Monday, 12 May 2014


Michael Jackson's seventh studio album, released in 1987, is rarely thought of as one of his finest bodies of work, but is instead considered full of iconic moments in musical history. When you consider however, that this album saw the birth of feature zips, the Dirty Diana, and Smooth Criminal legacies, not to mention Moonwalker, and a worldwide tour that grossed $125 million dollars, in some ways, this was one of Michael's most successful projects. In the words of another great, let's start at the very beginning

The title song was originally supposed to be a duet with that other iconic musician, equally enigmatic, and far more risqué and controversial than Michael ever was. But when Prince listened to the 'Bad' demo, he reportedly told Jackson and Executive Producer, Quincy Jones: "You don't need me on this, man!" And turned down the offer; shattering the hopes and dreams of joint fans everywhere, forever, since the opportunity never came again.

Determined not to be mistaken for a 'Beat It' pt. 2; Michael switched position from Peacemaker to Aggressor in this next phase of his storytelling genius. With 'Off The Wall' we learned that 'Little Michael Jackson' had his own two feet. With 'Thriller', we learned that 'Little Michael Jackson' wasn't so little. With 'Bad', we learned that Mr Jackson had an edge.

Now a lover and a fighter, the sounds were tougher, the moves were sharper, and the words were hard enough to render him the Bruce Lee of lyricism. The video was another defining moment in musical, and cultural history. In the case of Wesley Snipes, it was the beginning of the gainful employment that led to that pesky little tax problem.

If, by some freak force of nature, you've never heard this album, or any of its muthaluving CLASSICS, consider this a crash course. Sit down, grab your notebook, and sharpen your pencil, because class is most definitely in session. In the vein of our US friends, you gon learn today, my friends.

Now then. Once you put your initial shock aside, and consider the lyrics, you'll realise that the aggressor is actually the good guy employed to corral the baddies! Don’t let the black buckles and chains fool you – the villains on the block had a new nemesis, and like the John Waynes, Sergeant Kinchloes, and Shafts before him, this unorthodox protector of the peace was one baaaad mammajamma. Make him mad and he WILL dance at you

Can we also take a moment to recognise, and celebrate the birth of 'shamone'? That verbal fixture that we all now know so well?

If ever there was a moment that Michael Jackson and I both shared in history, it was that of being stunned by the oh so breathtaking Tatiana Yvonne Thumbtzen. He (and most males) wanted her, and I (and most females) wanted to be her! 'The Way You Make Me Feel' is essentially a slick, four minute and fifty-eight second chat up line, that I feel confident in saying would work on most females; especially in the eighties, when this side of MJ was still so new, sexy, and charismatic to women across the world. A besotted young man lays eyes (and aspires to loins) on an attractive young lady and sets out to get her by laying on the charm nice and thick, to the borderline of insufferable, but never actually breaching it – hence the reason it works. He dances at his prey again, but this time, his gyrating powers are used in an entirely different fashion

'Speed Demon' is another one that, as Quincy Jones said, was "so far out of the box, that he just stayed there!" On his bike (literally), MJ is targeted by the Road Police, for a ticket that he doesn't want to take, so he burns rubber to get away. Sounds too simplistic, now doesn't it? In fact the premise doesn't sound particularly interesting at all, right? But that was before you heard, and saw him do this with it:

'Liberian Girl' makes you want to change your nationality. An infatuated love song for the exotic fantasy girl, the video features a host of celebrity friends, all trying to find MJ. In the most elaborate Where’s Wally – I mean Michael ever, see if you can spot him

'Just Good Friends' is an amazing moment in music history. Two of the greatest musicians of all time, not so 'Little Michael Jackson' and not so 'Little Stevie Wonder' come together (no pun intended) in beautiful, duetting harmony, for a back'n'forth, over a girl who's playing them both with the same lines…Trollope. No video for this one, but oh how I wish there was. Michael and Stevie in the studio together should have been recorded properly, for posterity; so a major FAIL on that one.

'Another Part of Me' is an attempt to remind listeners that we’re all one nation, one race, one colour beneath the Heavens, so we should really be nicer, and more accepting of each other. His first message song hitting back at the fingers which, by that time, had begun to point and sneer at him and make him a target. A harder, angrier version is yet to come on this set.

'Man In The Mirror' is still one of Michael’s biggest message songs to date. It's inspirational, it's heartwrenching, and it brings its listeners together in unified solidarity. Definitely one of those 'Best Of' moments

'I Just Can't Stop Loving You' brought about a milestone in the life of a young(er) ES. This was the first time I ever experienced seething jealousy towards another female (not counting that daft Thriller chick who didn't have the good sense to be eaten by zombies). Throughout my childhood, I developed a perfectly normal and mentally stable hatred for Seidah Garrett, for bewitching my Michael, and making him fall in love and declare his devotion in such a heartfelt fashion. Even though I now know and understand that it was just for the purpose of the song, there’s still a little niggle everytime I think of her. They were too real! No official video for this one either, but here he is, rehearsing it with the amazingly talented Judith Hill, for the 'This Is It' tour:

In the case of 'Dirty Diana', the milestone was learning the true meaning of a slapper. The great Quincy Jones described this one as a "Groupie Song"; so for several years I thought groupie and slapper were one and the same. I humbly apologise to all the non-slapper groupies. It was a genuine mistake. In terms of the song itself? A single, non-racially profiled, female goes a little bunny boiler crazy, when she holds him against his will after a show. She attempts to break up his relationship, and generally creates the definitive term for needing a straightjacket

Now when I said that this track created a movement, I really wasn't joking. 'Smooth Criminal' also played a heavy part in the movie 'Moonwalker', which followed a year later. Grossing over $67 million worldwide, it's safe to say that despite the critics response, the film was a stratospheric success. An iconic moment in music history, Jackson's love of old black and white gangster movies came to colourful life a short time, with the twist being that the usual fight scene in a bar became a major dance scene that has become one of the biggest for any artist, in music history

'Leave Me Alone' closes the standard set with an unabashed message to the media that were, by then, vilifying and condemning him on a daily basisrarely with a justified reason, but always with a pricetag attached

This album is an amazing body of work. So creative, and visionary, that last year, on it's 25th anniversary, the occasion was marked not only by a re-release with several (murderous, and NOT in a good way) remixes, but also a documentary by Spike Lee, interviewing some of the world's biggest names, to discuss the influence of the album on them and their talents in their chosen field. It proved without a shadow of a doubt that Michael Jackson's legacy reaches far and wide; beyond the realms of our collective imagination. His achievements will likely never be replicated by one person. So far, the few records broken, have been by various people. No one person has, nor probably ever will, match the unimaginable feats that this one man managed in 44 years. I highly doubt that anyone will change HIStory.

Michael Jackson, #WeSaluteYou til the end of time.

Until the next
ES ;)