“And the whole world has to answer right now just to tell you once again, who’s bad!” These lyrics from Michael Jackson’s 7th studio album Bad are more than familiar to fans and general music heads worldwide. Bad hit store shelves 28 years ago on August 31, 1987—the era of bamboo earrings, neon colors, Kangol bucket hats, and graffiti art; Toni Morrison’s groundbreaking novel, Beloved, was released, and Ronald Reagan was president.
Michael Jackson dominated the entertainment industry, as his veteran status in the biz gave him an advantage on how to make people dance and sing along. Think of the time he displayed his dancing machine skills doing the robot on Soul Train, or when he made jaws drop as he moonwalked across the stage during a celebration TV special of Motown 25. He definitely earned the title “King of Pop!” Very few musical artists to date can say they have sold between 30 to 45 million copies worldwide, scored five Billboard Hot 100 number one singles, and released a music video for all but one track from one album, but Michael Jackson did exactly that with Bad.
Here are a few reasons this album is one of best musical creations of all time.
From the videos to the album’s musical style, Bad has a timeless rhythm that flows from track to track. This album is also definitely full of trademarks and iconic imagery, like the album cover where MJ sports a black leather jacket with silver zippers and buckles. The “Bad” video was directed by Martin Scorsese and featured some killer choreography, a young Wesley Snipes, and a classic backdrop of a gritty subway station. This album also showcased Michael’s range as a solo star, as all 10 tracks plus a bonus track offered a different flavor of sensuality. Songs like “The Way You Make Me Feel,” “Liberian Girl,” and “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” are indeed “Bad.” And who could forget the timeless track “Man in the Mirror,” where he sings about ending hunger in the world and making a difference?
Produced my mega-producer and legend Quincy Jones, “Smooth Criminal” was another hit that shattered the music charts because of its sound and impressive movie style video. The Bad album was the third partnership between Jones and Jackson as they also worked together on 1979’s Off the Wall and 1983’s epic production, Thriller. Jackson had originally imagined a western-themed video for “Smooth Criminal,” but then favored more the gangster style from the 1930s. “Annie, are you ok?” is the question that is still unanswered by Annie herself, but according to the song lyrics she was “struck down.” One can’t help but still feel the groove when that last bang hits at the end of the chorus and MJ says with a velvety voice, “Smooth Criminal!”
Guts and Glory
What worked so brilliantly upon the release of the Bad album was Michael’s ability to grow from his previous albums and ties to the very popular Jackson 5 group with his brothers. It seemed that he wanted to step up his ability as an artist and transform his image, showing that he was a born and bred talent unlike anyone else. How many people out there can say they’ve made grown folks pass out just at the sight of them and a certain “He-he,”or the way fans became overwhelmed with emotion during sold-out concerts and had to be carried out on an ambulance stretcher? No one has done it since. Michael Jackson had the guts to give one of a kind performances and received glory ten times over.
Bad, just like the majority of Michael’s albums, continues to sell tremendously. It doesn’t matter that 28 years have gone by since Bad hit the shelves; the sounds are just as fresh, hip and cool. Michael Jackson would’ve turned 57 years old on August 29th, and the music world continues to reel from his untimely death in 2009. Thankfully, his music is forever, and he will always be the King of Pop.
Elishia Peterson is a blossoming freelance journalist based in Philadelphia. Her work has been featured on publications including Looklab, Crème Magazine, Cred, and Examiner covering budget fashion stories. In May 2013 she earned her Masters degree in Writing Studies which has pushed her to strive to be creative in her craft. She recently published a chapbook titled, “Black Roses: Five Women and Their Mental Breakthrough,” a collection of poetry. Follow her latest blog “Labels, Love, and Living” here.