Michael Jackson's (and Spike Lee's) BAD25 Proves Your Butt Is Still His

Look, if there's any part of you that thinks you might be interested in catching BAD 25, Spike Lee's two-hour celebration/behind-the-scenes history of Michael Jackson's 1988 Bad LP, then seriously, get to it. This is a bliss-out. The performance footage alone is thrilling, and Lee has augmented it with archival treasures: dance rehearsals where Jackson and choreographers Jeffrey Daniel and Caszper Canidate seem lost in the joy of invention; recordings of vocal exercises revealing Jackson's rarely plumbed lower registers; video shot by Jackson himself of Siedah Garrett singing her then-new song (co-written with Glen Ballard) "Man in the Mirror" to Jackson and Quincy Jones.

Even without such finds, Lee's talking heads would be worth a ticket. Lee rounds up the engineers and keyboard players, the choreographers and horn arrangers, the people who actually have insight into the actual art. There are celebrities, too, Kanye and Mariah Carey in humble-fan mode, and Justin Bieber gets a laugh just by popping up to point out that his video for "Baby" rips off Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel." (Weirder still, L.A. Reid brags that in that "Baby" video he forbade Bieber from kissing a black woman.)

Film geeks will relish scenes of Martin Scorsese and editor Thelma Schoonmaker re-watching Scorsese's video for "Bad," especially as Lee, off camera, hollers questions: That's a crane down and a dolly back? Did you know he would be grabbing his crotch so much?

Among the many pressing concerns the movie clears up: Jackson's shouts of "Sham on!" it turns out, come from Mavis Staples. Annie—the woman who has worried the smooth criminal with her potential not-OK-ness—is a CPR dummy, and Diana isn't anyone whom you should know. The reason the title track wasn't a duet with Prince, as Jackson had hoped, is that at their meeting, Jackson became convinced that Prince was subjecting him to some sort of spellcraft. (Prince's excuse, not in the movie, has been simpler: He wasn't going to sing "Your butt is mine" to Michael Jackson.) Nobody is willing to talk about how Jackson and Co. achieved the famous leaning dance moves from the "Smooth Criminal" video, but in on-set footage, you can see the wires. And everyone from Jones to Stevie Wonder agrees: "Just Good Friends" kind of sucks.

Lee doesn't dwell much on the controversies in which Jackson was pickling. Instead, he works through the album song by song, covering the writing, recording, video making, or whatever else seems relevant. Highlights abound: a quick primer on the evolution of Jackson's dancing; Garrett and Ballard re-creating the moment they came up with "Man in the Mirror"; occasional pages of notes Jackson wrote exhorting himself to work harder, to be better.

For all its high-end pop professionalism and by-the-numbers industry record breaking, Michael Jackson's Bad remains a vital, personal, sometimes inscrutable album, one that bears the odd distinction of being underrated despite having launched five elevenths of its tracks to the peak of the singles charts. It's the last indisputable triumph from a performer who until then had known little else. It's the first instance of that performer having to work harder than usual to catch up to a culture that was moving past him. And it's the last instance I can think of when what was far and away the most popular music could lay a serious claim to being the best music, if not the most innovative, or always the most inspired, certainly among the best crafted, best sung, and best played. The strut-along lope of "The Way You Make Me Feel"? The angular synth stabs powering "Another Part of Me"? The bat-shit rubbery synth-bass runs on "Speed Demon"? And the whole of "Speed Demon" itself, the perfect counterexample to everything I just said about Bad not being too innovative or inspiring, an anxious, id-driven jitter-funk spazz-out as weird as anything Prince ever did but sold to young America in a Moonwalker segment whipped up by Will Vinton, the guy behind the California Raisins. Lee even plays a priceless video Jackson made showing Vinton the expressions he wanted on the Claymation raisins in his own commercial.

That right there is stranger than any of the then-current "Wacko Jacko" stories, the ones that almost made it news when he declared that it was still a man that he saw in his mirror. On songs like "Leave Me Alone" and "Smooth Criminal," this perennially childlike artist dug deep into his adult fear and anxiety different from what anyone else alive could ever have felt, and through sour-candy pop craftsmanship, he and his collaborators transformed the night sweats of the world's most famous man into near-universal art that still signifies across generations, languages, and cultures. That art is now perennially repackaged and resold, with tribute tours and reissues demanding absurdly high fan buy-ins. The hell with those. Spike Lee has given the world the first tribute that fully measures up to Jackson the artist. Come on get your sham on.

 
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34 comments
gracemaryon
gracemaryon like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Thanks for reminding everyone of Michael Jackson’s genius.

It is so refreshing to read a review which sticks to the facts and actually reviews what it says it is reviewing.

It s a timely reminder of what the world has lost, a performer who not only possessed immense talent but was innovative and way ahead of his time.

Thank you once again for your intelligent review. I’m waiting patiently in the UK to see this documentary on the big screen.

gertiti
gertiti like.author.displayName 1 Like

oh and Bad was NOT " the last indisputable triumph from a performer who until then had known little else". You are not informed enough about Jackson if you actually think that. Invincible is a masterpeice that still, more than a decade after its original release, blows the socks off anything anyone else had done in the pop genre before or after it arrived. Get it, listen to it on a good system with headphones to really reap the rewards of this compositional genius' finest work. Yes that woudl be Michael Jackson.

gertiti
gertiti like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

thank-you for such an intelligent, enlightening review of one great artist, Spike Lee's documentary of the greatest entertainer/artist/genius/humantiarian we have ever seen, Michael Jackson.

And thank-you very much for not regurgitating the usual slander and false accusations agianst the proven innocent Jackson, bullied to death by a bottom-feeding mass media.

NancyArlens
NancyArlens like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

Wonderful article about the most talented, innovative artist, Michael Jackson, whose music is still inspiring new generations of musicians and fan today! Bad, in spite of all of its number one hits and its fabulous videos, never received the acclaim it was due at the time it came out, soley because it followed Jackson's Mega-Monster-Smash album Thriller. I just cannot wait to view Spike Lee's documentary about Jackson's creative genius, perfectionism and his hard work and determination to

be the best. I understand the documentary will air on Thanksgiving night-a sure remedy to get me up and off the couch and dancing after a huge turkey dinner!

LuluDP
LuluDP like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

Thank you for such a strong and wake-up! piece on the artistic genius of Michael Jackson. I truly hope that those of us who share your view will continue to do our little bit in spreading the truth about MJ. Oh yes, there will still be unbelievers because our tendency to hold on to our "truths" -- no matter if these are unproven of imagined, is part of our human nature and one that has caused mankind many of its worst but preventable misfortunes. But there will be best of joy in knowing that we did what we ought to the way MJ did "no matter what."

nhamilton3
nhamilton3 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 6 Like

I'm still reeling from reading such a 'knock-out' piece of writing in this review by Alan of the village VOICE.   As has had been already said, what a great shame such appreciative comments weren't broadcast when Michael Jackson was alive to hear and read them.   However, I think he realised that his work would live on after he was gone, and receive the acclaim it deserved.   Like Leonardo da Vinci, he bound his soul to his art to conquer death, and it is being proved correct.   I look forward too to buying the DVD of Bad25 documentary when it comes out, and look forward to others in the future.   I believe in my heart that he rose above some of the media hype and had a strong spirit to overcome a lot ot it.   He knew he was loved, and wanted to put L.O.V.E. back into the world..

TessGreenwood
TessGreenwood like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 5 Like

Thank you for such an in depth review of Michael Jackson's BAD album/short films.  It has always been one of my favorites, and was very successful in it's own right, despite being recorded after the wake of Thriller and Off The Wall.

 

The comments that others made about this album NOT being the "last indisputable triumph" are right on. Mr. Jackson went on to record Dangerous, History, Blood On The Dance Floor, and Invincible. These albums have their own uniqueness to them. Dangerous was provocative and accompanied by numerous short films such as: Black & White, Remember The Time, In The Closet, Will You Be There, Heal The World, etc.... The History Album, with it's sometimes angry sound called attention to many social issues harming the human race, as well as his pain.  Invincible is another highly underrated album. There are some masterful songs on this album, as well as a variety of genres to choose from.

 

If documentaries were made for these albums, I'm sure we would see the same creative genius and processes take shape.  Now, that Michael Jackson is gone, and we realize what a treasure we lost, he can be appreciated for being the master at creating music and dance. And, let's not forget the decades of humanitarian works, as well.

masonjud
masonjud like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 5 Like

Thanks, Alan, for the kick-a** review of Bad25 which I'll be viewing at my local NY movie house on Friday (can't wait). I'd like to see the Voice's delightfully irreverent foot firmly inserted up the naysayers' backsides. Ironic, don't you think, that the television premiere of glorious Bad25 will appear on the same ABC network that gleefully aired (to huge audiences and big profits) the slash-and-burn hit piece on Jackson by tabloid proctologist Martin Bashir in 2003. At Jackson's expense, Bashir negotiated a cushy job at the network -- a position he no longer enjoys by the way. I'm sure this irony is not lost on Spike Lee. And Michael Jackson must be giving a big collective 'hoot' to the Media that fed on him alive for some 40 years and now appear to be bending with the wind -- fighting for their own survival in a mercilessly changing landscape.

girlinthelake
girlinthelake like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

What's sad is that a documentary of this integrity wasn't produced 10 years ago instead of that tabloid travesty of misrepresentation made by the malevolent Martin Bashir   How different might Jackson's path have been over the last decade had the public been able to witness his professional passion, artistic genius and gentle humanity as honestly portrayed  here by Mr Lee and others.  God knows he would undoubtedly still be with us as a creative force to be reckoned with.The footage from This is It gave us a glimpse of the real Jackson,  a dedicated entertainer, seeking perfection and commanding the respect of those working around and with him - and it seems as though BAD 25 is going to emphatically re-enforce that impression .   It's often the case that real genius is misunderstood until it's too late and we just don't appreciate what we have until it's snatched away.   I look forward to watching  this celebration of one of the music industry' s most influential and endearing characters.

stanleyd2
stanleyd2 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

So glad that this author and VV have given credit to Spike Lee and Michael Jackson - both serious creators and innovators who came together to enjoy a synergistic professional moment on two short films for "They Don't Care About Us" - and to remind readers that there was so much more to Jackson than the contemporary media ever let us see. The most successful and world-renown entertainer ever of any color was assassinated - slowly, methodically and painfully - and the true scope of the reasons behind that may never be known. You did lose me for a moment with this statement about Bad: "It's the last indisputable triumph from a performer who until then had known little else." It simply isn't true. Jackson went on to release three more dynamite albums that showcased so much more depth and artistry than either Thriller or Bad, and which never need to take a back seat to those two landmark creations: Dangerous, HIStory and Invincible are incredible. 

juneyny
juneyny like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 7 Like

Can't wait to see Spike's documentary.  And thank you VV for this wonderful review; certainly will get the fans even more anxious to see the doc.  I loved BAD25, initially underappreciated, but finally getting its due.  Michael Jackson, our greatest entertainer, whose legacy is secured forever as artist, messenger of global peace and humanitarian. I don't agree with the comment about BAD being his last indisputable album, personally, I'm a fan of HIStory with its uplifting messages; all Michael's work was awe-inspiring.  Just ask the artists who worked with him on every album and every tour.

catherinecoy
catherinecoy like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 6 Like

I always got a kick out of "...your butt is mine.."  With all the vulgarity prevalent in today's "music," I appreciated that Jackson sought to get his point across without subjecting his listeners to vulgar lyrics.

tabccb
tabccb like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 7 Like

It is about time "critics" recognized the "Bad" album for its extraordinary greatness. For some reason, critics failed to review the art and instead tried to critique the artist. Post Thriller, Jackson continued to be innovative, creative and just plain genius. "Bad", the album, the accompanying short films, and the "Bad" Tour are extraordinary accomplishments that have stood the test of time. Contrary to media depiction and critics' bandwagon behavior, Michael Jackson continued to push the envelope of creativity in his subsequent work, becoming more politically bold or was he? With a great artist such as Jackson, he will always keep us guessing. Thanks for the great review of "Bad 25."

contentment2
contentment2 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 4 Like

BAD was definitely NOT MJ's "last indisputable triumph".  He continued producing wonderful art for the rest of his life.  It was the media that refused to see the quality of his work. 

Lauren
Lauren like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 7 Like

Thanks for the great review.  Interesting how it took 25 years for music critics to finally recognize the brilliance of BAD and it's creator.  Next up....Dangerous.  Jackson was far ahead of his time and that is proving true, isn't it?  Just think, in 10-15 years we'll finally have re evaluated HIStory and Invincible and maybe then....his total body of work will be righteously appreciated.  

leitao
leitao like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 8 Like

"It's the last indisputable triumph from a performer who until then had known little else."

I wouldn't say that. ;) The 'Dangerous' album was huge -- it sold 32+ million albums, had four top ten singles on the Billboard Hot 100, was nominated for several Grammys, and was the fastest-selling album ever for MJ in the U.S., breaking the sales record he had held for 'Bad'. Not to mention, I think the 'Dangerous' album's song lyrics were more artistically mature / socially conscious than anything else MJ had ever done. And the music itself was quite diverse -- everything from new jack swing, hip-hop, pop, rock, R&B, etc. 'Dangerous' deserves more credit! lol

leitao
leitao like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

"Nobody is willing to talk about how Jackson and Co. achieved the famous leaning dance moves from the 'Smooth Criminal' video, but in on-set footage, you can see the wires."

 

I don't know why they didn't address this in the documentary, since it's public knowledge... but the 'Smooth Criminal' lean was achieved with U.S. patented, specially-made shoes which basically locked into the floor. This is how MJ did the lean in live concerts (and more recently, it was used by backup dancers at the 2009 MTV VMA's tribute to MJ.)

 

You can view the shoe design and read more about it here: http://www.mediabistro.com/unbeige/michael-jacksons-design-legacy-patented-anti-gravity-shoes_b6990

E.L.
E.L. like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

 @leitao In the short film for 'Smooth Criminal' the lean wasn't achieved via the patented shoes (which weren't filed until 1992). Speaking about his work on SC, Vincent Patterson has previously said in an interview* that the lean "...had nothing to do with shoes being nailed to the floor. Ha!" So, when it comes to how they did it in that particular instance, a bit of mystery remains. :p

 

*Link to VP interview: http://boomitude.com/features/michael-jacksons-moves.html

leitao
leitao

 @E.L.  @leitao Oh, that's interesting, I didn't know that . . . though I suppose it makes more sense to use wires, etc. when filming. XD Thanks for the link to the interview! (Side-note: It's funny how nearly everyone MJ worked with tells a similar story of cursing him out and hanging up on him a few times, before finally believing that it really was MJ calling them, lol.)

StreetMediaZone
StreetMediaZone

@SpikeLee what ' do you think of Alex cross movie :-) truthfully

Annabellious
Annabellious like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Can't wait to see it on big screen in LA @ Chinese 6 Theatres, right above Grauman's, where Mike's got his own piece of the patio out front. Also screening in NYC, beginning Oct. 26 for a 1 week. While size may not be everything in art, it can contribute substantially! The bigger the better when it comes to MJ!

 

no4music
no4music

@SpikeLee YO SPIKE THANKS FOR GIVING @no4music a chance to be in the movie...I'm trying to "DO THE RIGHT THANG" lol BLESS U BRO.

wks9370
wks9370

@SpikeLee Spike - I saw you on Ryan Cameron show a few weeks ago. "look at Mookie all distinguish looking w/ the salt/pepper goat. congrats

ScaryIna
ScaryIna

@SpikeLee #BAD25 - this Saturday on German TV! Just can't wait! Thank you so much, Spike ;-)

OlosMyMind
OlosMyMind

@SpikeLee trying to fullfill my dream can I get a Rt? #OlosAndTheTwistedIndividuals #MTVBrandNewUnsigned2013 Vote Here http://t.co/a0aTinEk

corlista
corlista like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 5 Like

Michael's fans, still missing him and feeling robbed of his extraordinary life and talent, will always "buy in" to any new music, film, documentary, book, etc.  In that regard, they are no different than fans of any other revered artist like Elvis, Mercury, etc.  That the man is finally being recognized for his unparalleled talent and unique prodigy is a gift to all who care about him and his legacy.  Lee doesn't dwell on Michael's "controversies" because it wasn't the subject of his film (plus there were few "controversies" when Bad was being made in the mid 80's).  Shining a light on Michael's near super-human creativity and work ethic was Lee's goal.  No other artist has been dissected with the same consistency and cruelty as Jackson.  We've had decades and decade of that.  Enough.  Now it's time for him to shine, as he often said in encouragement to his musicians in their solo work.  Thank you for doing Michael justice and acknowledging that he was of a level of artist that we will probably never see again.

riversbend09
riversbend09 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 6 Like

 @corlista I for one have heard enough glib speculation and armchair psychoanalysis of Michael Jackson to last a lifetime.  He fascinated and continues to fascinate lovers and haters alike.  He became accustomed to being lied about, which must have been soul-destroying.  

 

What I want to hear is how this unique, eccentric, incredible artist of unparalleled gifts went about creating a monumental legacy.  It's about damn time and great to hear Spike Lee has taken a first stab at the job.  Hopefully there will be a lot more coming.

 

Jackson faced demonic forces in modern US media as far as I'm concerned. 

corlista
corlista like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

I couldn't agree with you more on all counts.  I am just now reading Frank Cascio's book for the second time.  It is a real look inside Michael and the difficulties he faced - as well as how human he was - and how those demonic media forces tore into his soul.   As outsiders looking in, we can't fathom what he went through on a day to day basis throughout his life but especially the last several years.  He deserved so much better...

corlista
corlista

 @Wade  @corlista

For the record, I have read A Jones' book, both of Vogel's books, Mary Fischer's article and over 40 other books which I have in my MJ library by various writers such as Taraborelli (2 editions), Jermaine & LaToya Jackson, L Campbell, L Guest, T Gray, D Kirkland, A Grant, T Hill, I Halperin, S Boteach, G Hughes, P Eddington, A White, L Craviotto, M Maldonado, L Luzajike and many, many more.  Plus I have numerous binders of 100s of articles that I've collected and I follow at least a dozen MJ blogs. I have also read the court transcripts.  I feel people who love Michael and are honestly trying to understand him and his life (good luck!) should read any source they choose to help them in that effort.  I don't know where you got your information on FC because from everything I've learned, Michael encouraged Frank to have friends and to invite them to Neverland when he was gone.  He was careful not to take advantage and was respectful of his position in Michael's home, cleared friends' visits with Michael and devoted himself - at Michael's request - to cleaning up the organizational nightmares left behind by others in early 2000  He hired 2 people, Court and Derek, to help him with the task with Michael's approval.  When people in Michael's organization became threatened by their findings, they maneueved to have them fired without paying them.  Thus, C&D sued for wages.  Frank and Michael had a very close relationship for 20 years - not without its ups and downs - but they cared deeply for each other.  A lot of people came and went from Michael's life and I'm not particularly here to defend Cascio.  I just happen to be reading his book at the moment.  If you have information to substantiate your comments about him, please refer me to the source(s).  I am more than willing to look at it as I am all things Michael.

Wade
Wade like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@corlista

It wasn't just "demonic media forces" that "tore into [Jackson's] soul", there was people like FC himself who caused troubled. He has apparently lied about being Michael Jackson's "manager" for periods when he wasn't, "depleted Neverland resources" when Jackson was away, had mates over and allowed them into Jackson's private bedroom (again, while he was away), breeched his trust, had friends who sued Jackson, has spread inaccuracies about Jackson's health and events in his life, and more. 

 

It would be great if people would stop financially supporting and/or promoting people who contributed to the hardship Jackson faced in life. If one wants to get a better understanding of what Michael Jackson had to deal with there is court transcripts that can be read, as well as Aphrodite Jones' book and Mary A. Fischer's GQ article which provide accurate information. For material about Jackson's work I enjoy Joe Vogel's writings, and thoroughly enjoyed Spike Lee's Bad25 documentary (I'm absolutely buying it when it hits DVD). If you get the chance to see Bad25 in theatre, please do. Spike Lee accomplishes what other so-called friends have failed to do, in that it finally does Michael Jackson some justice. 

 

 

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