Today is the day William Wagener is due in court to present his affidavit requesting a criminal investigation into Tom Sneddon and his conduct during the 2005 trial of Michael Jackson. At present, the petition is still roughly about 200 signatures short. Please take a moment to go to the link and sign!
Way back in December, 2009, when this blog had all of sixteen hits a day (lol) I wrote a little review of the Bad album. Now that Bad 25 fever has hit-and I have considerably more than sixteen hits a day!-it seemed like a good time to dip into those ancient archives and bring this piece up to date with some new insights, reflections, and various other tweaks.
It was a 5-year stretch between Thriller and Bad. The question on everyone’s mind in 1987 was, How on earth can Michael Jackson top Thriller? Thriller had been a worldwide phenomenon, selling over 110 million copies, and with a spawn of Top 10 singles that kept it on the charts well into 1984, almost two years after its release. Well, anyway, I could go on and on about all of that, but there’s no point in rehashing history. I assume if you’re reading this, you’re a fan and you already know the rote. So let’s cut to the chase.
Bad arrived in 1987, and the immediate (perhaps unfair) challenge it had to live up to was: Could it beat Thriller, or at least hold its own? Whether Bad is viewed as a success or failure depends. At the time, it was considered somewhat of a failure because, frankly, when your previous album has sold over 110 million copies, anything less is going to be seen as a failure. Bad sold over 30 million copies. By record industry standards, that is 30x platinum, a figure most artists only dream about.
But still, this was Michael Jackson. And Thriller had just moved 110 million units.
And as stunning as it is to realize this, looking back in hindsight on the album that gave us such timeless classics as Man in the Mirror, The Way You Make Me Feel and Smooth Criminal, the album was all but snubbed at the Grammy’s, receiving only one award for the video Leave Me Alone. To this day, the only logic I can figure is that the Grammy committee must have felt, after honoring Michael with eight awards for Thriller, that they had reached the saturation point with MJ. It was also the beginning of the era that would see the music industry eventually turn on him, as he simply became (by some standards) too rich, too powerful and too over-exposed.
Yet the look on his face that night when the winners were announced told the tale. He was crushed. He had poured his heart and soul into making an album that was as near perfect as it gets. He knew it, we knew it, and the Grammy committee, if they were honest with themselves, knew it as well. Perhaps it is the ultimate irony that his classic performance of Man in the Mirror that night, which has gone down as one of the greatest Grammy Award performances of all time and one of his most spiritually uplifting performances of his career was also the best “f- you” to the establishment ever.
And if there was only one artist in history who could get away with pulling off powerfully uplifting and inspirational performance while at the same time flipping the finger to the academy, it was Michael Jackson!
Time has told the real tale. To this day, Bad remains Michael’s second-biggest selling album of all time. It produced more #1 singles than Thriller. It gave us some of his most iconic videos. It even spawned a feature-length motion picture, Moonwalker, which played out many of the album’s central concepts. Personally, it’s my own second favorite MJ album, after Dangerous. Reasons why:
1. The album reflected MJ’s growing maturity as a songwriter and as an artist in full control. He penned nine of the album’s 11 tracks, and the overall production and creative concepts show that Quincy Jones was allowing him even more freedom than on Thriller. Although I think his artistry would reach full fruition on Dangerous, it is very much in evidence here, and still tinged with enough youthful exuberance and innocence to enable him to get away with it (as opposed to later, when he would often be bashed for self-indulgence).
2. It was the dawning of the more adult, sexually aggressive MJ. When I wrote my review of Dangerous, I tagged it as “MJ’s Sexiest Album” but acknowledged that we had been given glimpses before, most notably on Bad. Although I don’t think Bad is AS sexually charged as Dangerous, it’s very clear that he was moving in that direction. Of course, as any female fan will tell you, he never had to try too hard to be sexy. But it all depends on if you prefer the youthful, shy/innocent sexiness of Off the Wall/Thriller, or the more aggressive, adult sexuality of Bad/Dangerous.
Actually, I think of it more this way: If Dangerous was Michael coming into his own as a sexual adult, then Bad is the adorable, fumbling, awkward adolescent, caught somewhere in between. And that can have its charms as well. Even the whole bondage theme, which he played up in the Bad and Speed Demon videos, is so charmingly over-the-top that you don’t know whether to take him home and rape him, or just give him a peck on the cheek and send him on his way, with a gentle, “Now, now…come back when you’re a little older and maybe we’ll discuss this.”
Oh shoot…who’m I kidding? MJ in black leather and studs is the hottest thing since sliced buttered bread. But I’m digressing. Er, uh…back on track. And I”m not even going to go there with the stupid critic who trashed The Way You Make Me Feel because MJ actually goes after the girl. “In this video, he goes from being above the thugs, to simply becoming one of them” or whatever such nonsense she wrote. The truth is, that video was pure cat-and-mouse fun, a concept that apparently went over her pea brained, scholarly mentality.
However. I’ll turn scholarly myself for just a sec here because something worth noting about Bad’s most sexually charged tracks, The Way You Make Me Feel and Dirty Diana, is that they both continue the themes that would remain constant running threads throughout his adult solo career-sex as cautionary tale, and lust in general as a “forbidden sin.” I touched upon both of these in my earlier review of Dangerous. The sex-as-cautionary-tale really has its beginnings with Billie Jean. On Bad, it takes the form of Dirty Diana, the ultimate succubus groupie. Some have thought that perhaps Dirty Diana was Michael’s answer to Prince’s Darling Nikki. But Diana is a whole darker, and more dangerous persona. Nikki would simply “masturbate to magazines” and give you “a real good time.” Diana would steal your soul; she’d pick up the phone and tell your wife, “He’s with me tonight.” She would destroy your life.
The video itself was modeled very much on the typical, big-hair metal band videos of the day, replete with wind machine effects, guitarists in platform boots, and a strutting MJ who rips his shirt and strikes perfect Jon Bon Jovi-style poses. My initial impression of the video was that this was MJ trying to fit in with all the typical rock videos of the day, and if you look at it that way, it’s a bit disappointing because it puts him on the level of an artist simply following a trend, rather than innovating them. But in light of the song’s lyrics and context, I started to think of it also as an intentional PARODY of those videos, with their cheesy effects, hyped sexuality and masochistic images. Add to that the undeniable fact that he was a black guy (and in 1988, for the most part, still looked like one) and the video takes on an even darker edge, sending home the message that this is a black man taking over in a white man’s genre-and getting the girl, to boot. It doesn’t seem like much today. But in the 80′s that was still a very powerful (and for some, disturbing) message.
3. It marked the beginning of Michael as a humanitarian and philanthropist. Of all his “message” songs, Man in the Mirror remains one of the most succesful and iconic. It’s catchier than We Are The World, more melodic than Earth Song, and (for many) less annoying than Heal the World. Its simple message that change has to start with the reflection in the mirror (be that man or woman) is one that still has universal appeal. And, we know now from recent revelations made by Siedah Garrett at the Chicago Symposium in 2010, that Michael actually had a bigger creative hand in the song than many thought. In fact, he refused the song at first because he thought the bridge was too weak, and only agreed to record it after he and Ms. Garrett had collaborated streneously on the song’s bridge.
4. It has Speed Demon, which has to be one of the most unusual MJ songs and videos ever. To be honest, I used to not like this song, and I would always think, “They took Streetwalker off the album, but left this?” Then, one day I was driving along the highway with Bad playing, and Speed Demon came on. The song is so catchy and fun, I couldn’t even remember why I ever disliked it. That has to be one of the greatest bass riffs ever. And the video, where he’s dancing in the desert with the claymation rabbit, is Michael at his adorable best (okay, that’s the fangirl in me, but can’t help it).
5. It contains the most exotic love ballad ever, Liberian Girl. Except I still can’t understand to this day how one can be so head over heels in love with a girl who only knows how to say one stinking phrase, over and over! Hey, Michael, “Naku Penda Pia-Naku Taka Pia-Mpenziwe” might sound sexy and breathy in your ear at night, but what about come morning when you want to know what’s for breakfast? What are you going to discuss over oatmeal, or the morning paper? I mean, after awhile, you’re bound to get bored with a girl who only knows how to speak one phrase! Seriously, was this Michael’s answer to the feminist movement, perhaps? Just get you an exotic babe who doesn’t speak a word of English; one that’s programmed to say nothing but “I love you/I want you” over and over. Every man who ever said Michael didn’t know how to be “one of the boys” should really give a serious listen to this song, because if this isn’t every red-blooded man’s ultimate sexist fantasy, I don’t know what is!
6. From a historical perspective, it marks the beginning of his war with the media. Although as a song, Leave Me Alone seems to be simply about a relationship gone bad, the video took the song to a whole ‘nother level, as a scathing attack on the tabloids. And though it’s a theme he would return to time and again, Leave Me Alone stands as probably the best of his “media protests.”
7. It was the album that singlehandedly gave birth to the MJ vocabulary. Shamone (along with its many variations-cha’mon, cha’moan, etc) and “Annie, are you ok” all entered the public lexicon, thanks to Bad. (Although it took me many years to figure out he wasn’t asking, “Annie, are you walking?”). Also, it is the album that, according to at least one recent fan discussion I’ve had, contains the most MJ vocal tics. He might have hiccuped a few times on Off The Wall; he might have given us a few hee-hee’s on Thriller. But Bad is where we would really see MJ “tic-tinitis” at its most fullblown epidemic! In fact, we can pretty much credit Bad for the entire establishment of MJ “tic-tinitis” as its own, separate science and discipline of study.
When all’s said and done, it may not have sold as many copies as Thriller. But Thriller was always going to be an impossible act to follow. Once the album is taken from beneath Thriller’s shadow and viewed in its own right, it becomes easy to see–not only was Bad as good of a follow-up as MJ could have possibly made, given the tremendous pressure he was under at the time to top himself commercially and critically, but it’s also a classic that deserves recognition in its own right. It may always be #2 in sales, but for many fans, it is #1 in our hearts. Like “The Little Engine That Could” it just kept chugging up that hill, churning out hit after hit. And in the course of that two year climb, became an album that defined the late 1980’s as much as Thriller had defined the earlier half of the decade.
Once all of the promotonal hoopla over Bad 25 has settled, there is one thing of lasting importance that I really hope will come out of it. I hope it will stand as an opportunity to reevaluate a classic album that really should never have had to stand in another album’s shadow. Thriller had its own quarter century celebration four years ago.
But now, summer of 2012, is Bad’s turn to shine. And here’s where I might ordinarily be tempted to add something clever about coming out of those bondage chains…but nah, on second thought, leave ’em on.
We wouldn’t want to spoil all the fun, now would we?
While I am busy working on my next post on They Don’t Care About Us, I wanted to pass along a press release that was sent to me from The Jackson Family Foundation. I am a huge supporter of what this organization is trying to accomplish, which is to make the Michael Jackson Museum in Gary a reality. But more on that in just a sec. Here is the press release. Now, you may be wondering what is the connection between this event in France and Michael’s history in Gary. Well, read on and I’ll explain. Simply put, receiving this press release from the Jackson Family Foundation served to remind me that this is a very important topic that I’ve been meaning to address for some time.
Jackson Family Foundation
“Preserving the Epic Global Legacy of Michael Jackson & the First Family of Music, the Jacksons”
For Immediate Release
MICHAEL JACKSON’S FATHER TO ATTEND WEEK OF JACKSON CELEBRATIONS AT OXYGEN VILLA IN CANNES, FRANCE
Las Vegas, NV /15/2012) — Mr. Simon Sahouri, President of the Jackson Family Foundation is pleased to announce that Mr. Joseph Jackson, father of Michael Jackson, Patriarch of the First Family of Music and creator of the Jackson Five, will attend this years’ Cannes International Film Festival.
Mr. Jackson will use the occasion to kick off “A Jackson Week of celebrations” starting on Sunday the 20th of May 2012 through the 25th in Cannes at the Private Villa Oxygen, Hosted by Lifestyle extraordinaire Richard Nilsson owner of Villa Oxygen and Superieur Lounge. The week long Celebrations will include a VIP Gala Bash, Entertainment, Michael Jackson Impersonators, Exclusive Clothing Designers, Fashion Shows and Media. Part of the proceeds from all these events during Jackson Week will be donated to the Jackson Family Foundation to continue with the Legacy.
Accompanying Mr. Jackson in the festivities include Mr. Simon Sahouri, President of the Jackson Family Foundation; Miss Rose Marie Perez, Founder of Total Prestige; Michael Jackson’s former business manager, Mr. Dieter Wiesner; Mr. Marco Derhy Founder and CEO of c l e a n ww; Donald A. Barton, President of Artistry Media Group,Inc.; Mr. Charles Everhardt,President of Dance Holdings; Mr.Odie Anderson,President of Unico Designs; Mr. Zia Atabay,Founder and CEO of NITV UNITED LLC.; Mr. Carlos Lopez Producer of “Forever King of Pop”.
Jackson Family Foundation: The Jackson Family Foundation is a non profit organization established by Joseph and Katherine Jackson for the purpose of developing the Jackson Family Institute in connection with Michael Jackson Performing Arts and Culture Center & Concert Hall and Jackson Family Museum in Gary, Indiana, the birthplace of the Jackson musical family. For more information visit http://www.jacksonfamilyfoundation.us
Villa Oxygen & Superieur Lounge: The First LifeStyle Designer in the World is known for his cutting edge art and cinematic performance where he combines art, fashion, music to an orgy of entertainment. In 2004 the LifeStyle company Residence Superieur was born and in 2012 Superieur Lounge was launched as the First Private Celebrity Club on the French Riviera. www.richard–nilsson.com
Dieter Wiesner Management: Mr. Dieter Wiesner is global business and entertainment manager, who among others managed the Late Michael Jackson from 1996 until his death in 2009. His latest biography on Michael was released by Random House Germany and is currently a top 10 best seller in Germany. http://www.dieterwiesner.com
TotalPrestige: is a leading company offering luxury lifestyle management services to high net worth individuals, celebrities and corporations. http://www.totalprestige.com
C l e a n is a corporate and celebrity identity, image and reputation management company. c l e a n works closely with celebrity and international clients to transform their product, event,or service into a unique sensory experience that cuts through today’s traditional marketing noise. For more information visit; www.cleanww.com
Mr. Zia Atabay Founder and CEO of NITV United, Started his career in the entertainment industry at the age of fourteen. After releasing a best-selling record at 18, he established his career at CBS Recording Company and with a vision for the future he opened in March of 2000 and founded NITV to bridge the gap between all Cultures and the American Culture and even Iran. For more information visit; www.NitvUnited.com
Artistry Media Group: is a production and representation company for motion pictures, television programs, video games and animation produced and distributed around the world. The company develops and produces a diverse array of intellectual property and films worldwide, including United States, Canada, Europe, Thailand, China (and other Asia countries) and South Africa. www.artistrymediagroup.com
Unico designs: Odie and Sharon Anderson’s “passion for fashion” is evident the moment you walk into one of their clothing stores. Their stores cater to men, women and children who have a special event or just want to look fabulous for occasions. Unico Designs the first store started with that very concept “Unico” means unique or original in Spanish. “Because there is only one of you-there is only one Unico” was our first slogan Odie says. email@example.com.
Forever King of Pop: is a show for all ages, The objective of the show is to create the same atmosphere that one can perceive in any concert of definite characteristics, with live music and singing, a perfectly coordinated dance group, with lead players each in their own role, all this guiding the spectator through fine line that recognizes Michael Jackson’s universally recognized hits. www.foreverkingofpop.net
For more information about the Jackson’s Week and schedule of events, please contactRichard@richard–nilsson.com
Press and Media Inquiries please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Awhile back, I had posted an article on Facebook that reported the sad fact that over a year and a half after the announcement of the proposed Michael Jackson museum, the site still sits empty and everything appears to be at a standstill. Gary’s then mayor, Rudy Clay, was on the way out, and the project was simply not a priority for the encumbent. It would be left to Gary’s new mayor, Karen-Freeman Wilson, to pick up the pieces of the project and move forward…or not.
“…Today, the proposed site is empty. Instead of the Michael Jackson Museum, there’s an abandoned stadium, empty fields, and a city golf course.-Cheryl Burton.
This recent update in an article on Karen-Freeman Wilson reveals that the project remains besought with difficulties:
“There’s all this controversy about who represents whom and I’m like, you know what. I’m not going to try to work out y’alls differences for you. I need to talk to one person,” Freeman-Wilson says. “You all determine who that is because this isn’t my primary initiative. I’m not opposed to it but I’m not going to spend a whole lot of energy on it because I just don’t see it. There are a lot of things on our laundry list that are much more close to being done and being realistic.”
Her voice remains even and does not reveal a shred of frustration. Switching topics, she discusses the proposed Jackson museum.
“You know, if somebody brings me a viable proposal that is financed, I’d do it. We can have it right there,” Freeman-Wilson says, pointing towards her office window where across the street the Genesis Convention Center sits. “I’d tear down the Genesis Center in a heartbeat. But …I got something in the mail yesterday or the day before and there are lines where they clearly cut and paste signatures, I’m like what is this?”
Just as she completes her thought, Freeman-Wilson looks down at her office phone and laughs. She never completely hung up the phone from the call with the Jackson family member.
“Well,” she smiles. “I don’t say anything that I wouldn’t say on the 10 o’clock news.”
Freeman-Wilson’s words hit on two very real obstacles that have prevented this project from moving forward-the ongoing struggle between the Jackson family and the Michael Jackson estate (this is what she means when she is saying, “I’m not going to try to work out y’all’s differences for you” -and I do not blame her one bit, nor do I envy her position in being caught between those warring factions!) and the city’s financial struggles. It’s been no secret that, for years, Gary, Indiana-a once booming steel town- has become a struggling community and, some say, a virtual ghost town (This video is the first of a multi-part series, but so as to not drain this site’s memory, I am only posting Part 1; the rest can easily be accessed on Youtube):
The segregation that they speak of in this video is a large part of what eventually led to the city’s economic decline (as one person put it, when the whites left cause they didn’t want to live with the blacks, they took the businesses and the money with ’em!).
While it can be argued that a Michael Jackson Museum might bring much needed revenue into the community, what we’re stuck with for now is an unfortunate Catch-22. To reap the benfits of that revenue, the city first has to have the money to spend on the project in the first place-as the old saying goes, “It takes money to make money.”
When I was in Gary in 2010, the one thing that really struck me as the saddest was the realization that so much of Michael’s-and the Jackson family’s-history and legacy is being irretrievably lost. While the Jackson home is in good repair (in fact, probably better repair than it’s been in years) and remains a favorite tourist attraction, it is really about the only building connected to Michael’s history in Gary that is currently preserved (that, and the two schools nearby-Roosevelt High and Garnett Elementary). But most of the clubs, studios, and other places of note where Michael and The Jackson 5 first performed are either abandoned and in desrepair, or have long since been converted into other businesses (often, with no recognition of the Jackson connection) or have been razed completely.
Consider these descriptions from a 2009 article on what Michael Jackson fans touring Gary, Indiana can expect to see (boldfaced passages are my emphasis):
Mr. Lucky’sLounge (1100 Grant St.). In 1964, the Jackson 5 held one of their first performances in this now-defunct lounge. The new owner has expressed plans to sell the hardwood stage and exterior bricks for those who want to own a piece of Jackson history.
— Garnett Elementary School (21st Avenue) and Roosevelt High School (730 W. 25th Ave.). Jackson attended Garnett (now closed) and performed with his brothers in a talent show at Roosevelt (they won). Roosevelt is the city’s first and only school built for African Americans, and its students included three Jackson siblings: Rebbie, Jackie and Tito.
— Knights of Columbus Building (333 W. Fifth Ave.). The brothers performed at a variety of venues, including the ballroom of this historic brick structure, considered one of the tallest buildings in Gary. It’s now an affordable-housing high-rise. They also played in the ballroom of the Hotel Gary (northwest corner of Sixth Avenue and Broadway), now an affordable-housing high-rise for seniors.
— Gordon Keith home (1025 Taney St.). Keith, who ran Steeltown Records, produced “Big Boy” and “We Don’t Have to Be Over 21 (to Fall in Love)” before the group left his label to sign with Motown Records in 1968. “People go by the Jackson house,” said Keith, “then they come by my home.” The Jacksons used his residence as rehearsal space, and Keith owns the group’s first demo record.
— Small Farms section. The Jackson 5 frequently sang and danced at juke joints and honky-tonk after-hours spots in the more rural parts of Gary. Such haunts as Joe Green’s Club Woodlawn, Big Steve’s, White Tiger and Yellow Dragon no longer exist, but the ducks probably won’t complain if you crank up “I’ll Be There” in memoriam.
And this was three years ago, so you can only imagine how much worse the situation has probably gotten since then, with no efforts underway to preserve these buildings or to maintain their legacy as important elements of the Jackson family history.
For me, the saddest thing was seeing the state of Mercy Hospital, where Michael was born. Mercy Hospital is an abandoned, decaying building with broken windows. I only saw the outside, but here is a video that someone shot from the inside and posted on Youtube.
How many times have you ever visited the birthplace of a famous person and walked away thinking, I can’t believe he/she came from such a humble beginning! But looking at the above video, can you ever imagine that this is where The King of Pop was born? It looks more like something from out of Ghost Hunters!
One fact is indisputable: The physical emblems of Michael’s Gary, Indiana history are eroding fast, and I suspect within a few years, the house will be all that is left-and even that is no guarantee. I, myself, have no easy answers or solutions, other than to help bring awareness of this problem. But I would like to see something done, and I think it is within our power to do it. We can’t afford to be complacent, and we can’t just say, “Oh, that is the city of Gary’s responsibility” or “Let the Jacksons worry about it if it means so much to them; they’re rich!”
Yes, they undoubtedly have more money than you or I. But still, in a lot of ways, their hands are tied just like the rest of us. The Michael Jackson Museum is one of those projects for which I really wish the family and the estate could come together on, and work out their differences. Elvis fans have Graceland, a place where they can not only gather to visit his grave and pay respects, but can also contribute to the local economy, thus ensuring that their beloved shrine will always be there. And even a casual stroll through downtown Memphis can take one to any number of preserved locales that are connected to his history.
But what do Michael Jackson fans have when they want to visit Gary? As I said, the house on Jackson Street…and not a heck of a lot more. While the museum cannot replace what has already been lost or may be lost in the future, it can at the very least provide a focal point for Michael Jackson’s historical ties to the city. I would imagine that when children visit the Jackson home for the first time, they may know that this is the home of someone famous (otherwise, why are all those grown-ups taking pictures, dressing up with fedoras and sun shades on, and buying so much stuff!) but wouldn’t it be great to be able to bring them to a place where they can begin to understand why he was so famous and beloved-and so important to the town! What message does it send to the youth of Gary when the only thing left to commemorate its favorite native son, other than the house, is…an empty lot?
I am going to suggest a few things that fans can do:
Email Mayor Karen-Freeman Wilson, and let ker know that there is a viable interest from the fan community in seeing this project completed!
Please try to support (whenever you can) any MJ-related events that are taking place in Gary. This sends a very strong message to officials that it is in the economic best interest of the city to “keep MJ fans in Gary.”
The King of Pop Fanvention (the event I attended in 2010) is taking place again this year in August. I can’t say enough good things about the people behind this event, and I would really, really like to encourage all fans who may be in the area and can afford it to attend! This year’s guests will be Joe Vogel and nurse Cherylin Lee. Although it is being hosted in nearby Chicago, many of the convention’s major events will be taking place right in Gary. I don’t know yet if I will be able to go this year, but this event is definitely a wonderful way to help support Michael’s legacy in Gary, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Michael’s birthday than in his own hometown!