Bad is the seventh studio album by American recording artist Michael Jackson. The album was released on August 31, 1987 by Epic/CBS Records, nearly five years after Jackson's previous studio album, Thriller, which went on to become the world's best-selling album. Bad itself has sold between 30 to 45 million copies worldwide, shipped 8 million units in the United States alone, and has been cited as one of the best selling albums of all time. The album produced five Hot 100 number ones, the first album to do so. Similar to Jackson's previous music material, the album's music features elements of R&B, pop and rock.
Bad was recorded during the first half of 1987. The lyrical themes on the record relate to paranoia, romance and self-improvement. Bad is widely regarded as having cemented Jackson's status as one of the most successful artists of the 1980s, as well as enhancing his solo career and being one of the best musical projects of his career. Nine of the eleven songs on Bad were released as singles; one was a promotional single and another was released outside of the United States and Canada. Five of the singles hit number one in the United States, while a sixth charted within the top-ten, and a seventh charted within the top-twenty on the Hot 100. The single that was released outside of the United States and Canada was commercially successful, charting within the top ten and top twenty in multiple territories. Bad peaked at number one in seven countries, as well as charting within the top twenty in other territories. The only song on the album which wasn't released as a single nor had a music video for was "Just Good Friends".
Bad saw Jackson exercise even more artistic freedom than he did with his two previous Epic releases (Off the Wall and Thriller). On Bad, Jackson composed nine of the album's eleven tracks and received co-producer credit for the entire album. The album continued Jackson's commercial success in the late 1980s and garnered six Grammy Award nominations, winning two. Aside from commercial success the album also received critical acclaim from contemporary critics. Bad was ranked number 43 in the 100 Greatest Albums of All Time of the MTV Generation in 2009 by VH1 and number 202 in Rolling Stone magazine's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. The album marked the final collaboration between Jackson and producer Quincy Jones. In addition, Jackson scored five number ones from Bad, making him the first of only two artists in the chart's history to amass five number-one singles from one album. This feat would not be equaled for 23 years when Katy Perry did the same with her album Teenage Dream.
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A multi-million-unit-shifter, Bad was (and remains) as important to 1980s pop culture as the rise of the Walkman, the Back to the Future movies, and the shooting of JR. Like 1982’s Thriller, it’s an album that appeared to easily find a home within the record collection of rockers and poppers, punks and poets alike.
Ubiquity comes cheap in 2012 (thanks, internet), but in 1987, it was earned by being the best of the best. And Bad was just that: almost a greatest hits package, it spawned nine hit singles. Its chart campaign didn’t begin with the title cut, but with I Just Can’t Stop Loving You, a number one in both the US and UK. In Britain, Bad (the song) peaked at 3, as Rick Astley sat atop the pile.
The title track rocketed to No.1 in the US, followed by The Way You Make Me Feel, Man in the Mirror and Dirty Diana. Jackson’s star was at its zenith across the 1980s – but fame never guarantees critical approval. Yet Bad was as well-received in the press as it was by Jackson’s fans. It’s a special rarity: a commercial behemoth with nary a lapse in quality across its 48 minutes.
Quincy Jones’ production is tight yet yielding, every song allowed to breathe and never cluttered by needless elements. Dirty Diana is remarkably lean, Steve Stevens’ flamboyant guitar aside, yet powerful too. Speed Demon, deemed “filler” by critics at the time, is fun funk-rock that’d sit happily on a Prince album of the period, compositionally if not lyrically.
Unreleased demos make up the majority of this anniversary release’s second disc. Amongst the most interesting are Song Groove (A/K/A Abortion Papers) and Price of Fame. The former, aggressive of percussion yet light of synth, is about a Christian girl carrying an unwanted pregnancy. “Michael knew (it) could be controversial,” read the accompanying notes; but Jackson handles the subject matter with tenderness.
Price of Fame addresses the pressures Jackson felt as a pop idol. Of his obsessed followers, he wrote: “They’ll do anything and it’s breaking my heart… It’s running me crazy.” It is, perhaps, a first instance of the cracks that’d soon spread. But nothing that was to come in Jackson’s career could ever take the shine off this awesome, evergreen and essential pop masterpiece.
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