The BAD25 anniversary package is available Sept. 18—and, although Jackson’s team is still focused on BAD, John Branca says there may be even more unreleased Jackson material to keep fans sated in the future, since an additional album’s-worth of vocal and performance material exists.
Branca: Michael himself did Thriller 25 and that was important to him, so BAD25 was an obvious and a logical choice. Several things are exciting about the package in addition to calling attention to the album and the incredible documentary that Spike Lee has done. We’re including some previously unreleased music. This is music that Michael worked on for the album and it’s quite, quite good. In fact, Michael had debated for a long time about including a song called Streetwalker on the album and at the very last minute he chose Another Part of Me instead. So we have Streetwalker included on the rarities disc. That’s exciting, to be able to share this music with the fans.
Afrojack: My manager got approached by the representative of the Michael Jackson estate and they said that Mike was always looking for new, creative ways and he loved remixes. I’m only 24 years old, and I’ve been making music for a long time but I didn’t really see myself on the level of getting to remix Michael Jackson so I was like, “Wow. Remixing the King of Pop, and there’s only one King of Pop.”
Branca: [My co-executor, John McClain and I,] we always approach things based on the kind of decisions we think Michael would make, what he would be looking for. Having said that, of course the world changes. It’s only been three years since Michael passed away so the world hasn’t changed that much but as new opportunities come up we use Michael’s voice as our guide.
Afrojack: They didn’t want to give out the real parts. We had to find a day that I could be in the studio with one of the representatives of the estate. It was also the same studio where they produced the original Bad album. The vocal booth I was standing in front of was the same vocal booth that Michael Jackson did all his vocals for the album. It was pretty impressive for me. It’s really bad if something happens and his original a capella would leak out, so all of the world can do with his a capella whatever they want. So they’re really careful about it, and that’s really smart. I hope I get treated the same way when I pass away. I felt humbled that they asked me to do it… There’s nothing greater than to work with the best of the best tools. I had the original parts Michael Jackson had. That’s a nice toolshed right there.
Listen to a clip of Afrojack’s Bad remix, featuring Pitbull:
Lee: By getting access to the Michael Jackson archives, I saw stuff I never knew even existed.
Branca: We’ve been in the process of digitizing all of Michael’s archives of audiovisual and written material. We monitor the fans and we’re in dialogue and communication with them, and one of the Wembley stadium concerts is the one that the fans really wanted, so we were searching for that concert and fortunately we found this… We found some interesting notes that Michael had for some of the short films on the album, for example for Smooth Criminal, we found a sketch that Michael did for the outfits that are worn by Michael and the dancers in the short film. Michael designed those with the armband and everything. And we found his notes from when he was conceiving the idea for the Smooth Criminal short film, where he was studying the works of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly.
Forger: I mixed “Don’t be Messin’ Round” and “Free” and the one which is called “Song Groove (A/K/A Abortion Papers).” These were tracks where all of the material had already been recorded. Nothing was added, nothing was recorded, it was just going through and taking the tapes that hadn’t had an appropriate mix and just doing a representative final mix of the way Michael would have wanted the songs to sound.
Branca: In the shadow of Thriller, which is the biggest-selling album in the history of the record business, Bad is perhaps under-appreciated. I don’t think people realize how many hit singles came from that album. This will be really a statement that will remind everybody how important, how influential that album was.
Forger: The bonus tracks that are included on this album I think show a terrific insight into more of that thing that Michael was experiencing at that point in time, the musical ideas he was developing, the direction he was taking, and in some cases some of the tracks are a little bit more raw, which to me is exciting because when you get to hear it a little bit more raw, less completely polished, you get a little bit more of the personality and the emotion that goes into the process.
Lee: For me, this is going to be an insight into Michael’s work ethic and his creative process and the effect it had on the world.
Forger: When I look back and I think about what I took away from that experience and that time, to me it was an opportunity to learn, and for me to understand more not only about music but to learn so many things from Michael. It’s a fantastic high because you’re just enjoying yourself on a tremendous level, and now when you look and back and have an opportunity to reflect on it, you realize it was a rare time. It was a rare time in pop culture, in the world, in the history of music, and also in Michael’s career.
Lee: I think Michael would love this. You might say, “How could I say that?”—but I’m telling you I think Michael would love what we did with this. I really do… We told the truth and we featured his work. It’s not anything but his work, anything but his music and how this album was made. This is about the creative project. It’s about why he felt he was put on earth, to make music. That’s what this is about. Nothing else.