Twenty-five years ago, some of music’s most cherished albums were released: “Faith” (George Michael), “The Joshua Tree” (U2), “Hysteria” (Def Leppard), “Whitney” (Whitney Houston), “Sign O The Times (Prince), “Appetite For Destruction” (Guns N’ Roses), “Bad Animals” (Heart), “Kick” (INXS) and “Document” (R.E.M.).
That’s an impressive list. Those albums were amazing, but one album that came out 25 years ago this week was just bad enough to make history of its own — in a good way: “Bad” by Michael Jackson.
“Bad” was Jackson’s follow-up to the biggest-selling album of all-time, “Thriller.” The pressure was on to see how it would stack up, and he delivered.
“Bad” was Michael’s seventh studio release and perhaps his most important. “Off The Wall” got the madness going in 1979, placing four singles in the top 10, including two No. 1’s. He was the first artist to do that. Then came “Thriller” in 1982, the album that changed everything. “Thriller” made him a global phenomenon, selling in excess of 48 million copies in the U.S. alone. It also earned a record-breaking seven Top 10 singles with two reaching No. 1.
How could “Bad” top that? It had been five years since the world had heard new music from Jackson, so the anticipation was high. I couldn’t wait to get my copy. He was my hero and his music meant everything to me.
“Bad” marked the last time Michael worked with Quincy Jones. The album saw a more raw approach to his singing style, as it embraced a strong influx of R&B, pop and rock infused tunes perfect for the dance floor but at the same time a few tender ballads and a call for social change that still resonates today.
“Bad” did the unthinkable, placing five singles at No. 1, a feat not duplicated until 2011, when Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” scored five No. 1 singles.
“I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” with Siedah Garrett was the first single to go No. 1. In fact, it did so the week of my 15th birthday. Then came “Bad,” “The Way You Make Me Feel,” “Man In The Mirror,” and “Dirty Diana” all hitting No. 1 consecutively.
“Bad” also included three other singles that made the top 20 (“Smooth Criminal,” “Another Part Of Me” and “Leave Me Alone”) — again, something never before done on a single album.
Critics were quick to say the album was a flop by Jackson standards, but it remains the sixth biggest-selling album of all-time (depending on source) on a global scale with sales well in excess of 45 million copies. To put that in perspective, Perry’s “Teenage Dream” has sold 5.5 million copies. Furthermore, Michael has four albums in the top 25 best-selling albums of all time.
The music of “Bad” was ahead of its time. Michael was always one go that extra mile to please, and that he did on “Bad.” Most of the tracks are timeless and just about as fresh as the music you hear on the radio today. Do yourself a favor and dig your CD out to play again, download it from iTunes, or pick up a copy of the 25th Anniversary Edition of this monumental album and see why it was so good to be “Bad.”
David T. Farr is a Sturgis, Mich., Journal correspondent. Email him at email@example.com. You can also find The Farr Side on Facebook.