First Hit #1: October 24, 1987
Now this is a lead single. Bad might not be Thriller, but it’s still Michael Jackson in the ’80s, which is the best kind of Michael Jackson, and Bad does what he does best. The bassline is distinct and an instant earworm, Jackson’s performance has that mix of aggression and ambition that defines his best songs, and the layers of harmony and well placed vocal ticks make the song exciting and by extension makes the album something you want to hear more of. It’s not perfect, Jackson’s macho posturing never really rang through, no matter how many leather jackets and backup dancers he surrounded himself with. I don’t particularly believe he’s bad, but it is pretty catchy even if he’s still a tiny pop star.
It is more overtly electronic than his early material, which is a nod to the times. That bassline is great, but it sounds like it could be coming from a Sega Genesis – and was, in fact, used on the Sega Genesis with minimal modification, for the game Moonwalker, which involves Jackson rescuing children and turning into a robot car – and it does inadvertently date the material. But it’s still great material, catchy and fun light pop no matter how much Jackson wants people to believe it’s a darker direction. At least while trying to toughen up his image, he didn’t forget his core strengths as a performer.