Released in November 1982 on Epic Records, Michael once again enlisted Quincy Jones to produce this follow up to 1979’s Off The Wall. This time they moved away from the Disco influence, and started moving closer to pop music, while still keeping Michael’s R&B roots. Word has it that despite it’s multi-platinum success, Michael felt the Off The Wall underperformed and was determined to make an ever bigger record this time, so therefor purposely tried to broaden his appeal (& he sure did succeed), with these nine tracks:
1/WANNA BE STARTIN’ SOMETHIN’
A powerful dance track, written by Michael, which has pretty heavy theme, as he sings about the price of fame and the way the press comes after him, eating off of him like he’s a “buffet”. And there’s the memorable foreign lyrics shouted in chorus at the end: Mama-say mama-sah ma-ma-coo-sah
2/BABY BE MINE
Rod Temperton wrote this sadly-underrated song. It wasn’t released as a single, but it remains one of my all-time favorites. An uptempo R&B dance track, that feels like a natural progression of the music from the previous album. It’s almost like a sequel to “Rock With You” (which was also written by Temperton).
3/THE GIRL IS MINE
A mellow R&B track that Michael sings with Sir Paul McCartney. Written by Michael himself, the song plays to both singers’ strengths, and works well together.
Rod Temperton wrote this horror song, with guest vocals by Vincent Price. This is a great song, but probably would have been even better if it had been the centerpiece of an entire concept album, with all the songs built around horror and fear. That’s something I’ve always imagined.
Like I said, Michael wanted to broaden his appeal with this album, and this is perfect evidence of that, as Michael wrote this pure rock song. The fierce guitar work from Eddie Van Halen compliments the heavy drumbeat, as Michael sings about danger on the streets. A Black R&B singer trying to go rock could’ve failed miserably, but Michael succeeded.
Michael wrote this song about a woman committing paternity fraud. The bass, the beat, the vocals, the chorus, it all just works perfectly.
Steve Porcaro & John Bettis wrote this mellow song, with a nice synthesizer in the melody, and great vocals. Lovely.
8/P.Y.T. (PRETTY YOUNG THING)
Written by James Ingram and Quincy Jones, this is another song that feels like a progression from the previous album. And uptempo track, and it sounds like Michael is having fun singing it.
9/LADY IN MY LIFE
This powerful ballad closes out the album. Written by Rod Temperton, and sung with emotion by Michael, it’s excellent.
A relatively short album, considering it’s impact, but it’s great. Every song works. Michael’s vocals and Quincy’s production are top-notch. They were at their creative peak here.