Friday, August 19, 2011
Essential Albums of the '80s: Michael Jackson - Bad (1987)
Michael Jackson’s 1982 album Thriller is hands-down the biggest pop album of all time. How do you follow that? You can’t, even if you’re a studio perfectionist like Jackson it’s going to fall short. But nonetheless, Bad doesn’t live up to its name, even if it doesn't live up to Thriller. In fact, it can claim a chart feat Thriller cant, which, until this week, was that it was the sole album ever released that scored five Billboard Hot 100 #1 hits. The dance pop on Bad has a harder edge than Thriller and if those songs fall short, it’s only by a hair. The pulsing keyboards of the title track, the rolling melody of “The Way You Make Me Feel” and the dark sheen of “Smooth Criminal” make those songs almost in league with “Thriller” or “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin.’” And the ballads are actually better than those on Thriller, particularly the album’s first single and Siedah Garrett duet, “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You,” and the classic “Man in the Mirror,” which was the album’s biggest hit and the best of Jackson’s “change the world” songs. However, the obligatory rocker track, the paranoid “Dirty Diana,” doesn’t come close to bliss of “Beat It” (it’s amazing it was the album’s fifth #1 hit). The album hits its lowest points on the weird racing car-themed “Speed Demon” and, surprisingly, the Stevie Wonder duet “Just Good Friends.” In Britain, those are the only two tracks that weren’t released as singles. In addition to the seven tracks released in the US, Brits also got bonus track “Leave Me Alone” and breezy “Liberian Girl,” whose video featured, well, everybody. Best: Man in the Mirror, Bad, The Way You Make Me Feel, I Just Can’t Stop Loving You, Smooth Criminal.