Bad was the very first album that I have a conscious memory of wanting to absorb in its entirety in the way that seems trivial these days; pouring over the fold out album booklet from my father’s cassette tape and consuming the videos on television over and over again. Most people only seem to remember Bad as though it deserves only to be in the shadow of its unparalleled elder brother – which is still globally the biggest selling album of all time, of course.
I feel somewhat privileged as a 90’s baby, in that I was almost entirely unaware of the Thriller phenomenon and the long inevitable shadow it cast at this young age, because I was able to digest and love this record purely on its own merit. It made me want answers to questions that I couldn’t even know yet.
Yes, it may be yet another victim of the late 80s obsession with handclaps and no, it will not break records quite like Thriller, but it has a deep-rooted aesthetic and sound that feels, at least to me, much more deep-rooted in the story and identity of the man who made it. He was no longer covered in glitter and singing about phantom loves and heartbreaks they were never really his.
Bad is angry, demanding, immersive, and arguably pop’s first full ‘stadium album’. With every hair-racing, electrifying, and in moments, furious bar of that record, we finally see Michael Jackson for who he is, and wanted to be, (rather than who he was taught to be): articulate, sentimental, but also defiant in the face of The Man… And, least of all, as one of the most stylish buggers to ever wear leather on leather!
Bad by Michael Jackson, 1987. Chosen by writer India Meade.