DAR Classic Music: Michael Jackson's Bad

By @TrueGodImmortal 

1. Bad 
2. The Way You Make Me Feel 
3. Speed Demon 
4. Liberian Girl 
5. Just Good Friends (w/ Stevie Wonder)
6. Another Part Of Me
7. Man In The Mirror 
8. I Just Can't Stop Loving You (w/ Siedah Garrett)
9. Dirty Diana 
10. Smooth Criminal 
11. Leave Me Alone 

In 1987, there really wasn't a bigger star than Michael Jackson. After the highest selling album of all time, Thriller, MJ was untouchable and on top of the world. He could have been satisfied with the best selling album of all time, but Michael Jackson was a perfectionist and loved to challenge himself. He wanted to go beyond and better what he had done before, so he went into the studio at the very beginning of 1987 to start an album that is personally my favorite in his entire catalog. Today, we look back at the album that is turning 30 this year in 2017. Isn't it crazy how time flies? Approaching the official 8th year since the unfortunate and tragic death of MJ, it is a testament to his talent that his albums are still so revered and hold a special place in music history due to being some of the highest selling albums of all time. In the list of the 75 highest selling albums of all time, MJ has 5 of them, and 3 of them are over 30 million copies sold worldwide. One of those albums? The album we'll be talking today, Bad. Released in late August 1987, the album is one of his crown jewels in the catalog, and today, we get to break the album down, talking the process of creation, the production, the best songs, the best lyrics, and some of the amazing tracks from the Bad sessions that were left off of the album. Let's get into it.

This album featured a much different sound than the previous two albums, taking the sound that MJ had flirted with on Thriller even further. Absent from this album production wise was the seductive soul of previous songs like "I Can't Help It" or "The Lady In My Life", and they were replaced with edgier sounds that were more reminiscent of the rock tinged aggressive vibe of "Beat It" from the Thriller album. Working once again with Quincy Jones, on their third straight and final album together, one missing component from this particular album was Rod Temperton. The man who had added his own flavor to both Off The Wall and Thriller was gone, and it shows in the sound. The rapid fire rhythms of a track like "Smooth Criminal" allow Michael to go into a different artistic dimension, while the blatant rock sound on "Dirty Diana" is carried by the resounding guitars and the hard hitting drums backed the yelling cadence within Michael's verses and voice.

The title track from a production standpoint is another intense sound, as the rhythm, carried by a simple bass riff and an accompanying organ on the breakdown, is such a hard hitting feel that it makes Michael sound more aggressive than ever. The way the drums hit help to bring the intensity level higher and the way the melody moves on "The Way You Make Me Feel", it blends the soulful funk vocals of Michael with the rock tinged heavy pop sound of the instrumentation. For the ballad "I Just Can't Stop Loving You", we get probably the softest rhythm and melody of the entire album of course, and the playful melody that permeates the speakers on "Leave Me Alone" is surprisingly infectious. There is a bit of a glorious and majestic feel to the production of "Man In the Mirror" and the funky groove of "Another Part of Me" is what I consider to be the defining sound of this era of Michael. All in all, the production on this challenged conventional music labels and showcased why Michael was the artist that he was.

Missed Collaborations
The album was set to feature huge features from some of the greatest stars in the industry, possibly making this the most star studded album in music history if Michael would have pulled this off. However, egos and politics are the law in this industry and most of these collaborations never happened. Diana Ross was one name tossed around to be on the album, reuniting her and Michael after many years, but that didn't come to fruition. There was talk of Aretha Franklin and even Barbara Streisand being set to appear on the album, but of course, that didn't occur. One has to wonder where they would have fit on the album, as I don't see a space for them honestly here, but the rumor still persists to this day that those two were supposed to be a part of the album. However, there are two big collaborations that were THIS close to happening and never materialized.

The first of those collaborations was set to be Whitney Houston and Michael together on the first single and ballad "I Just Can't Stop Loving You", which could have done wonders for the album sales (imagine the numbers if Whitney and Michael released a duet leading into the album release). Now, it's probably funny to say that an appearance from Whitney could have took the album even higher in sales, as it is already one of the greatest selling albums ever, but one would think that putting the two biggest stars in the world  together on a duet like that one could be one of the greatest songs and biggest hits ever. The end result still turned out very well with Siedah Garrett, but there's no denying that Whitney would have made the song bigger and better. Probably the biggest missed duet opportunity in music history. Two of the all time greats were this close to working together, but according to Whitney's people (basically Clive Davis), they didn't want her overexposed so they turned that down in the end. How in the hell could a duet between the biggest star in the world and arguably the 2nd biggest star in the world hurt them? Regardless, it was a big missed opportunity that I wish we could have heard.

Speaking of missed opportunity, the final and most infamous missed collaboration from this album period comes in the form of the title track that was supposed to be a back and forth track between Michael and Prince. Prince and Michael were competing for the top spot creatively and as artists, but I believe that they had a great respect for each other. However, as always, egos and politics played a role and when you add in the fact that Michael wrote the title track himself, Prince was definitely NOT going to go through with the song and sing those lyrics. He hilariously spoke about it on the Chris Rock Show years later, but the fact remains, we missed out on this track and chance to hear two of the greatest legends ever together.

Track By Track Breakdown 
A look at each track and a rating for each song on the album. It's tough to rate songs like this, especially for Michael, but we can differentiate from the best and the worst of this album, even if there isn't too much that's bad about it.

-The title track was intended to have the legendary Prince on it as well, and though that would have been huge commercially, music wise, this works much better as a solo track. Michael gets more aggressive here and challenges all who might oppose or bother him, making this the toughest track in his discography thus far. The aggressive confidence was a change of pace for Michael and it worked.


*The Way You Make Me Feel 
This smooth jam was really more aggressive than realized and honestly, the way the video plays out, you can see how they were looking to put Michael's image in a different light. This song is great, and the transitions are flawless and vocally Michael coasts over the funky production without breaking a sweat.


*Speed Demon 
One of the rare missteps on this album honestly, Speed Demon isn't a bad song, it just didn't seem to fit the flow of the album and it's far from one of my favorite MJ songs, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that the video helps make it 10 times stronger than it really is. The song could have been replaced by the more melancholy yet better "I'm So Blue", but for some reason, and perhaps the video was the reason for this, Michael and Quincy decided for this one to be on the album.


*Liberian Girl 
Probably one of the most underrated songs on the album and possibly in MJ's catalog, this song starts with such a dizzying yet captivating rhythm and the smooth vocals of Michael just elevates everything a notch higher. This is one of my favorites here on the album and it's the most traditional R&B sounding song with the beautifully layered vocals of Michael on the chorus.


*Just Good Friends 
You know... a Stevie and Michael collaboration should be something amazing. This wasn't it. It's not a bad song, as Michael really didn't make bad songs, but this could have been replaced with "Fly Away" or "Streetwalker" and I'd have been perfectly fine with it. Stevie and Michael vocally are great, but the song is a rare miss that lacks the strength of the rest of the album's best songs, and even the production somewhat falters along with the lyrics.


*Another Part Of Me
The production just seems to sum up Michael during this period honestly as it hits on all cylinders and seems to work perfectly as an anthem. When you think of Bad, I'd like to think this is the song that hits my mind first. The flawless transition from the verse to the chorus is my favorite part of the song.


*Man In The Mirror 
Probably the most iconic single from Michael, this heartfelt inspirational track is really one of the best songs on the album and dare I say, a top 5 Michael Jackson song of all time in terms of importance. The production is majestic, the vocals are resounding, and the choir near the end is a beautiful touch that elevates an already classic song to a new level.


*I Just Can't Stop Loving You 
I wish Whitney and Michael would have sung together, but Siedah Garrett was always nice to hear. Her vocals compliment Michael very well here and while this first single from the album probably wasn't the smartest song to lead off with, but it is a very good ballad and vocally one of the stronger yet smoothest tracks here.


*Dirty Diana
This is really a chance for Michael to showcase his love and appreciation for rock music. The guitar riffs are intense and the way Michael sings this is what makes this song about that particular groupie you might come across so great. He speaks right to the heart of the issues with the women of the industry that jump from man to man. It's really one of the most poignantly written songs from Michael and though speculation on who this song was about still runs rampant, the song is still flawless and a true classic.


*Smooth Criminal
One of his most infamous songs that was made even more infamous by the video, Michael really came with something here that was unexpected to most. He vocally carries the track, which possesses a rapid fire rhythm and a fierce sound behind it, and of course the "Annie are you okay" lyric remains a top 3 iconic lyric in the history of Michael Jackson.


*Leave Me Alone
I used to love this song as a kid and I still do today. Michael was really tired of the media frenzy thar seemed to surround him and this song was essentially his message to the fake fans and the media alike to just let him be. The video for this song drove that home. This is a slept on song and I really enjoy it.


Leftover Songs 
It is not very often that an album releases a deluxe edition or a 25th Anniversary edition and it features a ton of leftover songs from the album that are actually better than some of the songs on the album itself. With Bad, this is the case. While I'm not the biggest fan of "Al Capone", which is essentially a more minimal version of Smooth Criminal in a way, it's still a solid track. However, songs like "Streetwalker", "Price of Fame", "Free", "I'm So Blue", "Fly Away", and the bouncy "Don't Be Messin Round" are all classics that deserve to be championed. They would be featured on the Bad 25 release, but it shouldn't have taken 25 years for these amazing songs to be heard. Though the leftover tracks have some similarities to each other or songs that actually made the original release of the album, they are either better than the songs on the actual album or right in the conversation of the same quality. If only we could have heard them when the album first dropped.

The Bad World Tour 
This album carries with it the distinction of having the biggest tour ever associated it with it. There was no way that any artist could do what Michael did and he proved it with this tour. The Bad Tour would gross over 125 million dollars (if we adjusted for inflation, this would equal 243 million dollars today), making it the biggest tour ever and the show that Michael put on was absolutely amazing. Over a year and a half worth of touring, 123 shows, huge sold out crowds and stadiums, and being sponsored by Pepsi, the Bad Tour really is the greatest tour that Michael had the pleasure of taking part of and this likely is what helped Bad climb to nearly 10 million sales in the US and almost 40 million sales worldwide. Any tour that lands an artist in the Guinness Book of World Records is legendary and that word sums up Michael's career period.

The Album Legacy
Sitting as one of the greatest selling albums of all time at 10 million copies (the 3rd album of Michael's to hit diamond domestically) in the US, and nearly 40 million overall worldwide, Bad stands as the 2nd highest selling album in Michael's career and probably the finalization of his title as the biggest star in the ENTIRE world and not just the United States. His outreach in foreign countries and his stadium packed shows outside of the country only strengthened his success worldwide, and when we look back at Bad, I believe this is what we remember the most. The music videos, the songs, the tour,  the Guinness Book records, the worldwide acclaim, and the entire experience. Bad wasn't just an album, it was an entire musical and worldwide experience that we were blessed to have as fans.



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