Michael Jackson, BAD 25


If you care the slightest bit about pop music, your must-watch list now includes Spike Lee's documentary Bad 25. The film bears the same name as the deluxe silver-anniversary reissue of Michael Jackson's third solo album, which was released (you guessed it) 25 years ago.

Bad had the unenviable task of following up his intergalactic smash Thriller, and while it's an amazing album, Lee's movie does an even better job than the music alone in reminding us what an overwhelmingly talented and hard-working performer the self-appointed King of Pop was.

Lee's movie debuted at the Venice International Film Festival and gets a full DVD release in February of 2013. In the meantime, there's an hour-long cut you can currently stream online by the grace of Hulu.

Bad 25 is more than a mere tribute or companion piece. Moving through the album track by track, Lee unearths some gloriously unusual tidbits that we'd been completely unaware of lo these many years.

For example, did you know that "Annie" in "Smooth Criminal" is named for the industry-standard resuscitation dummy that Jackson had been learning CPR on? And that part of CPR involves asking the person in respiratory distress, "Are you okay?" Or that as he was working on Bad he would write 100,000,000 in red Sharpie on the bathroom mirror of wherever he was on tour as a reminder of how many copies he wanted to sell?

That last illustration of Jackson's driven nature is reported by Miko Brando, Jackson's longtime confidant and bodyguard, and it reflects the titanic undertaking that this album was for Jackson and producer Quincy Jones.

For comparison, Thriller was already the best-selling record of all-time when work began on Bad, and it had only sold a quarter of that lofty goal.

Brando and a generous cast of musicians (including Kanye West), choreographers, producers and arrangers actually manage to give us the Jackson that his immaculate and hyper-precise music often can't: a real tangible human being.

We get to see Jackson and two of his choreographers staying up all night at a New York hotel working on dance routines for the "Bad" video. We see how Jackson worked tirelessly to absorb and rework influences from Soul Train to Fred Astaire. Choreographer Vincent Paterson tells how Jackson stopped a video shoot cold with one a capella line and a signature "Hoo!" during the filming of "The Way You Make Me Feel."

Set alongside these insider insights, clips like the full-length performance of "Man in the Mirror" from Wembley in 1988 grow in magnitude and once again make the late MJ more powerfully present than an iTunes playlist ever could.

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