It took almost five years, but Michael Jackson finally released his follow-up to “Thriller”, with his next album, “Bad”. It proved to be another massive commercial success for Jackson, and at one point “Thriller” and “Bad” were the top two selling albums of all time. Working with producer Quincy Jones for the 3rd and last time, most of the songs are written or co-written by Jackson, who spent several years getting this material to where he wanted it to be. “Bad” is rated #194 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
My overall take on this album is that I rate it below certainly “Thriller”, and probably “Off the Wall”, but there are plenty of memorable Jackson songs on this record. The title song is pretty good, but I tend to think of two comic references to this song when I hear it. One, the music video “Fat” by Weird Al Yankovic may be his greatest parody of all time, and it is one that was not only widely celebrated in the Rat Mansion, but in recent times between my son and I.
“The Way You Make Me Feel” is probably my favorite song on this album, it is just a really catchy and well-written pop song. I’m not quite sure what to make of “Speed Demon” and “Liberian Girl”, and it is filler tracks like these that lower the overall quality of the record in relation to “Thriller”. I’m also not a big fan of “Just Good Friends”, a collaboration with Stevie Wonder. Two amazing talents, but the song is not that interesting at all.
“Man in the Mirror” is a very personal song for Jackson, even though he did not write it. I often wondered what he liked and didn’t like about himself, and I won’t even begin to think about many of the allegations that have been made about him over the years. All of that said, we all owe it to ourselves to keep working on our own selves before we take on others, and that message has always resonated with me.
“Dirty Diana” is this album’s rocker like “Beat It”, and this time he brought in Steve Stevens from Billy Idol’s band to do the guitar solo. Somehow his enunciation on this song has always annoyed me a little, and the rest of the song is ok, but not great.
I love the beat and overall track that is “Smooth Criminal”, it is the other really good song on this album. My one pet peeve is that he asks Annie if she is OK just a few too many times… can we have a bit more variety in the lyrics, please? The album now ends with “Leave Me Alone”, which was not on the original release. This song and music video publicly presented the growing paranoia, fear, resentment and isolation that we enveloping Michael at this time. I can certainly never relate to his life experience, just as I think he would have been equally puzzled by ours.
Like I said, there are some good songs here, and it was a massive success, but between the inconsistencies and the emerging odd behavior from Michael that was becoming harder and harder to ignore, I feel like this album was a sad signal of further troubles and struggles to come, even as it topped the charts.