By David Chiu
Bad, Michael Jackson’s 1987 album, had the big task of being the follow-up to the massively popular Thriller five years earlier. While it certainly doesn’t measure up to Thriller (in essence, what does?), Bad became hugely successful in its own right, with five Number One singles, an impressive feat at the time. This new set celebrates Bad’s 25th anniversary by featuring not only the original album, but also tracks recorded during the sessions that didn’t make it on the final cut, and a DVD/CD recording of a concert at Wembley from the period. Working with the state-of-the-art sound of the time, Bad is essentially abundant with hits that have since become iconic with the singer, echoing the stylistic variety of Thriller: the balladry of “I Can’t Stop Loving You”; the funky title song; the catchy “The Way You Make Me Feel”; the empowering call-for-unity “Man in the Mirror”; the dramatic “Smooth Criminal”; and the rocking “Dirty Diana.” The bonus material contains tracks that offers glimpses of songs that still sound like works in progress, such as “Don’t Be Messin’ Round,” “I’m So Blue” and “Song Groove (aka Abortion Papers),” the latter would have generated tremendous controversy had it seen the light of day; “Al Capone” is an ancestor to the song that would become “Smooth Criminal”; and rounding out the material are remixes of Bad and “Speed Demon.”
The DVD Live at Wembley captures the hysteria of Jackson in London in his first world solo tour and only North American tour. Not surprisingly, it’s a spellbinding performance by the King of Pop and the set list draws material from Bad, Thriller, Off the Wall and even a medley of Jackson 5 hits. As an entertainer, Jackson pulls out all the stops, including recreating the werewolf from the Thriller video. It’s also interesting to notice a then-unknown Sheryl Crow singing backup and sounding quite a bit different when she duets with Jackson on “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” Overall, Bad25 makes a strong case not as the sequel to or son of Thriller, but as a work that deserves to stand on its own.