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Bad (Michael Jackson song)

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"I Can't Help It"

Dance-pop funk

January 1987

September 7, 1987 (1987-09-07)

CD single, 7" single, 12" single

4:07 (Album version) 8:22 (Dance extended mix)

"Bad" is a song by an American artist Michael Jackson. "Bad" was released by Epic Records on September 7, 1987, as the second single from Jackson's third major-label and seventh studio album of the same name. The song was written and composed by Jackson and co-produced by Quincy Jones and Jackson. Jackson stated that the song was influenced by a real-life story he had read about.


"Bad" was well received by contemporary music critics, with some critics noting that "Bad" helped Jackson's image become edgier during the Bad-era. The song peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, and remained at the top position of the chart for two weeks, becoming the album's second number one single, and Jackson's eighth number one entry on the chart. Internationally, the song was also commercially successful, charting within the top in eleven countries as well as charting within the top five in the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Norwegian, Switzerland and Swedish charts. The song also peaked at number one on the Netherlands and European charts.

The full version of the music video for "Bad", released in August 1987, and broadcast as a CBS prime time special, was directed entirely by Martin Scorsese and co-starred Wesley Snipes in one of his first appearances prior to being discovered as an actor. The video portrays Michael Jackson and various backup dancers shown performing complex choreography in a subway station. "Bad" has been covered and parodied by many different artists since its release and has become a song used frequently in tributes to Jackson after his death in June 2009.

The song is featured in the 2010 animated film Megamind. It is also featured in the first theatrical trailer for the 2016 animated film The Angry Birds Movie and in the teaser trailer for the 2017 animated film Despicable Me 3.


Jackson plays a teenager named Darryl, who has just completed a term at an expensive private school. He returns to the city and takes the subway back to his neglected neighborhood. Darryl finds his home is empty where he is greeted by his old friends. The leader of the group is Mini Max (an emerging Wesley Snipes). At first, relations are friendly but slightly awkward. Then, the situation begins deteriorate as the gang starts to realize how much Darryl has changed. They especially notice how uncomfortable he has become with their criminal activities. Darryl takes the gang to the subway station (Hoyt–Schermerhorn Streets in Brooklyn) In an attempt to show his friends he is still "bad" by robbing an elderly man. He has a change of heart at the last minute and Mini Max chastises him telling Darryl he's no longer bad. After more disrespect from Mini Max, the video cuts to Darryl and a group of street kids dancing while Jackson sings "Bad". Darryl insists that Max is headed for a fall which is nearly Darryl's undoing. Eventually, Mini Max accepts that and after a final handshake, leaves Darryl in peace. At the end of the video Darryl is left alone watching his gang leave.

Background and inspiration

"Bad" is a song that was written (in 1986) and recorded by Michael Jackson in January 1987 for his seventh studio album of the same name and produced by Quincy Jones (with Jackson serving as co-producer). "Bad" was originally intended to be a duet between Jackson and musician Prince; although the plans were not fruitful. In Jackson's 1988 autobiography Moonwalk, Jackson discussed the concept of "Bad", elaborating that,

"'Bad' is a song about the street. It's about this kid from a bad neighborhood who gets to go away to a private school. He comes back to the old neighborhood when he's on a break from school and the kids from the neighborhood start giving him trouble. He sings, 'I'm bad, you're bad, who's bad, who's the best?' He's saying when you're strong and good, then you're bad."

In a 1988 interview with Ebony and Jet magazines (which was released on Hulu shortly after his death), Jackson said that he had gotten the idea for the song from a true story that he had read about in Time or Newsweek magazine. Jackson stated that the story said that a student that went to school in upstate New York, who was "from the ghetto", had tried to make something of his life and planned to leave all of his friends behind when he returned from Thanksgiving break. He added that the student's friends' jealousy resulted in them killing the student; Jackson stated that the student's death was not included in the music video. The only case that fits these details is that of Edmund Perry. However, Perry was not killed by kids in his neighborhood; he was killed by a plainclothes police officer when Perry and his brother allegedly attacked and badly beat the officer in a mugging attempt.


The song is written in the key of A Minor with a time signature in common time. Jackson's vocal range spans from G3 to C6. The track has a tempo of 114 beats per minute. "Bad" was viewed as a rived "Hit the Road, Jack" progression. Davitt Sigerson, a writer for Rolling Stone magazine, commented on the track's lyrical content while reviewing Bad, "When Jackson declares that 'the whole world has to answer right now,' he is not boasting but making a statement of fact regarding his extraordinary stardom. If anything, he is scorning the self-coronation of lesser funk royals and inviting his fickle public to spurn him if it dare." Sigerson compared the track to material by James Brown, whose "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" is openly referenced by the four chromatic note brass introduction to the song. Lyrically, "Bad" pertains to proving to people that you are tough boasting, with Jackson asking "who's bad?" in a repeating lyric in the song's chorus.

Critical reception

"Bad" was well received by contemporary music critics. Some critics noted that the song helped Jackson's image become more edgy during the Bad-era. Davitt Sigerson, a writer for Rolling Stone magazine, commented that the track" needs no "defense" and he generally praised Jackson's vocal performance in the song. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic listed "Bad", along with two other songs from the album, as being top picks from the album's eleven tracks. In separate review of the song, Erlewine commented that Jackson's vocals "sounded like [he was] the love child of James Brown and Mavis Staples" and added that "musically speaking, in this case, 'Bad' is very good". He also noted that the track's "authority and boasting helped to humanize" Jackson and "changed his image", remarking that it was "fun hearing him talking trash and being his own bigger booster". Jennifer Clay of Yahoo Music noted that while Jackson's new edgier image was a "little hard to swallow", the image worked musically on the album's songs "Bad", "Man in the Mirror", and "Dirty Diana".

Chart performance

"Bad" charted within the top ten, at number eight, on the Billboard Hot 100 on October 10, 1987 and peaked at number one on October 24, 1987. "Bad" stayed at the top position for two consecutive weeks. "Bad" was Jackson's Bad album's second number one single on the Billboard Hot 100, and Jackson's eighth number one entry on the chart. The track also charted on the Billboard Hot R&B Singles and Billboard Hot Dance Club Play at number one. "Bad" was commercially successful internationally, generally charting within the top ten, as well as reaching the top position, on music charts. "Bad" debuted at number five on the United Kingdom charts on September 26, 1987. The following week, the song charted at its peak position of number three, where it remained for two consecutive weeks. "Bad" remained within the chart's top ten positions for four weeks, and charted within the top 100 for a total of eleven weeks in 1987. "Bad" peaked at number five on Canadian music charts on November 7, 1987. "Bad" peaked at number four in Sweden on October 14, 1987. The song spent four weeks within the chart's top ten. On October 3, "Bad" debuted at number nine in France, and after six weeks of charting within the top ten, the song peaked at number four on November 14. "Bad" debuted on New Zealand music charts at number four on October 18, and the following week moved to its peak position of number two. The song then stayed within the top ten for the next five weeks. The track charted within the top fifty positions for fifteen weeks in 1987 and 1988.

The song also charted at number two in Norway in the thirty-ninth week of 1987, and charted within the top ten positions for eight weeks in 1987. The song was also very successful on the Australian music charts, peaking at number four. "Bad" debuted on Austrian charts at number ten on November 1, 1987. The following week the song charted out of the top ten and the next week returned to the top ten at number nine, which was its peak position. The song debuted at number eighty-seven in Dutch on September 9, 1987. The following week, the song moved up to number eleven, which was seventy-three positions higher than its previous week. The song peaked at number one, and remained at the top position for two consecutive weeks. In 2006, Jackson's music re-entered charts following his music being re-issued for his Visionary album. The track entered Spanish charts for the first time on April 4, 2006, and debuted at the top position. "Bad" remained within the top twenty positions for nine consecutive weeks. The song debuted at its peak position at number five in Italy on April 6. After Jackson's death in June 2009, his music re-entered charts again worldwide. In July, the track peaked at number eleven in Italy, number twenty in Spain, number twenty-five in Sweden, number thirty-seven in Denmark and number forty in the United Kingdom.

Music video

The full music video for "Bad" is an 18-minute short film written by novelist and screenwriter Richard Price and directed by Martin Scorsese in a 6-week period during November and December 1986. The video has many references to the 1961 film West Side Story, especially the "Cool" sequence. The soundtrack for the full length video used a different audio track than the album recording. This soundtrack included an instrumental organ solo which was not a part of the album recording.

The video was not commercially released until it was included in the video albums; Video Greatest Hits - HIStory (long version on DVD and short version in VHS), Number Ones (short version), Michael Jackson's Vision (long version) and the Target version DVD of Bad 25 (short version). The full video was introduced in a TV special, Michael Jackson: The Magic Returns, on Primetime, a CBS television show on August 31, 1987.

The full video won awards at various prestigious award ceremonies including Favorite Single (Soul/R&B) at the American Music Awards and Biggest Selling Album by a Male Soloist in the UK from the Guinness Book of World Records.

After Jackson's death in June 2009, Letitia James, of the New York City Council, began trying to convince the agency to rename or co-name the Hoyt–Schermerhorn Streets station or to hang a plaque at the station in Jackson's honor. However, her request was denied by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in September 2009. James commented, "Having Michael Jackson visit and moonwalk at this station was a huge deal not only for Brooklyn, but all of New York in the '80s [...] And renaming this station in his honor would put it on the map and help ensure that people don't forget." A source from the MTA commented that no subway stations in the MTA system are named or co-named after individuals, mostly because it could confuse riders. The MTA also declined to put a plaque in the station, due to MTA guidelines banning such a thing.


The choreographer Gregg Burge confirmed the influence, although they intended to do a more contemporary version of it. Assistant choreographer Jeffrey Daniel commented, "It's like a train coming across the screen [...] and that's the effect I was looking for and it worked".

The video's choreographers Jeffrey Daniel and Gregg Burge were influenced by West Side Story when designing the dance routines but wanted to keep the scene more contemporary and incorporated the "moonwalk" into the movements. The music video received a nomination for choreography at the 1988 MTV Video Music Awards Ceremony. The video for "Bad" and Michael Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel" video were both nominated for Best Choreography. However, Janet Jackson's video "The Pleasure Principle". won the award.

Live performances

"Bad" was performed during Jackson's Bad world tour concert series from 1987 to 1989, in both the first and second leg, as the final song in the first leg and sixteenth song in the second leg in the setlist. The song was also included on the first leg only of Jackson's Dangerous World Tour. A small snippet of the song was sung during his performance of They Don't Care About Us during his This Is It concerts which never occurred due to his death. It was rumored that Jackson had plans to perform the song during certain dates of the This Is It tour. A live version of the song is available on the DVD Live at Wembley July 16, 1988.

Cover versions

  • "Weird Al" Yankovic recorded a parody of the song, titled "Fat", for his 1988 album Even Worse.
  • Lenny Henry made a parody video of "Bad", called "Mad", the parody was first shown in The Lenny Henry Show.
  • Ray Stevens performed a country/bluegrass version on his album I Never Made a Record I Didn't Like.
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks covered the song for their 1988 album The Chipmunks and The Chipettes: Born to Rock.
  • After Jackson's death in June 2009, "Bad" was performed (usually in a medley with other of Jackson's songs) as a tribute to Jackson. Shaun Micallef created his version in the 2010 New Year's Special. At the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards tribute to Jackson, dancers performed dance routines from Jackson's music videos while the music to the song was played in the background. The songs that were chosen were "Bad", "Thriller" (1982) and "Smooth Criminal" (1987).
  • In February 2010, the song was parodied by The Fringemunks in "The iPad Song", which criticized the device.
  • American TV series Glee did a Michael Jackson tribute episode in 2012 entitled "Michael", which included an a cappella version of "Bad" featuring the Beelzebubs as part of The Warblers. This cover debuted and peaked at number 80 at Billboard Hot 100, number 48 at Billboard Digital Songs, number 90 at Billboard Canadian Hot 100, and number 29 at Billboard Adult Pop Songs chart at the week of February 18, 2012.
  • A version of this song was played on The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! in an episode called "King Mario of Cramlot".
  • Tohru Nakabayashi rearranged the song for the arcade version of Michael Jackson's Moonwalker.
  • Takayuki Nakamura rearranged the song for the Sega Genesis and Sega Master System versions of the game.
  • Official versions

  • Album version – 4:06
  • 7" single mix (new album version) – 4:06
  • Dance extended mix includes "false fade" – 8:23
  • Dance remix radio edit – 4:56
  • Dub version – 4:06
  • A cappella – 3:49
  • Afrojack Club Mix – 7:36
  • Afrojack remix featuring Pitbull DJ Buddha Edit – 4:31
  • "Remember the Time"/"Bad" (Immortal version) – 4:39
  • 2012 reissue

    "Bad was remixed for inclusion in the Bad 25 album reissue. A collaboration between Afrojack, DJ Buddha and Pitbull., it was made available as a digital single prior to the album's release, via iTunes and on August 14, 2012.

    Track listing

  • Digital Single
    1. "Bad" (Afrojack Remix) feat. Pitbull [DJ Buddha Edit] - 4:29
  • HMV Exclusive CD Single (HMV Bad 25 pre-order only bonus CD)
    1. "Bad" (Afrojack Remix) feat. Pitbull [The Derry Mix] - 3:54

    Chart performance

    Retitled "Bad 2012", it appeared on several countries' music charts, including debuting at number 52 on the Billboard Japan Hot 100 chart, in the week of September 15, 2012 and peaking at number 6 several weeks later. It also appeared on the US Billboard Dance/Electronic Digital Songs Chart at number 45 for one week on September 1, 2012. On the week of September 29, 2012, it debuted on Hot Dance Club Songs chart at Number 42, and peaked at Number 18.

    Critical reception

    This remix received overwhelmingly negative reviews from music critics. Randall Roberts, Los Angeles Times Pop Music Critic, said the new remixes on Bad 25 were "terrible... and are an insult to MJ's memory not because they rework his music, but because they do it so ungracefully." Evan Sawdey from PopMatters said "Afrojack has two remixes of "Bad" here, obviously trying to make the song sound like it belongs on modern-day radio (one of them, with two guest verses from Pitbull, is just outright trash)..." MisterCharlie from also gave it an extremely negative review. The Guardian's review said it was "a clubbed-up remix featuring the world's worst rapper".


    Bad (Michael Jackson song) Wikipedia

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