Underplayed Vinyl: Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson’s 1979 album, Off the Wall, is better than Michael Jackson’s 1982 album, Thriller.

1. 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

1. Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’
2. Baby Be Mine
3. The Girl Is Mine
4. Thriller
5. Beat It
6. Billie Jean
7. Human Nature
8. P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)
9. The Lady in My Life

Actually, they are, in some ways, similar albums. Both start with my favorite groove on the album, followed by a more midtempo sound, though I prefer Rock with You. Both have ballads that are OK, though She’s Out of My Life is more appealing to me.

Now, Thriller does have Beat It and Billie Jean, both of which appear on some Rolling Stone list of top 500 tunes. But I will contend that the popularity and import of those songs (and of the title song as well) was fueled as much by the videos as the music.

Where the older album has the great Workin’ song in the third slot, Thriller has This Girl Is Mine. One can argue about the quality of the song – I don’t think much of the dopey dialogue between Paul McCartney and Michael – but listening to it, it just has a whole different feel from what goes on before or after. (The Macca-penned Girlfriend may be the weakest track on Off the Wall.)

And the title tune Thriller is great theater, but is it a great song?

Ultimately, Off the Wall is better because it ends stronger. Instead of the sappy ballad, I’m burning that disco out. There may be better songs on Thriller, but Off the Wall is more consistently solid.

Incidentally, Off the Wall was not a piker of an album commercially, as it sold 7 million copies in the U.S. alone; Thriller was just a monster album, selling 3.5 times as many in this country.

Today is MJ’s 49th birthday.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

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