First Hit #1: October 13, 1979
Michael Jackson has had hits before, whether with his brothers or on his own. But that was as a kid, and it’s probably not too far off the mark to say they weren’t giving a 10 year old major control of the artistic direction. This is where the Michael Jackson became a musical force, a blast of funk and falsetto that is a statement of purpose. It’s a landmark track, because it announces something different on the charts. It does owe a debt to funk music from earlier in the decade, but while disco is doing its thing, Jackson and producer Quincy Jones make a track that’s incredibly complicated but never distracting in its construction, a wall of layered vocals, funk instrumentation, and sheer whimsy that heralds something new in dance music. It follows on from disco in spirit, but what it accomplishes is strictly its own thing.
It’s not quite the debut of Michael Jackson, the multi-media artist – he is just dancing in front of the animated backgrounds of an old jewelry advertisement – but it does establish him as an artist that can hold his own.