The real prize is a group of six unvarnished, previously unreleased demos, all written by Jackson and recorded during the Bad sessions. The most immediately attention-getting is “Song Groove (a.k.a. Abortion Papers),” a track that many fans have already begun debating the meaning of. Regardless of whether it carries a pro-life or pro-choice message, it presents a scintillating dance groove with a fiery vocal. While I can’t quite decipher all the lyrics, the liner notes include some quotes from Jackson’s own notes about the song that suggest it’s something more ambiguous than a straightforward “message” song.
“Al Capone” bears strong rhythmic and structural similarities to the track it evolved into, “Smooth Criminal,” but it stands as its own funky workout. I love the piano-driven “Don’t Be Messin’ ‘Round” and the smooth sounds of “I’m So Blue” and “Free.” Those three are fascinating glimpses at Jackson’s songwriting process as they each have clearly unfinished lyrics. Much more complete is “Price of Fame,” a song about obsessive fans that sounds more or less album-ready and would’ve made a great addition to the final product.
Two booklets are included, each with pictures and liner notes. There’s also a double-sided mini-poster folded up inside the matte-finish black box. We fans can only hope for similar treatment for Dangerous and beyond, but for now Bad 25 offers plenty.