I’d been wanting to see Bad 25, Spike Lee’s documentary about the legendary King of Pop Michael Jackson and his record-breaking album “Bad,” since it played at the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals early this fall. I was born 4 years after this high point in MJ’s career, but his death is a very strong, lingering memory, much like that of John Lennon’s death for my father’s generation. There simply is no arguing with Michael Jackson’s legend, whether or not you lived through his musical career.
Fortunately, ABC aired Lee’s documentary on Thanksgiving night, though they only showed about an hour of the finished product. But ABC’s television cut sure is a tasty teaser, lending insight into the man, the musician, and the legend of the King of Pop.
Following the smashing success of his album “Thriller,” Michael Jackson’s “Bad” proved just as successful and even more influential, producing five singles that reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Spike Lee’s documentary is a look at what went into the album, with interviews from various recording artists, sound engineers, producers, and others that worked closely with and were greatly inspired by Michael Jackson. It is informative and touches on some of the most iconic images and moments created by the album, including the “Smooth Criminal” Lean, the short film for the title track “Bad,” and the meaning of the lyric, “Annie are you okay?”
There are other interesting moments covered here, such as when singer/songwriter Siedah Garrett discusses how she was brought in to sing a duet with Jackson on the one of the album’s singles, “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You,” and how she frantically wrote and dropped off for producer Quincy Jones the first portion of my personal favorite MJ song, “Man in the Mirror.”
In fact, when discussing “Man in the Mirror,” we are brought to the most emotionally resonant point of the film. “Man in the Mirror” was the first song I listened to upon hearing about the King of Pop’s passing, and it seems that it was the song that many of those close to him turned to as well. It’s a beautiful song and it was quite moving to see that, 3 years removed from his death, those who worked with him are still so emotionally connected to him and find it difficult to even speak of the events of that sad day.
Spike Lee closes the film with Michael Jackson’s live performance of “Man in the Mirror” at Wembley Stadium in England, a grand performance that made me wish I was alive to witness such a showcase. We are reminded of the excellence of Michael Jackson, the beauty within his voice and the passion he exudes in his music.
Although the TV version is but a 60-some minute snippet of the full documentary, Bad 25 is a very good film and an intriguing look at the inner-workings of Michael Jackson’s hit album, “Bad.” I can only imagine that the full film plays just as well.