The answer is Michael Jackson!
This week we remember Michael Jackson on August 29, on what would have been the pop star’s 59th birthday.
Let’s rewind the clock to three decades earlier. On August 31, 1987, Michael Jackson took on what seemed impossible; to outdo his classic 1982 album Thriller. 30 years later, the Bad album is still just as immortal as Jackson’s musical legacy.
The album sold an estimated 45 million copies worldwide, and scored not one, but five Billboard Hot 100 number one singles. Bad landed him six Grammy nominations, two Grammy Awards, the first ever Video Vanguard Award at the MTV VMAs, and is cited as one of the best-selling albums of all time. Earlier this year, the album was certified Diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America.
We all know that Michael Jackson’s Thriller album shattered records and is still reigning supreme. It’s the album that pushed Jackson into the music stratosphere by becoming the all time biggest selling album; (the receipts: an estimated 65 million copies worldwide, 30 million in the U.S.). However, the follow up to Thriller showed MJ in a different light; a light that shined bright on his inner ultra-blackness and his uncanny ability to let you know he definitely isn’t the one to be messed with, and love can conquer all. In his 1988 autobiography Moonwalk, Jackson talked about the difficulty of topping Thriller because of the public’s expectations. “You can always say, ‘Aw forget Thriller,’ but no one ever will.” While we may not have forgotten Thriller, one can’t help but think that Jackson’s follow up effort hinted at foreshadowing of what was to come. The Bad album is still one that speaks volumes as it addresses themes of racial profiling, media bias, paranoia, romance, self- improvement, invoking change, and world peace. With the very same things that are in the spotlight with today’s racial tensions mounting across the country, perhaps Jackson knew this album would be one that we could still reference in times of turmoil.
While the album didn’t surpass Jackson’s expectations or break Thriller’s records; instead it put Jackson on display in a way that fans welcomed and appreciated. It exposed Jackson as a talented genius who grew as a songwriter, producer, and vocalist. Out of the 11 song track list, Jackson penned 9 of the songs. Michael served as co-producer for the album along with Quincy Jones. The album yielded some amazing movie quality music videos that he referred to as short films.
Let’s stroll down memory lane and celebrate the greatness on what some call one of his most underrated albums.
In Moonwalk, Michael Jackson describes the song “Bad” as 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.”
“The Way You Make Me Feel” just has a groove that you can’t help but start putting a little bounce in your step when it comes on.
“‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ and ‘Smooth Criminal’ are simply the grooves I was in at the time” explains Michael in Moonwalk. You can’t listen to “Smooth Criminal” without trying his iconic lean move.
“Man in the Mirror” delivers a powerful message that is still very important today. In Moonwalk, Jackson says the song means “if you want to make the world a better place, you have to work on yourself and change first.”
“Liberian Girl” is one of the most slept on jams from this album. It’s a sexy song of appreciation for a loved one.
“Dirty Diana” is a song about a persistent groupie that showcased Jackson’s rock side.
Just like the majority of Michael Jackson’s albums, 30 years later, Bad continues to sell and introduce Jackson to a younger generation as one that helped shape and influence the soundtrack of American music. One thing is for sure, Michael Jackson left behind a legacy of timeless music that is still just as hip and cool as it was when he stepped into the studio to record them. This is why he will always be the King of Pop.