Marking the quarter century mark since the release of Michael Jackson’s work of pop genius, Bad 25 is a positively electrifying celebration of this often underrated album. Released five years after Thriller, Bad ended up being regarded by many as a disappointing follow up to what became the best-selling album of all time. While Thriller was certainly a hard act to follow, Jackson did so by stepping up his songwriting output. With only two exceptions (“Man in the Mirror” and “Just Good Friends”), he wrote the entire record.
Of course, songwriting credits alone don’t spell greatness. What does is the sheer craftsmanship and artistry that went into songs like “Smooth Criminal,” “Dirty Diana,” “Leave Me Alone,” and “The Way You Make Me Feel.” These hits helped define pop music in the late-‘80s and continue to serve as standard bearers. Even the lesser known album tracks, such as the propulsive “Speed Demon” and silky “Liberian Girl,” stand out as prime examples of Jackson’s abilities. It helped having Quincy Jones on board as producer, as he had been for Off the Wall and Thriller.
In other words, Bad is a treasure chest of indelible pop hooks, tasteful arrangements, devastating dance grooves, and some impeccable vocal performances. Epic/Legacy Recordings, in collaboration of the Estate of Michael Jackson, meant business when they put together this special anniversary edition. The remastered album sounds great, but the draw for fans is the additional material.
I’m going to jump right to the DVD, which contains a full, unedited two-hour concert from London’s Wembley Stadium, July 16, 1988. Want to see a 26-year-old Sheryl Crow duetting with Jackson on “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You?” Crow was a backing vocalist on the Bad tour, but was given a featured spot on that chart-topping ballad. Looking for a few surprises in the set list? There’s a slamming take on the Jacksons’ 1980 hit “This Place Hotel.” This concert is simply incredible from start to finish. Jackson literally finishes “She’s Out of My Life” in tears, bringing a stunning level of intimacy to the 72,000 fans on hand.