The 1980s was certainly one of music’s most iconic eras. Those who lived in that decade would easily recall how the legendary pop singer Michael Jackson ruled music; he broke the record for the highest selling album of all time with Thriller in 1982, one of many successes to follow the eccentric superstar. For the album’s follow-up Jackson set his goal to sell 100 million copies to smash his title; this album of course was Bad (1987).
Bad didn’t move as many units as its predecessor but still left just as much of a mark on Jackson’s career. It became the first album to spawn five Billboard Hot 100 number ones; I Just Can’t Stop Loving You, Bad, The Way You Make Me Feel, Man In The Mirror, and Dirty Diana. Jackson composed nine out of eleven tracks on the album and was credited as co-producer for its entirety; from here on he would explore a huge range of creative freedom on his future releases. The release of Bad also marked his third and final project with producer Quincy Jones who had also worked on Off The Wall (1979) and Thriller.
There were moments where it could be said that Bad roughly followed Thriller‘s formula. The first single was the ballad I Just Can’t Stop Loving You with Siedah Garrett; similarly to Thriller‘s first single being the cheesy pop ballad The Girl Is Mine featuring Paul McCartney. The edgy rock number Dirty Diana really amped up Bad‘s sound and became an instant album favourite; Beat It was the rock track on Thriller. There are probably other examples of similarities between the albums; Jackson’s theory may have been to not fix what hadn’t been broken, and in a way it still worked.
As demonstrated over the years Michael’s musical abilities were extremely versatile. He could sing disco, he could belt out a rock melody, and he mastered RnB; he was seemingly an unstoppable musical force. Bad saw Jackson delve into a more mature and developed sound than ever before; he was able to pour more of his soul into this album and that’s easily reflected in the lyrics and the delivery of each track. From the boastful and confident title-track to the righteous and charitable Man In The Mirror the album had it all.
You can’t dismiss the only two tracks that weren’t released as singles though. The boppy and fun Just Good Friends featured Stevie Wonder and was hands down one of the catchiest tracks on Bad; there was also the adrenaline fuelling Speed Demon which still earned itself an accompanying video clip from Jackson’s movie Moonwalker. Which brings up the next awesome thing about this album, its short films.
Jackson was already renowned for his video clips and a small handful of Bad‘s were made and derived from his movie Moonwalker. One of his most famous was the Smooth Criminal video where he performs his infamous ‘lean’; the clip for the paranoia-inspired Leave Me Alone earned a Grammy award in 1990 for the ‘Best Short Form Video’. An honourable mention should also go out to the Liberian Girl video which featured an array of celebrity cameos (including Whoopi Goldberg, John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John and Paula Abdul).
Whether you’ve heard the album over a thousand times, or you’re new to Michael Jackson’s music, you can still hear why Bad was the singer’s second best selling album. As mentioned before it was this album where Jackson’s creative freedom took the reigns; his lyrics were becoming much stronger and his melodies more empowering and inspiring; his choreography and short films also helped make the album become a visual experience. Bad will always be a fan favourite and one of Michael Jackson’s most influential and ear-tantalising albums released over his extraordinary career.