Michael Jackson's "Off The Wall": A Review

A year ago today, the world lost Michael Jackson, undoubtedly the greatest entertainer of the 20th Century (sorry Elvis!). The ascendance of the King of Pop during the early 1980’s represents quite possibly the most mindboggling, immense shift the American (or World) pop cultural landscape has ever seen. At one point in time Thriller was literally selling a million copies a week; music videos for “Billie Jean,” “Beat It,” and of course “Thriller” were first-of-their-kind media events, ushering in an MTV-led, visual era in the music industry that we are just now starting to see come to a close. Arguably most importantly though were the racial barriers Michael quite literally shattered. No black artist had ever achieved anything that even approached the kind of crossover success Michael enjoyed with Thriller. The world would never be the same.

Of course, the most successful artist of all time also faced the harshest, most-widespread backlash in the history of popular music as well. And so we could spend all day ruminating over the brutal treatment of Michael Jackson during his life, his strange behavior, or the morbid fascination with his death and sheer opportunism we’ve witnessed since his passing. But I’d rather talk about the music. That is the man’s truly lasting legacy; everything else is really just scenery.

So on the one year anniversary of the death of Michael Jackson, my aim is to move beyond the myths and the scandals by focusing on an album unfettered by the weight of MJ’s incredible celebrity or incredulous detractors; Michael Jackson’s seminal 1979 album, Off The Wall.

Remembering Michael Jackson: Has it been a Year?


I wrote this blog literally a year ago today. It was not a published blog because the Black Youth Project had yet to premier online. Well, I think my thoughts a year ago still resonate today as we honor Michael Jackson’s memory. The title of the blog is, “The Feasting of Michael Jackson’s Flesh: How Do We Honor the Dead?”


I am deeply troubled by the buffoonery of the 2009 Black Entertainment Television Award Show where “blackness” guaranteed BET’s ownership of honoring Michael J. Jackson’s life. Of course, there is an endless laundry list of technical, sexist, homophobic, and simply tone death performances that I could blog about. However, the most compelling issue for me is that we witnessed consumption at “it’s finest” where Jamie Foxx unabashedly highlighted his many upcoming projects and the beauty of his voice, where every five seconds large digital placards of sponsorship appeared before our eyes beseeching us to buy their wares, where Joe Jackson plugs the revival of his singing career, where the infamous golden arches tell our children that they should dream of working at McDonald’s when they “become big kids,” and where we the viewing public further the cannibalization process of Michael Jackson by not turning our televisions off in righteous indignation because consciously or unconsciously we enjoy the thrill of consuming flesh . . . the gossip, the speculations, the betrayals, the “sins,” and yes “if it bleeds then it leads” or in the case of the BET Award Show if it stereotypes black people then it sales.

Teen in alleged cop beating speaks out

ABC News – Houston | June 24, 2010

New York Times – The Houston police chief has fired seven officers involved in the beating of a 15-year-old suspected of burglary, a beating that was caught on videotape and outraged many black residents. Four of the officers also face misdemeanor charges for the pummeling of the youth, Chad Holley, who had been handcuffed and forced to the ground after a short chase on March 23. Some black leaders called the charges of “official repression” a slap on the wrist and questioned why prosecutors had not persuaded a grand jury to charge the officers with felony assault.

Oscar Grant Trial: Gripping Testimony Opens Defense

Oscar Grant Trial: Gripping Testimony Opens Defense
Julianne Ong Hing, June 23, 2010

Johannes Mehserle’s defense opened Tuesday with more than three hours of tense, emotional testimony from Oscar Grant’s good friend Jackie Bryson, who was on the train platform with Grant when he was killed. Defense attorney Michael Rains worked to paint Bryson as a liar and, failingly, to prompt an admission that he overheard Mehserle say he planned to Taser Grant, thus proving the shooting an accident.

Bryson proved a formidable witness against the defense, however. His recounting of Grant’s shooting, which came after three hours of combative back and forth with Rains, gripped the courtroom. “Smoke was coming out of his back, and they turned him over and there was a puddle of blood,” Bryson recalled. “I said, ‘Oscar, Oscar, stay awake.’ Everybody started screaming his name,” Bryson recalled. Bryson remembered someone begging for the BART police to call for help, but being told: “When you shut the fuck up, then we’ll call the ambulance.”

“His eyes is there, but blood starts coming out of his mouth,” Bryson remembered, the emotion bubbling up in his voice. “’Let me talk to him,’ I said, ‘I can keep him here. I know you don’t want him to die.’” Bryson told cops on the platform. (Read the full article)

Education Department big Marc Sternberg hints at gifted test changes

Education Department big Marc Sternberg hints at gifted test changes
Meredith Kolodner, New York Daily News, June 22, 2010

The Department of Education is considering scrapping the current test to qualify for gifted programs following a “problematic” drop in the number of black and Latino students.

Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg made the surprising admission under grilling yesterday during an appearance before the City Council.

Asked by Councilman Robert Jackson about the lack of minority students in the coveted programs, Sternberg conceded the department may swap test-makers when the current contract expires at the end of the next school year.

“With this window of opportunity to rethink the kind of [calculations] we’re using on the test,” Sternberg said. “Maybe we help to resolve this question. (Read the full article)

The Tyler Perry Issue

Normally, when The Boondocks airs I’m busy reading so I record the episode to watch later. But something told me to watch this episode. And I died. Aaron McGruder is known for taking satirical shots at public figures, having lampooned everyone from Condoleezza Rice to R. Kelly. Sunday’s episode was not at all subtle in criticizing Tyler Perry.


I was discussing the show with a friend when he compared the widespread dislike of Perry and his work to the criticism that Zora Neale Hurston received from the “intellectual elite” of her day.