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Bad is Michael Jackson's 7th studio album which was released by Epic Records on August 31, 1987.

With 35 million copies sold worldwide, "Bad" is one of the best-selling albums of all time. In February 2017, it was certified Diamond by the RIAA; it has also been credited for redefining the sound of pop music and named by several publications as one of the greatest albums of all time.

Album Background[]

Michael Jackson's sixth solo album, "Thriller" was released in 1982; by 1984, it was certified 20x Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for sales of 20 million copies in the United States alone.

Through his record-breaking commercial success and his status as the biggest recording artist in the music industry, Jackson was widely considered to be the most powerful African American in the history of the entertainment industry and only the popularity of Elvis Presley and the Beatles during the 1950s and 1960s, respectively, were considered to be comparable to his.

Additionally, Jackson retained full ownership of his master recordings and acquired publishing rights for the ATV catalog, which most notably included songs by the Beatles.

The four years following the release of "Thriller" were marred by Jackson's rifts with his family & the Jehovah's Witnesses, broken friendships with celebrities along with the pressure of celebrity.

While he was the most publicized figure in popular culture, Jackson became significantly more reclusive in 1985 compared to previous years, which was a strategic move to increase anticipation and mystique surrounding him and his follow up to "Thriller."

Gerri Hirshey of Rolling Stone wrote that "The year 1985 has been a black hole for Jackson watchers, who witnessed the most spectacular disappearing act since Halley's Comet headed for the far side of the Solar System in 1910."

Due to the huge commercial success of "Thriller" and the expectations of its follow up, Jackson aimed to sell 100 million copies with his next album. According to some associates, Jackson was nervous about completing his next album: "He's reminded that everyone is waiting for this record and he goes into a shell. He is frightened."

Jackson wanted to go in a different direction artistically to his previous albums, with his desire for his follow up to "Thriller" to have a harder edge and fiercer sound. According to guitarist Steve Stevens, who featured on Bad, Jackson “kept asking [Stevens] about rock bands” and queried: “Do you [Stevens] know Mötley Crüe?”.

After Jackson had written a handful of the tracks for Jackson's albums, "Off the Wall" and "Thriller", producer Quincy Jones encouraged him to write more for his follow up, Bad. Jones recalled: "All the turmoil [in Jackson's life] was starting to mount up, so I said I thought it was time for him to do a very honest album."

During 1986, reports spread of Jackson's more "chiselled face", including a fairer skin complexion, a perkier nose, and a cleft in his chin. Reports also included his alleged eccentric behavior.

In 1987, Spin wrote that "in record time, [Jackson] has gone from being one of the most admired of celebrities to one of the most absurd. And the pressure to restore himself in the public eye is paralyzing him."

Influenced by punk rock fashion, Jackson new look for the Bad era saw him often wearing black outfits that were decorated with zippers and buckles—similar to his outfit on the "Bad" album cover.

Stevens recalled that when he met Jackson: “I was wearing patent leather, he [Jackson] was wearing penny loafers. I turned him [Jackson] onto the guy who did my clothes.” He also grew out his jheri curl over shoulder-length and began wearing eye liner.

Production[]

"Bad" was Jackson's final collaboration with co-producer Quincy Jones, who had produced "Off the Wall" and "Thriller." He began recording demos for the anticipated follow-up to "Thriller" in December 1982 while recording the album, "Victory" with the Jacksons.

Work was disrupted in July 1984 when Jackson embarked on the Victory Tour with his brothers, but it resumed after the tour ended & after recording "We Are the World." The recording officially began in January 1985; however, in early 1985, work was disrupted again so that Jackson could prepare for Disney's 4D film experience, "Captain EO" which featured an early pre-album extended cut of "Another Part of Me."

Work in the studio resumed in August of that year and continued until November 1986, when Jackson filmed the "Bad" music video. Recording resumed in January 1987 and the album was completed in July.

Jackson spent much of 1985 to 1987 out of the public eye, writing and recording at his home studio in Encino, Los Angeles, with a group of musicians and engineers including Bill Bottrell known as the "B team". The demos were brought to Westlake Studio to be finished by the "A team", with Jones and engineer Bruce Swedien.

Jones said the team would stay up for days on end when they "were on a roll": "They were carrying second engineers out on stretchers. I was smoking 180 cigarettes a day."

Jackson was eager to find innovative sounds and was interested in new musical technology. The team made extensive use of new digital synthesizers, including FM synthesis and the Fairlight CMI and Synclavier PSMT synthesizers. They sometimes combined synthesizers to create new sounds.

Jackson hired Synclavier expert and sound designer Denny Jaeger to create sounds used on "Dirty Diana" and "Smooth Criminal." Drum programming also resulted in a sleeker and a more aggressive, sinister sound on the album while digital guitars were also used.

The album also makes use of a range of instruments, including guitars, organs, drums, bass, trumpets, percussion, keyboards, saxophones and pianos.

Jackson wrote a reported 60 songs, and recorded 30, wanting to use them all on a 3-disc set. Jones suggested that the album be cut down to a ten-track single LP. When the album was released on CD, an 11th track, "Leave Me Alone", was included. It was later released as a single. Later reissues of the LP also include this song. Jackson is credited for writing all but three 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."

Tracklisting[]

  1. Bad 4:06
  2. The Way You Make Me Feel 4:58
  3. Speed Demon 4:01
  4. Liberian Girl 3:42
  5. Just Good Friends 4:05
  6. Another Part Of Me 3:53
  7. Man In The Mirror 5:18
  8. I Just Can't Stop Loving You (with Siedah Garrett) 4:23
  9. Dirty Diana 4:52
  10. Smooth Criminal 4:16

Chart Performance[]

"Bad" debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200, staying there for 6 consecutive weeks. It remained in the top five on the Billboard 200 for 38 weeks, setting a record for the longest run in the top five by an album from a male solo artist. It was later certified Diamond for shipping 10 million copies in the United States alone.

Even though Jackson furthered his stance as a global pop superstar, in the US, the album failed to match the sales of "Thriller", causing some in the media to label it a "disappointment."

In the UK, Bad debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart, selling 500,000 copies in its first five days.[34] It peaked at number one in 25 countries in total including Austria, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Switzerland. It also charted at #13 in Mexico and #22 in Portugal.

"Bad" has received various certifications worldwide. In the United Kingdom, it was certified 13 times platinum with sales of 3.9 million, making it Jackson's second best-selling album there. The album was certified seven times platinum for the shipment of over 700,000 copies in Canada by the Canadian Recording Industry Association.

In Europe, the 2001 reissue of the album 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 copies in Hong Kong.

"Bad" sold 7 million copies worldwide in its first week. After a year, it had increased to 18 million copies. By 1989, it had become the world's second-best-selling album, behind "Thriller", having sold 22 million copies worldwide. It was also the best-selling album worldwide of 1988 and 1989.

Globally, "Bad" is Michael Jackson's second best-selling album behind "Thriller" with sales of 35 million copies.

Critical Reception[]

"Bad" received widely positive reviews and critics highlighted aspects of the album as being superior to "Thriller."

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."

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."

Robert Christgau was also 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 wrote: "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."

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" though Rolling Stone commented that "the best way to view Bad was not as "the sequel to Thriller."

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.