Michael Jackson - Bad
A behemoth like no other. The grandest fusing of fearless ambition and indefatigable ego. For a couple of years at least, a brand new definition of popular music. It’s almost hard to believe that after sales blew fuses in cash tills around the globe, Bad is almost forgotten.
Distracted by the Michael Jackson who emerged after its release, the popular view is coloured not so much by fondness and admiration for this slab of alien funk-pop, but more by the Michael Jackson fashioned by the press and the grasping media machine. The Jackson who reached agreement with lawyers when young boys accused him of molestation. The Jackson who married for convenience and then publicly paraded his children in ever more disturbing ways. The Jackson whose self-hatred saw him stop one step short of becoming his own Frankenstein. And the Jackson whose desperately sad demise came just days before he was due to begin a run of London shows everyone knew was way beyond his physical and mental state. Michael Jackson. Jacko. Wacko Jacko. Did he ever even stand a chance? We’re all complicit, surely?
Bad is brilliant, no doubt. Its quarter century anniversary is recognized with an extra disc of (not so rare) rarities - a couple of demos from the time are worth a spin but the remixes stink. It’s always been a few steps behind both Off the Wall and Thriller but its big guns light up the airwaves, still. The bubbling slink of its title track, the unstoppable thrust of ‘Smooth Criminal’ – there’s about three dozen top ten singles in here somewhere. It’s best when it gets reflective (though ‘Man In the Mirror’ is clearly a precursor to the later messiah complex) or echoes Jackson’s soul heritage (‘I Just Can’t Stop Loving You’ – a smooth duet with Siedah Garrett.) Oh, and it’s not like its creator’s psyche needs any more interrogating but see both ‘Liberian Girl’ and ‘Dirty Diana’ for, respectively, rampant idealising of women and fear of sex. (Hey, call me. The doctor’s always in.)
So. You either loved him with the all-enveloping hysteria he triggered during his untouchable commercial peak. Or you admired the loopy excess from a distance. The former was always faintly disturbing – screaming, inconsolable crowds for someone so oddly sexless? The latter, now that he’s no longer with us, remains the smartest, and now the only, option.