There has been a debate as to which one of Michael Jackson’s albums is actually the best. For decades, Jackson’s “big three albums” have been a constant reminder of why he was the ‘King of Pop’. The “big three albums” consist of: ‘Off the Wall,’ ‘Thriller’ and ‘Bad’ in that order. Although ‘Thriller’ was Jackson’s most successful album financially, some don’t believe that it had the authenticity as its 1979 predecessor. Although his other two albums changed music as we know it, most would argue that it started with his fifth studio album.
The year was 1979, and the genre of Disco ruled the radio airwaves. Around that same time, something fresh and new was being introduced at 1520 Sedgwick in The Bronx, New York. This new style of music had young kids spinning on their heads and doing things most had never seen. That genre would go on to rival Disco and would soon take over the airwaves. The name of this musical style is now known as Hip-Hop. Simultaneously, Michael Joseph Jackson was preparing his fifth studio album that he wanted to sound different from his work with his brothers.
In an article on albumism.com, columnist Andy Haley states, “For the first time in his solo career, he co-produced a handful of songs and he would set about creating the perfect Pop/R&B crossover album.” With its August 10th release, it was the first time that Michael explored his talent as a performer and a creative genius. As a result, the music industry was about to change and the foundation for a solo career was about to be put in place.
The album’s lead single is the up-tempo Disco anthem “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough”. For the first time since 1972, Jackson would top the Billboard Hot 100 Charts and would remain atop for six weeks. Jackson’s follow up single “Rock With You” was written by the late Rod Temperton and just like its predecessor, would reach number one bringing Jackson’s total to three. Originally, the song was meant for Karen Carpenter as she too was working on a solo album, however, she turned it down. As a result of Jackson’s involvement, “Rock With You” is considered one of Disco’s last biggest hits.
So, why is ‘Off the Wall’ the best of Jackson’s big three? It’s simple, it’s Micheal Jackson in his purest and most primitive form. Although most would proclaim ‘Thriller’ to be his biggest, here’s why it actually comes second to some critics. ‘Off the Wall’ served as the foundation that helped bridge the late 70s to the 80s. Not to mention, without a foundation the houses known as ‘Thriller’ and ‘Bad’ could not be built. It was also signaling the end of an era as Jackson, who was only 20 at the time of the album’s release, was trying to forge his own path as a solo artist. Done were the days of singing in a group with his brothers, the newly freed Jackson partnered with Quincy Jones, and the rest as they say is history.
Despite the cultural impact of both ‘Thriller’ and ‘Bad’, ‘Off the Wall’ served as a template as to what was to come in the near future. Without ‘Off the Wall’, there is no changing of the guard and music may still be in the same place it was 40 years ago. However, when it came along, the battle between Hip-Hop and Disco started to become one-sided, with Hip-Hop eventually pulling in the win. Despite Disco’s death, the spirit of such lives on with what some consider Michael Jackson’s top release of his illustrious career.