Memories of Michael Jackson’s Bad, 25 Years Later

Michael Jackson's Bad
Michael Jackson’s Bad

I can’t believe it’s been a whole 25 years since Michael Jackson‘s Bad album was released.  To be honest, I wouldn’t have noticed it if Prime hadn’t had Spike Lee‘s Bad 25 documentary on TV on Monday night.

To be honest, it’s been a while since I listed to Bad.  Unlike Madonna or other 80s artists who are on my iPod / iTunes, Michael Jackson lost his magic for me a bit when he got a bit weird and sang songs like, “Have You Seen My Childhood”. (“Scream”, on the other hand, was excellent.)  Plus, unlike Madonna, Michael Jackson didn’t seem to be able to evolve as an artist.  I always thought he seemed to be somehow stuck in time as the world marched forward around him.

Watching Bad 25, as the documentary covered many of the songs on the album, I realised how much of an impact the album actually had on me.  If I remember correctly, Mom and Dad had bought me a ghetto blaster for my birthday either that year or the year prior, and Bad was one of the tapes I listened to quite a bit.  On evenings that I couldn’t fall asleep, I’d pop Bad into the tape deck, put my headphones on, lay down, and listen to it.

Nearly every song on Bad went on to become noticeable or a hit.  I mean, I remember “Bad” and “Smooth Criminal” being songs on the album, but the documentary made me remember such gems as “Dirty Diana”, “The Way You Make Me Feel”, “Man in the Mirror”, “Another Part of Me”, “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”, and “Leave Me Alone”.  To see and hear some of the comments about these songs brought memories back of them and added new insight into them for me.

For example, I always wondered who the heck Annie was from “Smooth Criminal”.  (Remember, “Annie, are you okay? Are you okay, Annie?” from the song?)  Of course, when we learned CPR, the training dummy was named Annie, and part of the script was, “Annie, Annie, are you okay?”  I always thought that was a rather strange coincidence until the documentary pointed out that the CPR dummy and training script were the origins for MJ asking if Annie was okay in “Smooth Criminal”.  Or maybe I was just super dim not to get the connection until 25 years later; I dunno.

Michael and Princess Diana always seemed to me to be kindred spirits in some way, and I often wondered if “Dirty Diana” was written with her in mind, although sometimes I felt the lyrics did not even come close to appropriately describing the Princess of Wales.  Obviously, the song only shared the main character’s name with our beloved Diana; it was revealed the song’s about a groupie.

I could go on about the songs and some of the music videos (for example, how the music video for “Leave Me Alone” reminds me somehow of Peter Gabriel‘s “Sledgehammer” music video), but I think I’ll leave this walk down memory lane at that.  After seeing Bad 25, maybe it’s time for me to take some time to rediscover Michael Jackson’s Bad and truly appreciate the impact it had on my teenage years and later life.