Bad was released Aug. 31, 1987, by Epic/CBS Records.
Branca: I think Michael was really pleased with that album. It was a real coming-out, artistically.
Phillinganes: He evolved as a person, as we all do. What Mike had learned in the studio from the previous two albums, he guarded that knowledge to support the new creativity that he was experiencing with Bad. It was all a natural, organic progression.
Branca: We always knew it was going to be a huge album.
Phillinganes: You hear it on the radio all the time and you obviously feel good about the final product, but it’s not like you go, “Right, this is going to [sell] 50 million right now.” The sales dictate that but it’s all after the fact. You don’t go in predicting that kind of success, even though Mike would write a certain number of sales on his mirror every day as motivation. One hundred million. He’d write that on the mirror and look at it every day.
Lee: Great artists or whatever you want to call them perform great under pressure. He wanted Bad to exceed the sales of Thriller. He wanted Bad to sell a hundred million and told everybody about it, the president of Sony records and everybody. He would put up pieces of paper in his house, in hotels: “100 million.” He wanted to sell 100 million for Bad. Several people in the documentary talk about that.
Lee: During that period, Michael had become so popular that it just seemed there was a natural backlash toward him and this album, which is unfortunate, because the album still stands today as a great piece of work.
Branca: In addition to [Thriller] being the biggest selling record in history, culturally Michael had a huge impact. I helped him buy the Beatles catalog at that time and there was a backlash against his success. There was nowhere in the world you could go where Michael wasn’t known and wasn’t famous.
Lee: Oh yeah. Wacko Jacko. Cover of the New York Post. I don’t have the same mentality as the New York Post.
Branca: The album was great. And you have Martin Scorsese directing the first video! At that time, 1987, other than the fact that we had gotten John Landis to direct Thriller, the notion that you would have an all-time hall-of-fame movie director… That alone told all of us this was going to be a huge album.
Lee: I really remember watching the video, directed by Martin Scorsese. It was a special on CBS… Wesley Snipes was going to kill Michael Jackson.
Afrojack: On the Bad album, the best track is “Bad.” Now everyone’s talking about being gangster or being mafia or whatever but back then it was just really simple. Michael Jackson was bad. That’s it.
Forger: The funny thing about listening to an album when it’s completed is lots of times you work on a project and you work really intensely and you are absolutely pushing yourself to the limit, physically, mentally, and you’re trying to do the best that you can. You’re all so close to a seeing-the-forests-for-the-trees type of situation because you’re listening very technically, and music is an emotional experience.
Phillinganes: By then we’re dealing with CDs and there’s only a certain amount of space a CD can accommodate for the highest quality recording and it boils down to how much time per song for the total amount of time on the CD, all kinds of things.
Forger: What I do is that the day it’s released I’m running to the record store. I can remember running out to buy the album and listening to it and just hearing how wonderfully all the songs had worked together. You don’t have the feel for what the big overall thing is until you step away from it.
Branca: I can’t speak for him, but the Bad album was the only album in history until recently to have five consecutive No. 1 singles. It had nine Top 10 singles. Forty-five million albums. It broke new ground in terms of videos—and Michael never called them videos; he called them short films—and what he did with Martin Scorsese on Bad and Colin Chilvers on Smooth Criminal helped advance the art form of making music videos. So I think by every measure Bad was an enormously and historically successful album. By Michael’s own standards? That’s another question. I can’t answer that.