Michael Jackson – Bad
Record Label: Epic Records
Release Date: August 31 1987
Follow-up records can be a daunting thing for an artist or band, especially one who released the best selling record in the entire world. I’m speaking about the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, who released sixth solo record Thriller in 1982 to rave reviews, and ultimately revolutionized pop music and music videos with the title track’s music video. People were patiently waiting for the King of Pop’s follow-up record. If you’re an artist who releases a wonderful record, it only makes sense that people would want to hear more.
Well, that came in the form of 1987’s Bad, which is a complete misnomer, because the record itself is anything but. It’s hard to top great records, and while Bad doesn’t truly top the masterpiece that is Thriller, it comes pretty darn close.
By that point in his career, Michael was already the King of Pop, and Thriller was the record that planted him on his throne. Bad is the record that let people now that he wasn’t going anywhere, and that’s evident with the opening track, which doubles as the title track. I feel as though that song (and the whole record) is a way of saying how he’s never leaving his throne as the King of Pop, and he’s challenging anyone to try to take that spot from him. This song really serves as a great introductory track to the record, and if there’s one Michael knows, it’s how to suck in the listener.
In other words, it sets up the record nicely, which is fortunate, because the rest of the record doesn’t disappoint. That’s not to say that there aren’t any “filler” tracks, and I have mixed feelings on filler tracks. “Filler” tracks are songs that aren’t as great as other songs on the record, but only exist to make the record longer, or to even make it a “full length” record. These songs range in quality, but typically are mediocre or awful. In the case of Michael Jackson, his “filler” tracks aren’t that bad. That’s why I have mixed feelings on them, especially his. Thriller had a couple of filler tracks, and while they weren’t my favorites, I could still listen to them and enjoy them. This album has the same kind of songs, but the tracks I don’t really like as much are much more noticeable.
The first three tracks on this album are absolutely fantastic. After the title track, the record hits with a one-two punch in the form of second and third tracks “The Way You Make Me Feel” and “Speed Demon.” The former is a slower R&B track, and it’s ultimately one of my favorite tracks on the record. It’s rather cheesy, but it was done in an interesting way. I’ve heard a lot of songs like this, but if there’s one person who can pull it off, it’s the King of Pop. The latter track is one of the “funkier” tracks on the record. It’s got a very funky sound to it, and it’s great. There’s a cool little saxophone solo in it, and while the lyrics aren’t anything too interesting, it’s another cool song, in the vein of “Bad.”
Sadly, though, things get a bit derailed with “Liberian Girl.” This is another slow song, and while I like the message of the song, the song itself doesn’t click with me. It’s not a bad song, and let me make this clear, Michael doesn’t have any “bad” songs (pun intended), and when a song isn’t as good, it’s still good. It’s just nowhere near a song like “Thriller,” “Bad,” “Dirty Diana,” and “Beat It,” among others.
Aside from that track, the next few songs are like that for me. Until seventh track “Man In the Mirror,” that is. This is one of Michael’s more popular songs, and for good reason. It’s all about starting with yourself if you want me a change in the world, and it’s a great song. Aside from the title track, it’s my favorite song on the record. The message in this song is still relevant, 26 years later, which is great. It’s a timeless song, just as most of Michael’s discography is.
Towards the last few songs on the record, there are more great songs, coming in the form of ninth and tenth tracks “Dirty Diana” and “Smooth Criminal.” These two songs have been covered plenty of times, and in fact, the first song by Canadian R&B artist the Weeknd I ever heard was a cover of “Dirty Diana,” and immediately fell in love with him. It’s no surprised why these songs have been covered a lot, though, because they’re absolutely amazing. These are two of Michael’s most iconic songs, and again, it’s clear why. “Dirty Diana” has a similar vibe to “Beat It” (from Thriller), in the sense that it’s got some rock elements as well. A really groovy guitar riff runs through the song, but it never overshadows Michael’s voice and his falsetto. The record ends with “Leave Me Alone,” and it’s a bitter song about an ex-lover, but after hearing this record, I can’t just leave Michael alone.
This is a record that deserves plenty of spins, along with all of his other records, to be honest. Michael Jackson is one of those artists I’ve always admired in the sense that he’s not just a pop singer. He takes influence from plenty of genres, such as R&B, blues, jazz, rock, and hip-hop. His albums are certainly nothing like today’s pop music; Michael Jackson is a timeless artist, and Bad is a record that only proved he can still make great music, even after Thriller, but really cemented him as the King of Pop.