I don’t envy the struggle of musicians. Seriously, always on the road, having to contend with fans that will flip on you if you say the wrong thing, and having to worry about your label screwing you over. But do you know what one of the hardest things has to be? The aftermath of you making a damn near perfect and universally acclaimed album. An album that is regarded as one of the greatest of all time, something that generations listen to, and something that is pleasing to the ears of every critic. What the hell do you do after you do that?
Well, the King of Pop was certainly in that predicament after making Thriller. If you don’t know what Thriller is, stop reading, build a time machine, and go back to your childhood to slap your parents, because Thriller is one of the greatest albums of all time. Seriously, it is an exercise in pop music. However, it did leave two problems… 1. It was one of the best albums ever made, 2. It solidified him as the “white meat babyface” to borrow from wrestling terms. As mentioned before, it is hard to follow up a perfect album, but as for the second point?
This pigeonholed Mike, who people had basically seen grow up from the Jackson 5 days, and it basically made him that cookie-cutter pop icon. However, MJ wanted to show that he had edge to him. He wanted to show that he wasn’t soft. He wanted to show that he was… Bad.
In this album, MJ wants to talk about how he is a bad boy, and you know he’s bad. Like, really, really bad. Bad to the BONE! If I sound like I’m being repetitive, this is basically the crux of the title track. The fact that he is not on any bubblegum stuff anymore, the fact that he’s bad. And to be honest… it does work at some points! With songs like “Just Good Friends” and “The Way You Make Me Feel”, he has a very PG-13 air to him through the album, but it’s a great progression. With that said, he does have some stumbles…
For example, while “Bad” is catchy, it is MAD repetitive, and after a while, the repetition goes from fun to annoying. “Dirty Diana” is MJ’s take on a sex-crazed groupie, and it is honestly one of the best and funniest things ever. Best because the song itself is good, but it is super funny because it comes off as MJ trying to be a player-type, which he just didn’t portray (that COMMME OWWWNNNN at the end of the song absolutely wrecks me, because it is so funny). And then there’s “Speed Demon”… This man… trying to prove how BAD he is… Made a song… About SPEEDING… Bruh.
Of course, there are the standard love songs in “Liberian Girl” and “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”, which are pretty good, but my favorite song, and my favorite MJ song in general? “Smooth Criminal”. Y’all… This man wasn’t human. How do you craft a song that good, with a video that good, with a LEAN that FRESH????? There is no question about how fantastic that song is. Now, you might be thinking, “MT, you are missing some BIG songs…” Don’t worry, I’m just about to discuss them.
In this new section, we discuss the music that had a message, as well as the overall message and feeling of the album. With that stated, let’s address the songs that aren’t “Man In the Mirror.” “Another Part of Me” is a song that basically is saying that we are all connected, and “Leave Me Alone” is technically about a crazy stalker-girl but it can also be about how he wants the press to leave him alone. Now…
“Man In the Mirror” is one of MJ’s most famous songs. It is to the level of Thriller where you just need to know it. He talks about how he’s going to make a change and how change truly starts with yourself. Making the world a better place starts with you becoming a better person. Let’s keep it real: this song is a masterpiece, and I don’t know how to say that it’s perfect over 20 times.
Also, another therapy aspect is that MJ seemed like he wanted to show how “bad” he was. This is a big aspect because it shows how being viewed as only one type of person (basically being typecast) can damage the psyche and make you try to be something you’re not.
FINAL THOUGHTS AND RATING
Well, how was this album as a whole? I’ve picked apart what works and what doesn’t work, and have been pretty harsh on MJ for trying to prove that he was a bad boy. Does this mean I think that the album Bad is… well,bad? Not in the slightest! This album is honestly the best follow-up to Thriller. It tries something new in the concept of being the bad boy type, which can be really good when done right, but it still has some Thriller flavor (“The Way You Make Me Feel” sounds like it could’ve been on Thriller). The title track may be repetitive, it may sound like MJ thinks speeding is living life on the edge, and he may be coming off as disingenuous separating his “goody-two-shoes” image, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t sound beautiful.
“Man In the Mirror”, “Just Good Friends”, “Bad” (yes, I said it was repetitive to a point, but it is still a great pop song), “Smooth Criminal”, and plenty others make this album amazing. With several songs that define pop music and a thematic element that has the ability to work to either make you love the music, or make you laugh at what the King of Pop thinks as “bad”, this is an amazing album that you need to hear.
Photo Creds: Epic Records, Graphic Artists: Troy Lane/Nancy Donald