110. Michael Jackson – ‘Bad’ (1987)

“They say the sky’s the limit
And to me that’s really true
And my friends you have seen nothin’
Just wait ’til I get through”

Taken from the album Bad

Also released on HIStory: Past, Present & Future – Book 1, Greatest Hits: HIStory Volume 1, Number Ones, The Ultimate Collection, The Essential Michael Jackson, Visionary: The Video Singles, King Of Pop and The Collection

US #1, UK #3, AUS #4

If you’ve never seen the 18-minute full version of the ‘Bad’ music video, you need to seek it out. As a fan of film, music or dance, you just have to see it. Directed by Martin Scorcese, it is at once ridiculous, unbelievable, awkward, real and totally brilliant. Michael plays Daryl, a kid coming home from a private school to his old home in New York City. His old friends (led by Wesley Snipes) force him to decide who’s bad when they attempt to mug a guy at a train station. After screaming “You ain’t bad, you ain’t nothing! You ain’t nothing!”, Michael’s new friends come jumping out from behind pillars and walls, and they launch into the most amazing dance routine ever. The song ‘Bad’ is secondary to the choreography, undoubtedly my favourite dance sequence from any video. Fuck ‘Thriller’, ‘Bad’ is really where it’s at when it comes to Michael Jackson music videos – it’s not even his all-time best, but it’s just phenomenal.

While the song seems like a backing track to great choreography in the video, it is still one of Michael’s strongest. He’s not completely convincing in his tough-guy poses, but that’s the charm of it – being bad is believing in yourself, being bad is being good even when people want you to fall. Being bad is about being dangerous, invincible, a thriller, making your own history – it all ties together with his legend and the rest of his music. Not a second of ‘Bad’ is wasted and every bit is a new hook – from the instrumental breakdown to the cry of “so won’t you SLAP my FACE”. The incredible extended dance mix, from the UK deluxe version of King Of Pop, is also a must-hear experience.

Back to the video for a second to explain what ‘Bad’ means to me: at the very end, when he’s made peace with his old friends, the camera switches back around to Michael, who we see is now alone and back in black and white like he was when the video began. All his dancing buddies are gone. He did it all himself. The dance, the running through the train station, the backing dancers, the buckle jacket – all of these were figments of his imagination. Michael is utterly and completely out of place in the ‘Bad’ video, he looks different to everyone else, his skin and eyes and nose and voice are seemingly from another planet. But still, with everything stacked against him, he triumphed. He was alone and at a disadvantage, but he still came through and he was good. And that’s what it means to really be bad.

Music video part one:

Music video part two:

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