Thursday marks the 35th anniversary of the release of what is probably Michael Jackson’s most popular album, Thriller. This album changed the game in a lot of ways, but most especially where it comes to the music-video genre. In short, it was a work of genius.
There are so many jams on that album—from “Beat It” to “Billie Jean” to “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” to “Thriller”—everything on there is a classic. The video for “Thriller,” which was, in fact, a mini motion picture, will go down in history as the piece of art that changed the way people made music videos forever. Thank you, Michael.
While Thriller is itself a masterpiece, it is by no means Michael’s best album. That honor goes to Off the Wall; don’t @ me or call yourself checking me in the comments, because I said what I said.
Of course, my saying this in Slack this morning started a big debate with my co-workers. Most of us, including Deputy Managing Editor Yesha Callahan and Panama Jackson of Very Smart Brothas, agree that Off the Wall is Michael’s best work—but outliers like Managing Editor Genetta Adams and Senior Editor Stephen A. Crockett Jr. want to think that Thriller is the best album.
My argument is that Off the Wall was just pure Mike. He was fresh off playing the Scarecrow in The Wiz, and he went into the studio with Quincy Jones and created magic. The vocal arrangements were stellar, and you could tell he had a lot of fun making the album.
Genetta’s argument is that Thriller had more hits, and while that may be true, I think it is a bogus argument. I would put up every song on Off the Wall against every song on Thriller in a Pepsi-challenge sort of contest to see which songs were better, and Off the Wall would win every single time.
Off the Wall had way more dance tracks on it. “She’s Out Of My Life” is a way better and more emotional slow jam than “Lady in My Life.” “Girlfriend” is a better bubblegum pop song than “The Girl Is Mine.”
Thriller was specifically created to be a hit album for Michael, and while there is nothing inherently wrong with that, I feel it robbed us of the vocal artistry we got on Off the Wall.
I could go on, but our editor-in-chief, Danielle Belton, said we should open up the discussion to our readers and let you tell us what you think.
So which is it?
Which was the better Michael Jackson album: Thriller or Off the Wall?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments.