So Good Being ‘Bad’: Michael Jackson Revisited

by: Diego Martínez

September 22, 2012

During his entire lifetime, the late Michael Jackson was pretty much haunted — by his peers, his expectations, his mindblowing sucess, his multiple controversies. Living was hard for such a talented and complex individual, someone who experienced the touch of glory since he was just eight years old. But if there was one thing that haunted him forever was one simple question: How could anyone, let alone Michael Jackson, top Thriller?

Michael Jackson Bad reissue WILD mag music

Indeed, it was a tough task. Though he was already a superstar all over the world with The Jackson 5 and plenty of albums as a soloist on both Motown and Epic, the 1982 record-breaking blockbuster took the proclaimed “King Of Pop” to another level. He kept real busy to live up to the dizzying heights: touring with his brothers, setting his head on fire while shooting a Pepsi commercial, collaborating with George Lucas on a Disney feature, and of course, co-writing a charity standard called “We Are The World.” Jackson was also caught up in the widespread media coverage that surrounded him for most of this period. Rumours on his skin complexion, plastic surgeries, a slow aging process, the buying of the ‘elephant man’ bones and even his close relationship with a chimp named Bubbles fed the tabloids galore and led to the nickname he came to despise, “Wacko Jacko.”

His feelings of paranoia, mixed with the longing for companion and his desire to use his celebrity and assist the needed, were the basis of his next project with producer and collaborator Quincy Jones, one which helped shape the face of modern pop music forever. Development for that record began as early as November 1986, while the recording took place at Westlake Audio between January 5 and July 9, 1987. He reportedly wrote up to 60 songs for the new album and recorded half, later settling for only 11 as the final tracklist. A special wooden stage was built at the studio to allow Jackson to dance during numbers. It was an extreme move, but then again, everything that made Thriller so special had to be taken to a certain extreme, and at the same time, retaining sofisticated studio work.

In the summer of 1987, the project was completed and thus, the world was ready for a new Michael Jackson. A man with an edgy look, slick dance moves and a growing conscience of the world around him. He was back, and he was Bad. Though its 30-45 million worldwide sales were not up to Thriller‘s staggering standards, Bad (which now sees the light of day on a special edition reissue celebrating 25 years of its original release) was nonetheless a megahit and furthered his place as the undisputed star of the 1980s. Its sucess relied on the fact that every tune was a single in its own right: from the soulful ballads “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You,“ “Liberian Girl” and “Man In The Mirror” to the straightforward pop of “The Way You Make Me Feel” and “Another Part Of Me,“ and not to mention the aggressive ways of  “Dirty Diana,“ “Speed Demon,” “Smooth Criminal,” and of course the title track, there was simply no filler whatsoever. 

Jackson’s fans welcomed Bad with open arms, hitting the top spot in more than a dozen countries including the US and the UK. It spawned a box office smash (1988′s “Moonwalker“) and one of the biggest concert tours in history, performing to an estimated audience of 4.4 million people in 15 countries from late 1987 to early 1989. Many prefer to remember him in this era, in the peak of his sucess, rather than the debacle that reperesented the 1990s and 2000s in terms of record sales, deep legal troubles and health scares. A quarter of a century later after Bad, the hope remains that many others will appreciate his indeleble genius and unparallel legacy in the world of entertainment.

Bad 25th Anniversary Special Edition is available on iTunes.

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