Michael Jackson - Bad
Jul 22, 2020
68
"Michael Jackson's album was only called 'Bad' because there wasn’t enough room on the sleeve for Pathetic.” - a rude, arrogant, but correct quote by Jackson’s rival Prince upon the release of MJ’s 1987 album ‘Bad’. This is truly the point where MJ had lost it: he was trying way(!) too hard to be edgy with a myriad of beatboxing sounds and “rough” music videos, and as musically perfect as some tracks are, the effortless swagger on ‘Off the Wall’ and to a lesser extent ‘Thriller’ are all but absent on ‘Bad’, never to return before MJ’s passing. The result is an album of a man trying so hard you could feel the need for attention through the music. I’m a Madonna stan, I know when someone wants attention.

I will say that the one exception is “Smooth Criminal”, the only track on ‘Bad’ that successfully merges a pseudo-roughness with a great melody and concept. The song’s bridge features vocals with passion that the cheesy “Man in the Mirror” dreams for, and the concept of the track is still brilliant all these years later. The brilliance of this song increase my thoughts on the album tenfold, and I lament an album where all songs were executed so well.

Obviously, ‘Bad’ was an absolute monster seller and was loved by the critics, so clearly I would have been in the minority had I been around back then. Still, the aforementioned lack of coolness the album has is relevant. By the late 80s, the rise of the much less musically talented Madonna in the culture of America and beyond had taken control. She had millions of young girls dressing like her, and the world had been captivated by her multiple reinventions she undertook before the 90s came around. MJ had lost his title of the world’s most influential musical figure of the 80s as he struggled to stay cool in eyes of the most discerning consumers. ‘Bad’ is MJ’s first attempt at a new, edgier persona to change this pattern, and it backfires. The album is lame.
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