Monday, October 22, 2007

No. 202: Bad

Band: Michael Jackson
Album: Bad
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: "Bad" is considered another classic album from the 1980s. It's fiercer, more sexual and richer than "Thriller" in a lot of ways.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: "Bad" is, if nothing, the beginning of the end for Jackson. "Leave Me Alone" is the classic "I'm a victim" song and sums up Jackson's downfall in a lot of ways. In addition, anything that has Jackson as sexual or fierce is downright silly in 2007.
Best song: "Smooth Criminal" was the centerpiece to the abjectly ludicrous "Moonwalker," but it remains a pretty fun song.
Worst song: "Bad" is stupid on the same level that "Saturday Night's All Right For Fighting;" Michael Jackson isn't kicking anyone's ass.
Is it awesome?: Maybe in 1987, but not now.

"Bad" might as well be called "The Beginning of the End of Michael Jackson as a Normal Human Being." The record has all the beginnings of Jackson's strange tendencies. His first real "woo" nonsense is overdone on the title track, the album is slathers in forced adult sexuality ("Liberian Girl," "the Way You Make Me Feel," "Dirty Diana," etc.), his social conscience is evident ("Man In The Mirror," his first and only introspective song), he appears on he cover of the record with obvious plastic surgery and his victim complex fills the final track, "Leave Me Alone."

I, like everyone else my age, have memories of being into "Bad" a fair amount as a seven- and eight-year-old. The record is fun, on some level; "Smooth Criminal" has an excellent groove and the title track would be a great song by someone who wasn't 5'11", 120 lbs. (seriously, that's gross).

But, again, the forced 'normalcy' is just weird, given what we know about Jackson now (more on that in a bit). "Speed Demon" is some sort of song about racing, maybe? "Dirty Diana," "The Way You Make Me Feel" and "I Just Can't Stop Loving You" drip with forced sexuality. It's strange imagining Jackson serenading a woman with any of these songs, all while lifting up his socks, moonwalking and screaming "woo!" Also, grabbing his crotch.

(The video for "Speed Demon" is just another notch in the "the paparazzi" is chasing me bedpost for Jackson. Like "Leave Me Alone," the video is made extra weird by Jackson's claymation rabbit friend in the desert. Seriously. Check it out.)

It's something of a time capsule. In 1987, the music buying public believed that Jackson was a little eccentric, but not the complete and utter Martian that he is thought to be now.


Being that this is the last Jackson album on here, it's probably best for me to state my feelings about Jackson himself and his presence in popular culture over the past, say, 15 years.

Let me first state my empathy for Jackson's upbringing. I think it's heartless not to feel a little for him. He was basically paraded around like a show pony during his entire childhood. I'm sure any depression or unhappiness he felt was met with the spoils of fame and money ("let's build an amusement park!"). They've apparently put him into a suspended state of childhood.

In addition, his father's physical and emotional abuse certainly contributed to what Michael Jackson is today.

Finally, the way entertainers are treated in American society is pretty ridiculous. Certainly, the amount of money we bestow upon them for their talents -- a function of the free market system, by the way -- hurts the ability for self-reflection and analysis. I'm sure he was the meal ticket, so no one was able to tell him no when he had some crazy idea (this happens with athletes all the time. They're surrounded by yes-men their whole lives). There likely wasn't anyone to tell him, "hey, don't let that kid sleep over."

So, on some level, what's happened to Jackson isn't entirely his doing. His circumstances really contributed to what's going on with him.

With all of that said, Michael Jackson is a troubled man and needs copious amounts of counseling. He's never been convicted of molesting a child, though the settlement and details of (the child "erotica," the accusations of oral sex, etc.) the 1993 trial is, in my eyes, more than a little troubling. The 2005 trial details (supposedly exposing himself to the kids, showing them pornography and the infamous "Jesus Juice") only reinforces that Jackson should never be around children.

Michael Jackson is 49 years old as of this writing. He was in his mid-40s when the last trial was prosecuted and that is far too old to be having other people's children sleep in the same bed as you. Let's forget that these kids weren't infants; They were 12- and 13-year-olds. Early teenagers don't sleep in the same bed as their parents; Sleeping in the same bed (even absent of inappropriate behavior) is, like, ten types of wrong. It may not be illegal, but it's wrong.

There's a certain thing going on here, which I'll call the "McDonald's conundrum." In the move "Super Size Me," the question at the heart of the movie is this: What is the tipping point between consumer responsibility and corporate responsibility? In other words, who's more at fault: The fat guy eating McDonald's every day when he knows McDonald's is bad for you, or the people at McDonald's, who sell heart attack-causing food.

In this case, Michael Jackson is basically, McDonald's and the parents of children who stay wth Jackson are the fat guys. Who, in their right mind, would let their children hang out with Jackson?

Hell, forget hanging out. Who in their right mind, would let their kids stay overnight with Jackson? Why did it take two molestation trials for parents to finally gigure this out? Or have they not figured it out?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You seem unable to separate the man from the music in this 'review'. Songs like 'The Way You Make Me Feel' are effortless classics, and dont feel remotely 'forced'. You think that because of what you know about the mans personal life today. Its a shame you cant enjoy the music as a separate entity cause theres a lot to enjoy on this album. Its definitely a pop classic, and doesnt sound dated particularly compared to most of the dross from the 80s.