

I’m gonna show your boyfriend (yeah)
Show him (woo hoo)
The letters I’ve been savin’ (yeah)
Show him how you feel inside
An’ how love could not be denied (oh no)

[BEST TENDER MOMENT: She’s Out of My Life]

The lore about this song is just as good as the song itself.

At the very end, MJ cries while saying the word life. No matter how many takes they took, he would just weep. Quincy gave up saying it was meant to be if it kept happening. MJ would later go on to say he was “so rich in some experiences while being poor in moments of true joy.” The song represented something he never experienced, and his emotions show through with his own rendition.

And she’s out of my life
She’s out of my life
Damned indecision and cursed pride
Kept my love for her locked deep inside
And it cuts like a knife
She’s out of my life


A deep album full of great finds and stories — hell, we didn’t even mention the dope song penned by Stevie Wonder!

Other People’s Takes: 

  • Pop Goes the Weasel“It’s the easiest entry point because it has the least baggage. So much of MJ’s later work was fascinatingly, intrinsically linked to contextual factors…‘Off the Wall’ is an album where it’s entirely suitable to focus on the music and only the music.”
  • An Ocean Roars: Overall, I think this album has a weak side, which is too mellow. I feel that the track order should have been better thought out and maybe deleted one or two songs for something better. 
  • Amped Up Reviews: With minimal filler, and minimal objectionable content, this album is an absolute blast from front to back.”


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