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Old 05-10-2011, 10:53 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Michael Jackson - Bad


Michael Jackson
Bad
Epic 1987




Key Tracks: 'The The Way You Make Me Feel', 'Dirty Diana', 'Smooth Criminal', 'Speed Demon', 'Man In The Mirror'.

So just before Jacko’s music and personal life become real bad, he released this beast. The older, wiser, paler Michael Jackson was now far removed from the Jackson 5’s boy band Motown and the black soul pop of the great Off The Wall and mega selling Thriller. Producer Quincy Jones wanted a ‘tougher’ image for scraggly ol’ wax nose, and a sound to accompany it, which meant abandoning the suppleness of good disco/soul musicians for the cold mechanics of state of the art studio tomfoolery. The thing that strikes me about this record is the production and how awful it is, or at least, should be. You see there’s something about the 1980’s desire for the ultimate in digital slickness and precision that makes this album compelling and oddly timeless. Title track ‘Bad’ begins our journey through this robotic funk – metallic white noise neverland. ‘Bad’ was originally conceived as a collaboration with Prince, which would have been awesome. I mean, imagine the filthy minded purple dandy taunting Jacko, “Your butt is mine, gonna tell ya right. Just show your face in broad daylight”. The stuff pop dreams are made of! And the true King Of Pop, then at his peak, telling the world how things are really goin’ down in the streetz. Alas it was not to be, instead the inevitable clash of egos. We’re left with this over average number which at least gave us the classic “Jomoo!” (or “come on”) to mock. ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ is synthesized pop reggae and the warmest, laziest summer breeze complete with gleeful harmonies, saucy trumpets and sax and the moment at 2:15 when Jackson goes “a- acha -acha. Acha- ooh!”, (helpfully noted in the Cd lyric book) followed by an electric drumkit tumbling down the stairs, and the most synthetic of synths nagging away over the song. His cries of “Ain’t nobody’s business but mine and my baby’s” are heartfelt and lovely and a stark contrast to my thoughts on ‘Dirty Diana’ and Jackson in general.

The bassline to ‘Speed Demon’ sounds like some dark jungle dub shit or sometin’. For it’s chorus an odd robotic slap bass riff speeds things up as Jackson puts his foot down to some nice speedfreak imagery (“got a fire in my pocket, I just lit a rocket”). Then the track reaches full momentum with some funk guitar chords and the sound of a speeding bike that closely resembles a drill gnashing at your speakers, all undercut with a crazed Jackson egging it on (“Go! Go!”), before an explosion of saxophone fireworks and electric glitches and gloops spin him off road. This ode to life in the fast lane is a nice relief from the insipid and inoffensive Jacko of ‘I just Can’t Stop Loving You’, ‘Just Good friend’ etc. and happens to contain my favourite moment of the album: at 3:05 that same slightly menacing bassline bubbles under, and a celebratory trumpet interlocks with the most beautiful and haunting of organ harmonies, a harmony that seems to weep all over the record as well as handily slow those demons right down to a halt. I get an image of Jackson stumbling from the debris, looking back at the wreckage one last time, ready to leave it behind for good. Bad was the very first album that I heard as a child, and it’s this moment of ingenious and sonic clarity that triggers the half memories of me, mimicking Jackson’s moves in my front room, doing a good impression of him until it got to the ‘lean’, and being in awe of this superstar. It’s all there in that organ. The ghost in the machine.

According to producer Quincy Jones, Jackson had thirty-three songs written for this record before the agonising task of cutting it to eleven. With more creative input here from the singer than in his previous albums, we get insightful snippets of insecurity (Bad), misogyny (‘Dirty Diana’) and rampant paranoia (‘Leave Me Alone’). Jackson once again proves that his best material is self penned, though there’s one notable exception; ‘Man in The Mirror’ may seem a touch cheesy thanks to its unnecessary key change, but its message that you can’t bring positive change to the world and those around you until you take a look at yourself and your own faults is, like deep, man. Scoff all you want, but the shiny crystal synths, the “na na na na”s and Jacko’s impassioned preaching, especially towards the end (“You’ve got to start with yourself brother!”) pack a powerful punch. And ‘Man In The Mirror’ is not even one of the best tracks!

Another standout is ‘Dirty Diana’. From the metallic thud of the sinister intro to the guitar spaz attack in the fade out – this is a dark masterpiece. In the verses, the oscillating, chugging guitar riff melds into the crisp and militant high hats, and Wacko sings his tale of fame hungry groupies. We’ll never know how Jackson really feels about women, or indeed, if he is even attracted to adult females (okay I’ll behave. No more of that speak). The weird ‘relationship’ with Elvis’s daughter is nothing to go by. All I can say is that we have this. And on ‘Dirty Diana’ he sounds terrified. The way his voice raises as he sings “ dirty DiANA!” in the chorus, sounds like a primal scream from a horrified soul. The words in the bridge, (“Hey baby, do what you want, I’ll be your night lovin’ thing. I’ll be the freak you can taunt and I don’t care what you say, I want to go to far . . .if you make me a star”), are sung with a disdain and contempt that can’t be faked. On the final verse there’s the faint sound of Jackson crying. And then there’s the astounding outro, where he’s foaming at the mouth, pleading “come on!” as a different vocal take of a frightened Jackson cries something incomprehensible. All the while, Steve Stevens startling guitar solo attempts to drown out these voices, swallow them up, shred them into tiny pieces and spit them out into the baying crowd. It’s what I imagine insanity would sound like. I don’t know what this says to me about Michael Jackson. But I do know that “Dirty Diana” is a brilliant piece of art.

Throughout his career Jackson has showed a knack for instinctual interpretation of rhythm with his yelps and percussive vocal tics. Listen closely to the chorus of ‘Dirty Diana’ for his “uh” just before the snare hit, or the various “ahs” on ‘Bad’, or just about anything on Off The Wall. It’s a neat kind of vocalised funk which is put to full use on ‘Smooth Criminal’. Although the naff, processed snare drum conspires against it, this is a stunning rhythm track, with Jackson’s vocals perfectly in sync with the bass in the verses and his angry “arghh” crashing in time to the cymbals for the chorus. Then there’s the “Annie are you okay?” line which doubles up for the final verse and deliciously dances with the offbeat bass riff and tabla for hypnotic effect. There’s also the funky muted piano bass, the sound of someone being whipped – electronically, more sax, and a delightfully camp chorus. Like all the best songs on Bad the production is a product of its time. Yet it contains a weirdness that you wouldn’t want to change.

I won’t speak much about the other tracks on this L.P as, frankly, they’re not worth talking about, except that the quirky keyboards of ‘Another Part Of Me’ remind me of Sonic The Hedgehog and the Stevie Wonder duet ‘Just Good Friends’ is underwhelming, and the rejected track, ‘Fly Away’ would’ve been a nice replacement.
It was all downhill from here of course, and Jackson was already starting to resemble a white woman more then a black man. He would begin to stumble, and accusations and court cases would damage and suffocate his career. But it’s the 80’s Jackson I like to remember, magical and mystical, a wizard bringing joy and dance. Bad is his last relevant release and the album that bares the most fingerprints of this rare, unique talent. (7.5/10)







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Old 05-11-2011, 03:07 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Badlittlekitten View Post
abandoning the suppleness of good disco/soul musicians
I think I prefer this earlier sound with him.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Badlittlekitten View Post
The thing that strikes me about this record is the production and how awful it is
And maybe much of it is.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Badlittlekitten View Post
You see there’s something about the 1980’s desire for the ultimate in digital slickness and precision
I think that is more from an American perspective, which could have a more hard edged slickness. While there is obviously some good music from there in the 80s I might actually prefer more from outside America some of which can be supple, a bit more cutting sometimes, soulful even in a way and perhaps more variety too. Also I think the 90s had a big fondness for slickness in mainstream pop, and even the 2000s. Though I do think there is more to pop than just the most mainstream stuff and people define it too narrowly nowadays (I don't think they did before the 90s).

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The stuff pop dreams are made of! And the true King Of Pop, then at his peak, telling the world how things are really goin’ down in the streetz.
I think it's arguable whether he is the King of Pop, that term was invented later in the early 90s by a record company anyway.

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Bad was the very first album that I heard as a child, and it’s this moment of ingenious and sonic clarity that triggers the half memories of me, mimicking Jackson’s moves in my front room, doing a good impression of him until it got to the ‘lean’, and being in awe of this superstar.
It's definitely got some nostalgia for you then, I don't have that with it.

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Throughout his career Jackson has showed a knack for instinctual interpretation of rhythm with his yelps and percussive vocal tics.
From what I remember Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' might be the best example of that.

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the album that bares the most fingerprints of this rare, unique talent.
I like Thriller more I think.
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Old 05-11-2011, 04:05 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Thanks for the comments. For clarity, it was Prince I was referring to as the true king of pop. Also Bad is not my favourite Jacko album (that'll be Of The Wall), but I think it contains more of his personal touch.
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Old 05-11-2011, 04:39 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Ah ok, I wouldn't say Prince is the King of Pop either myself, from my experience of his music he tends to be more narrowly a kind of funk-pop. I don't think there really has to be a King of a type of music anyway really.
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Old 05-13-2011, 09:37 AM   #5 (permalink)
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love this album , i bought myself the best of the other day
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Old 05-19-2011, 04:07 PM   #6 (permalink)
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For what he was Micheal Jackson was the best.Did he sing as good as the Beatles?No.Was his band as good as Yes or Led Zeppilin?No.What Michael was the best at was a combination of singing,dancing and being a showman.His appeal is undebatable.The king of pop.
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Old 05-19-2011, 04:45 PM   #7 (permalink)
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For what he was Micheal Jackson was the best.Did he sing as good as the Beatles?
Yes, and then some.
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Old 05-20-2011, 10:27 AM   #8 (permalink)
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I agree that Jacko is a better vocalist than any of the Beatles and his music is certainly better than Yes, but the one thing that lets ol' wax nose down is his lack of productivity in his heyday. He released two albums in the 80's. Compare that to Prince's ten or the Beatle's eleven (in 60s). Dude was talented but one lazy mofo.
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Old 05-20-2011, 11:31 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Lazy? The dude pretty much worked his entire life on his music. He toured extensively in the 80s, too. But yes, I definitely would have liked it if there was more material from his peak years.
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Old 05-22-2011, 12:25 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Whatever. Those 2 albums in the 80's were great. Is it a matter of being lazy or is it a matter of taking time into something and not just rushing it. He struck me as somebody who put himself deep into his art and took a lot of time to make sure it was the best it could be, not just a rushed POS. That to me is not being lazy, that is being ambitious and making sure to put all into it.

at least the 80's saw "Thriller", which is easily his best album.
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