When Bad became personal

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Bad is a fascinating album because it is where the changes in Michael Jackson become apparent. It’s funny because the lighter his skin complexion became, the darker and more complicated his music turned.  This is the album where we find out more about Michael – this is where he becomes more authentic.

I want to get the bad things out of the way so I can concentrate on the good stuff. This album has aged very badly – very very badly. From the opening track until the very last you can tell this was an album of the 1980s – you can’t say this about Off the Wall and most of Thriller. Although the melodies and rhythms are dope as hell on this album, they are almost (!!!) spoilt by the fact that they are constructed with synthetic instruments.  The horns, which were always a strong-suit for a Quincy production just sound off, and wrong and well… fake.

The best examples of everything that is wrong with Bad can be heard on Speed Demon. You probably couldn’t find many tracks funkier than this one unless you looked into James Brown’s catalogue but it is damn near spoilt by the drum machines, the synth keys and the fake horns.

But despite how dated the album sounds, it is simply difficult to call Bad anything other than a very good album – actually, a pretty fantastic album – exceptional even. Importantly, Michael writes every single song on this album other than Just Good Friends and Man in the Mirror. As much as I love Rod Temperton contributions to Off the Wall and Thriller, this album is better because of Michael’s writing. Rod would have never written a song like The way you make me feel.

When people tell me that they think Michael Jackson was an asexual being, I point them to The way you make me feel – I point them to the video and more specifically the dance break which he helped choreographed. This song, the second on the album is all the proof you need that he is breaking from the Disney-like image of his past.

The way you make me feel is a bedroom jam, make no bones about it. The song could be playing while you’re doing your business with your lover and it wouldn’t feel out of place – trust me, I’m speaking from experience. I find the fact that he got away with this track, in Ronald Reagan’s American no less, to be hilarious – especially because the album sold around 40m copies.

And this harder more sexual Michael is everywhere on this album – he is on I just can’t stop loving you, Liberian Girl and Dirty Diana. Speaking of the latter, if The way you make me feel is a love making song, then Dirty Diana is a f**k track – pure and simple. If you dig deeper, Dirty Diana is actually a very troubling song – much the same as Billie Jean was. It’s funny that people talk more about who that track may have been about but they actually don’t discuss what made Michael write it and how it affected his state of mind. I think Dirty Diana is probably one of Michael most personal and damn right frightening song.

Leave me alone is also one of those tracks that just sends a chill down my spine and I think it is one of the best songs Michael has ever written. In hindsight, I also think it’s a very sad song – it should have rang bells for the people that cared for the man and should have suggested that something was seriously wrong.

With the negatives that I mentioned at the top of this article aside, I am still in love with this album after so many years. If you haven’t watched Spike Lee’s documentary on this album, try and dig it out, it’s really worth the watch. There is this heart-breaking story about how Michael and Prince were set for a duet on the song Bad, but the Purple One refused because of the line: “Your but is mine.” Completely heart-breaking.

 

 

 

 

 

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