Let’s talk about boogie, and disco pop, and vocal perfection, and musical wow. More commonly referred to as; Michael Jackson. It’s been seven years, to the day, since the King of Pop left this world, but the music that he created is too glorious to have left with him, and is heard absolutely everywhere. Yes, I am aware that he might have been a bit of a weirdo who made some seriously bad lifestyle choices, but, for this one day, perhaps we can celebrate his music rather than scrutinise him for his flaws. He had a voice unlike any other male artist in the music industry, he had the ability to dance as if the laws of gravity didn’t apply to him, and he had a style that was so iconic that, by putting his own spin on the disco sound, it subsequently created the genre of pop music. MJ influenced every artist that came after him, whether they are aware of it or not, and, without him, the music world just would not be the same.
In honour of the biggest pop star ever to have graced this Earth with their presence (UNdebatable), the cowbell team have decided to glorify our favourite MJ album, Off The Wall, in the hope that we will prove to you that it is one of the greatest albums of all time. In an ideal world, you’re now rolling your eyes and saying, ‘Wtf I don’t need proof, I totes know every song on that album backwards’. If you’re not that person, then it would be an honour and a privilege to say that we were the prophets, who brought to you the magic of Michael at his very finest.
By 1979, the year Off The Wall was released, MJ was in his prime, and this is one of the best things about the album. No longer a baby-faced child-star controlled by producers, but not yet the porcelain doll version of Kris Jenner, he had just turned 20 and he was the definition of disco. With the help of his new producer, Quincy Jones, and artists such as Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney, this was the album where he really found his true style; that glorious combination of soul and funk that didn’t sound forced or commercial. Somehow, Off The Wall manages to scream “SHAKE YO ASS” without throwing around a heavy beat or any cutting edge sounds. As he grew older the aggression and strain in his voice became more pronounced, but songs on this album show off his youthful, silky, rich tones. Listen to Girlfriend and tell me that his voice doesn’t sound like an indulgent Lindor truffle being filled with melted chocolate. Will anyone ever be able to reproduce a sound like that so effortlessly? Sorry world, chances are looking pretty slim.
Apart from one (although one’s ability to feel the beat is very personal matter), every track makes you want to start groovin’. Some are more up-beat than others, such as Workin’ Day and Night, which has that rushed pace full of excitement that brought the 80s to life. But it’s that light, syncopated beat that makes everyone dance like they’re floating on air. Of course, everyone recognises the “OOOH!” that marks the beginning of Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough, the ultimate MJ feel-good disco song where his iconic voice hiccups and falsetto only add to the exhilarating sound. Can any song be more boogie-licious than that? Although that’s meant to be a rhetorical question, we at cowbell headquarters do believe that the answer to that is yes. Our two personal favourites come almost immediately after, on the very same album, and they go by the name of Rock With You and, the title song, Off the Wall. Both so smooth and uncomplicated, but with that signature off-beat that just flows down from your clicking fingers straight to your toe taps. Of course, MJ’s voice takes pride of place on both songs, and we love the layering harmonies that lift the choruses and give the vocals such a rich sound. May we recommend also paying attention to the lyrics, particularly those of Off the Wall. SO GOOD. SO FRIGGIN GOOD:
‘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.’
Before you hit a dance floor, these are the exact words that should be running through your mind. None of this Pitbull bullshit ‘we gon’ get crunk and have sexy time with a mamacita’. No. We’re going to dance to the best tunes like no one is watching, a la Michael.
So the boogie is banging, but let us not forget the beauty of a ballad. She’s out of My Life comes more or less halfway through the album, and serves as a reminder that Michael really knows how to stir some serious feelings in his listeners. You’d think that a slow love-song without any percussion would sound bizarre halfway through such a hip-happening album, but somehow it doesn’t even sound out of place. Michael’s voice is beautiful in a very moving way, and his falter at the end as we hear his voice cracking, is nothing short of tear-jerking. If anyone else did it, it would sound cringingly false, but the sincerity of the lyrics and the soft tones of the accompaniment, give justice to MJ’s sweet emotions. If you’re feeling romantic, or you want to stare out of the train window as if caught in a moment of passion, this is the song to set the mood. I Can’t Help It and It’s the Falling in Love also have some pretty dreamy, tender lyrics but sway more towards the boogie than the ballad. They’re two songs that merit so much more acclaim, since they prove that it is possible to combine the schmaltzy theme with a lightly funky sound, and produce something full of sparkle.
So, now that we have either reminded you, or informed you of this album’s majesty, it is time for you to go forth and bask in its glory. ‘Ride the boogie and share that beat of love’ as MJ said. You don’t even have to be in the party mood to listen, because Michael has made this album so versatile, that it can be enjoyed anywhere, at anytime, and by anyone! MJ speaks to all generations. Songs for the shower? Off The Wall. Driving to the supermarket with your nan? Off The Wall. Background music for a dinner or even just chillaxing solo? Off The Wall. It’s groovy enough to turn a party in to a PARDAYY, but it’s also easy-going enough to simply lift your mood on a lazy day. I’m quickly running out of ways in which to sell this to you, except that people have played this album on repeat for 27 years, and are yet to become bored of it.
Michael, you blessed us with an exceptional sound and the means to come together and get down. For that we are eternally grateful. RIP.
Emma & Juliette xx