In the last 20 years I’ve had more exposure to Michael Jackson as a cultural punchline than as a musician. What some people seem to forget is that before he was a mega star, before he was a smooth criminal, before he was a controversial figure, and before he became a joke, he was simply an amazing musician. My pick for sexiest album of all time looks past all that controversy — even past Thriller. My pick for the sexiest album of all time is Michael Jackson’s 1979 release, Off the Wall.
All things considered, this album is great simply due to its sheer production value and talent. Not only did Jackson have a solid team of musicians backing him on it, he also had none other than famed producer Quincy Jones manning the board. The resulting album is a combination of disco, funk, R&B, soft rock, and jazz that just grooves. Aside from excellent production and musicianship, the songs are well crafted. Jackson sings a selection of numbers written by himself, Stevie Wonder, Rod Temperton, and Paul McCartney.
One standout track is “Girlfriend,” a Paul McCartney-penned slow jam propelled by a bouncy bass and some classic analog synth work from before the days of MIDI. The song is nowhere near as good as any of McCartney’s other post-Beatles work, either as a solo artist or with Wings, but as one of the more mellow tracks, it stands out here.
“It’s the Falling in Love” is probably the hottest “filler” track on the album that didn’t become a hit. This is classic disco, except the song is actually good. No disrespect to Diana Ross, but disco doesn’t have the greatest longevity — I suggest you enjoy it in small doses of well-written pop songs.
Finally, the real work of art here is the album’s sexiest song: “Rock with You.” This track was a massive hit for Michael Jackson, and it stands out as one of the best cuts on the album, rivaled only by “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.” “Rock with You” regularly appears on the Michael Jackson greatest hits and compilation albums that continue to be released posthumously. I won’t argue that this song is better than “Thriller,” “Bad,” “Beat It,” or any of the other hits that Jackson has enjoyed throughout his career, but this may be one of his best-crafted songs: solid groove, great hook, sexy all around.
The sexiness of this album might not be apparent upon first listen, but the combination of disco and R&B provides the perfect amount of groove for any kind of loving. This is the kind of music that demands you move as you listen.
For bonus points, play this record on vinyl, or better yet eight-track tape, for some really sophisticated romancing. Remember to stretch properly before and after, and always hydrate regularly.