|Released August 31, 1987|
|Recorded January 5 – July 9, 1987|
Studio Westlake Recording Studios (Los Angeles, California)
Genre Pop dance funk soul rock hard rock
Bad is the seventh studio album by American singer and songwriter Michael Jackson. It is his third studio album released through Epic Records. It was released on August 31, 1987, nearly five years after Jackson's previous solo studio album, Thriller. As of 2012 Bad itself has sold between 30 and 45 million copies worldwide, was certified Diamond in the United States alone, and has been cited as one of the 30 best-selling albums of all time. The album produced a record five Billboard Hot 100 number one singles, the first of two albums to do so, the second being Katy Perry's 2010 album Teenage Dream.
- Composition and lyrics
- Critical reception
- Bad 25
- Track listing
Bad was recorded during the first half of 1987. The lyrical themes on the record relate to media bias, paranoia, racial profiling, romance, self-improvement and world peace. The album is widely regarded as having cemented Jackson's status as one of the most successful artists of the 1980s, as well as enhancing his solo career and being one of the best musical projects of his career. Nine of the eleven songs on Bad were released as singles; one was a promotional single and another was released outside of the United States and Canada. Five of the singles hit number one in the United States, while a sixth charted within the top ten, and a seventh charted within the top twenty on the Hot 100. Bad peaked at number one in thirteen countries and charted within the top twenty in other territories. The only songs on the album which were not released as a single were "Speed Demon" and "Just Good Friends", the latter being the only song on the album to also not have a music video accompanying it.
Bad saw Jackson exercise even more artistic freedom than he did with his two previous Epic releases (Off the Wall and Thriller). On Bad, Jackson composed nine of the album's eleven tracks and received co-producer credit for the entire album. The album continued Jackson's commercial success in the late 1980s and garnered six Grammy Award nominations, winning two. Aside from commercial success, the album was well received by contemporary critics. Bad was ranked number 43 in the 100 Greatest Albums of All Time of the MTV Generation in 2009 by VH1 and number 202 in Rolling Stone magazine's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. The album marked the final collaboration between Jackson and producer Quincy Jones.
Jackson's previous albums, Off the Wall and Thriller, were critically and commercially successful, eventually selling over 20 million and 65 million units worldwide, respectively. Jackson's aim for Bad was that it would sell 100 million copies.
The first studio album Jackson released in almost five years since the release of Thriller, Bad was the third, and final, musical collaboration between Jackson and Quincy Jones. It was produced by Jones, with co-production credit given to Jackson. Jackson began recording demos for the anticipated follow-up to Thriller a few months after the 1984 Victory Tour with the Jacksons and throughout 1985 while preparing for Disney's 4D film experience Captain EO, which featured an early pre-album extended cut of "Another Part of Me." Album development for Bad began in November 1986 and recording took place between January 5, 1987 and July 9, 1987, at Westlake Audio, where a special wooden stage was built to allow Jackson to dance while recording.
Jackson wrote a reported sixty songs for the new album and recorded thirty, wanting to use them all on a three-disc set. Jones had suggested that the album be cut down to a ten-track single LP. When the album was released on CD, a bonus 11th track, "Leave Me Alone", was included. It was later released as a single. Later reissues of the LP also include this song. Jackson was credited for writing nine out of eleven of the songs on the album. Other writing credits included Terry Britten and Graham Lyle for "Just Good Friends" and Siedah Garrett and Glen Ballard for "Man in the Mirror".
Composition and lyrics
The album's song lyrics relate to romance and paranoia, the latter being a recurring theme in Jackson's albums. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic noted that Bad moved Jackson "deeper into hard rock, deeper into schmaltzy adult contemporary, deeper into hard dance – essentially taking each portion of Thriller to an extreme, while increasing the quotient of immaculate studiocraft."
"Bad" was originally intended as a duet between Jackson and musician Prince. Other artists that were supposed to be featured on the album included Diana Ross, Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin and Barbra Streisand, but none of those collaborations ended up happening. The song was viewed as a rived "Hit the Road, Jack" progression with lyrics that pertain to 'boasting'. "Dirty Diana" was viewed by AllMusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine as "misogynistic" and its lyrics, describing a sexual predator, do not aim for the "darkness" of "Billie Jean", instead sounding equally intrigued by and apprehensive of a sexual challenge, while having the opportunity to accept or resist it. "Leave Me Alone" was described as being a "paranoid anthem". "Man in the Mirror" was seen as Jackson going "a step further" and offering "a straightforward homily of personal commitment", which can be seen in the lyrics, "I'm starting with the man in the mirror/I'm asking him to change his ways/And no message could have been any clearer/If you wanna make the world a better place/Take a look at yourself and then make a change." The lyrics to "Speed Demon" are about driving fast.
"Liberian Girl"'s lyrics were viewed as "glistening" with "gratitude" for the "existence of a loved one". "Smooth Criminal"'s recalled "the popcorn-chomping manner" of "Thriller". The track was thought of as an example of "Jackson's free-form language" that keeps people "aware that we are on the edge of several realities: the film, the dream it inspires, the waking world it illuminates". The music in "I Just Can't Stop Loving You", a duet with Siedah Garrett, consisted mainly of finger snaps and timpani. "Just Good Friends", a duet with Stevie Wonder, was viewed by critics as sounding good at the beginning of the song, ending with a "chin-bobbing cheerfulness". "The Way You Make Me Feel"'s music consisted of blues harmonies. The lyrics of "Another Part of Me" deal with being united, as "we".
Bad was released on August 31, 1987. By September 26, it had debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, remaining there for the next six consecutive weeks. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified Bad ten times platinum for having shipped ten million copies in the United States alone. Though Jackson furthered his stance as a global pop superstar, in the United States Bad failed to match the sales of Thriller, causing some in the media to label the album a "disappointment" in comparison.
Internationally, Bad was commercially successful. In the United Kingdom, the album sold 500,000 copies in its first five days of release, and as of 2008 is certified 13× platinum, for sales of 3.9 million, making it Jackson's second biggest-selling album in the United Kingdom. Bad peaked at number one in 25 countries including Austria, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The album also charted at number thirteen in Mexico and at number twenty two in Portugal. Bad has received various certifications worldwide. It was certified 7× platinum for the shipment of over 700,000 units in Canada by the Canadian Recording Industry Association. In Europe, the 2001 reissue was certified platinum by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) for the sales of one million units. The album was also certified platinum by the IFPI for the shipment of over 20,000 units in Hong Kong. Globally, Bad is Jackson's overall second best-selling album, behind Thriller, with a reported sales between 30 and 45 million units as of 2012.
By the time Bad was released, Thriller had already sold millions, raising expectations for the new album. A commemorative special on Jackson's life, The Magic Returns, was aired on CBS around the time of the release of Bad. At the end of the documentary, the channel debuted the video of the title song from the album, "Bad", which was directed by Martin Scorsese and featured then up-and-coming actor Wesley Snipes. The marketing strategy, mastered by Frank DiLeo among others, also included Jackson producing another mini-movie around the time of the Bad World Tour. That film, Moonwalker, included performances of songs from Bad, including "Speed Demon", "Leave Me Alone", "Man in the Mirror" and "Smooth Criminal", the latter two released as sole videos at the end of the film. Jackson's tour for Bad was a major financial success, grossing $125 million by the conclusion.
The lead single "I Just Can't Stop Loving You" became the first of five of the album's singles to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The song reached number one on September 19, 1987. It also charted on Billboard's R&B/Hip Hop Songs chart and the Adult Contemporary chart, peaking at number one and number two respectively. Internationally, the song also peaked at number one, in three territories, United Kingdom, for two weeks, four weeks in the Netherlands and seven weeks in Norway. The album's second single, "Bad", peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 on October 16, 1987. The song charted within the top ten internationally. "The Way You Make Me Feel" became the album's third consecutive single to peak at number one on Billboard's Hot 100. The song primarily charted within the top ten and twenty internationally. "Man in the Mirror" then charted at number one on Billboard's Hot 100 in March 1988 and charted at number four, eight and ten in New Zealand, Australia and Austria. On July 2, 1988, "Dirty Diana" became the fifth consecutive, and final, single to peak at number one on the Hot 100. It was successful internationally, charting within the top ten in several countries.
"Another Part of Me" charted at number eleven on the Billboard Hot 100, while topping the Billboard R&B/Hip Hop Songs chart. Internationally, it was a mid success compared to its previous singles, peaking at number five, fourteen and thirty two in the Netherlands, New Zealand and France. "Smooth Criminal" became the sixth top ten single on the Billboard Hot 100, and saw similar success internationally, charting within the top ten in five territories. Released outside the United States and Canada, "Leave Me Alone" topped the Irish charts, as well as peaking within the top ten in five other countries. The album's last official single was "Liberian Girl", which did not chart on the Billboard Hot 100, but was generally successful internationally, charting mainly within the top twenty.
The singles success of Bad was extremely successful in the UK, where seven of the singles from the album all reached the UK top ten by 2009 (six initially, until "Man in the Mirror" jumped from position 21 to 2 in 2009), just like Dangerous achieved in 1991–1993. This was a record for any studio album in the UK until Calvin Harris broke this in 2013.
In a contemporary review for The New York Times, Jon Pareles called Bad "a well-made, catchy dance record by an enigmatic pop star". He said while nothing on the record compared to "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'", the music's "concocted synthesizer-driven arrangements" were "clear" and carried "a solid kick". In USA Today, Edna Gundersen called it Jackson's "most polished effort to date," that is "calculated but not sterile." Davitt Sigerson from Rolling Stone wrote that "even without a milestone recording like 'Billie Jean', Bad is still a better record than Thriller." He believed the filler, such as "Speed Demon", "Dirty Diana" and "Liberian Girl", made Bad "richer, sexier and better than Thriller's forgettables."
Richard Harrington of The Washington Post felt that while the album could not live up to post-Thriller expectations, it would be "considerably fairer to compare" Bad with Off the Wall. His overall opinion on Bad was that it was "a very good record" that is "immaculately produced and with some scintillating vocal performances from Jackson". Richard Cromelin of the Los Angeles Times called Bad "a fair-to-strong array of soul and rock blends", commenting that the record was "not bad" and was more "reminiscent of Off the Wall's uniform strength than Thriller's peaks and valleys." Cromelin felt that it would be "disappointing" if this album's "creative level" is where Jackson wants to stay.
Robert Christgau was more critical in The Village Voice. He said its "studio mastery", along with Jackson's "rhythmic and vocal power", had made for "the strongest and most consistent black pop album in years", but lamented its lack of "genius" in the vein of "Beat It" or "Billie Jean" and panned the underlying themes in Jackson's lyrics. "He's against burglary, speeding, and sex ('Dirty Diana' is as misogynistic as any piece of metal suck-my-cock), in favor of harmonic convergence and changing the world by changing the man in the mirror. His ideal African comes from Liberia. And he claims moonwalking makes him a righteous brother. Like shit."
Bad was the recipient of six Grammy Award nominations, winning two. In 1988, it was nominated for Album of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Performance – Male, Best R&B Vocal Performance – Male and Record of the Year for "Man in the Mirror" the following year. Bad won Best Engineered Recording – Non Classical in 1988 and Best Music Video – Short Form for "Leave Me Alone" in 1990. In a retrospective review for AllMusic, Stephen Thomas Erlewine stated that Jackson "approached" Bad much the same way he approached Thriller, which was to "take the basic formula of the predecessor, expand it slightly, and move it outward." While the album "rebounds with songs that prove mechanical can be tolerable if delivered with hooks and panache," it still made Bad feel like an artifact of its time instead a piece of music that transcends it", according to Erlewine.
In the Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Colin Larkin wrote, "In musical terms, Bad certainly broke no fresh ground; appealing though its soft funk confections were, they lacked substance, and represented only a cosmetic advance over his two earlier albums with [Quincy Jones]." Joseph Vogel was more enthusiastic about the record. "On Bad, Jackson's music is largely about creating moods, visceral emotions, and fantastical scenarios....[with] each song work[ing] as a dream capsule, inviting the listener into a vivid new sound, story, space." He called Bad "a compelling, phantasmagorical album, which a handful of critics recognized from the beginning."
Bad made history as being the first album to have five of its singles peak at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 consecutively, as "I Just Can't Stop Loving You", "Bad", "The Way You Make Me Feel", "Man in the Mirror" and "Dirty Diana" all charted at number one on the music chart. To date, only one other album has achieved this milestone: Teenage Dream by Katy Perry, in 2010. The record has still not been surpassed. Jayson Rodriguez of MTV, noted that "following the twin cannons that were Off the Wall and Thriller wouldn't be an easy task for most, but Jackson's follow-up, 1987's Bad, was formidable by all accounts." Rodriguez commented that the album was "wrongfully dismissed by critics because it wasn't the sales blockbuster that Thriller was" and that during the Bad era, Jackson's vocal hiccups and stammered "shamone" would become staples in his music that were "heightening and highlighting the emotion of his lyrics." Rolling Stone commented that "the best way to view" Bad was not as "the sequel to Thriller. In 2009, VH1 said of the album:
Understandably, the expectations for the album were ridiculously high, and grew even higher after Jackson planned duets with the likes of Prince (on the title track) and Whitney Houston (and Aretha Franklin and Barbra Streisand). None of those collaborations ended up happening, but they only increased the hype for the album. Bad was a deeply personal project for Jackson – he wrote nine of the 11 songs – one that saw him gain further independence and debut a harder-edged look and sound.
In 2009, Jim Farber of the Daily News wrote that Bad "streamlined the quirks" of Jackson's two previous albums to "create his most smooth work of pop to date." A writer for The Daily Telegraph commented that while Bad was another worldwide commercial success, the album "inevitably failed to match the success of Thriller despite Jackson's massive and grueling world tour". In 2009, a writer for the Miami Herald reflected back on the anticipation for Bad, describing the album's release as being the "most hotly anticipated album in history". That same year, Stephen M. Silverman, a writer for People magazine, viewed Bad as being "when some slippage" in Jackson's "popularity began to show".
In July 2016, it was announced by the Official Charts Company that Bad was the ninth best-selling album in British history with sales of 4 million units, charting behind Thriller. Bad, along with other studio albums released by Jackson, is among the best-selling albums of all-time. In 2003, the album was ranked number 202 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time". It was also included in the book titled 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. In 2009, VH1 listed Bad at number 43 on their list of "100 Greatest Albums of All Time of the MTV Generation". In 2012, Slant Magazine listed the album at number 48 on its list of "Best Albums of the 1980s".
The album's songs have been covered and parodied by multiple recording artists since its release in the late 1980s. Notable cover versions include Alien Ant Farm's cover of "Smooth Criminal" and Shakaya's cover of "The Way You Make Me Feel". Notable parody versions include "Weird Al" Yankovic, who had previously recorded a parody of Jackson's song "Beat It". Yankovic parodied "Bad", titling his version "Fat" in 1988; the song won a Grammy Award the same year for Best Concept Music Video.
It was announced on May 3, 2012, that the Estate of Michael Jackson and Epic Records would be releasing a 25th anniversary album of Bad. The album was named Bad 25 and was released on September 18, 2012. Since the release of Bad 25, there has been a discontinuation of the special edition of Bad.
Re-issues of Bad feature a number of changes when compared to the original 1987 release:
Personnel as listed in the album's liner notes are: