When the “Bad 25” documentary aired on broadcast television last November, it warmed the hearts of all Michael Jackson fans who watched it. Lovingly directed by Spike Lee, it had a warmth missing from the many Jackson-related television events aired during the entertainer’s lifetime. That can partially be attributed to Michael’s own heavy hand—when was the last time you saw a Jackson doc without the requisite stock footage of screaming fans? It can also-at least partially-be attributed to the fact that Michael’s art can now be discussed free of his many eccentricities. He can be appreciated for his talent as opposed to being questioned for…well, just about everything else.
MJ fans have been chomping at the bit for the full, uncut version of Bad 25 to be released ever since the beginning of 2013. Release dates have come and go over the ensuing months, and as of several weeks ago, the documentary is finally available via MJ’s website. In full, it’s just as illuminating and just as enjoyable. Devoting time to each of the album’s 11 tracks, it gives viewers a more complete picture of the creative process involved in making this smash hit album.
Almost every musician, songwriter and producer involved in Bad makes an appearance here, from Quincy Jones and engineer Bruce Swedien to musicians Jerry Hey and Greg Phillinganes to collaborators Siedah Garrett and Stevie Wonder. Since Michael paid damn near as much attention to his
videos short films as he did to his music, there’s also plenty of screen time for choreographers Jeffrey Daniel and Vincent Patterson (who DOES NOT GIVE UP THE SECRET OF THE “Smooth Criminal” LEAN!!!) All of the creative types named here have a great deal of insight into the making of Bad, and all show a great deal of respect for Michael’s artistry while also offering up the occasional humorous anecdote to remind folks that Michael was an actual human being and not this abstract piece of ephemera.
Of course, plenty of space is made for those who have been influenced by Jackson as well. While Chris Brown and Justin Bieber don’t offer much of value (surprised?) both The Roots’ Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson and Kanye West offer plenty of thoughtful commentary. Anyone questioning the misogyny of West’s Yeezus album can point to this interview, where he says that he’s pretty much lived out the lyrics of Jackson’s “Dirty Diana”, and draw a straight line from Jackson’s work to his. As an aside, in terms of media coverage, doesn’t it seem like Yeezy has taken over from MJ as White media’s most hated (for no reason) African-American celebrity?
Despite all of the members of Michael’s team that appear on the Bad 25 documentary, the star of the show is still MJ himself. Whether watching him in the studio or in performance, it’s impossible to not be transfixed by the man. The voice is still riveting, the dance moves still energizing, the personality still strangely engaging. Even when the documentary makes the occasional leap into hyperbole, it’s still enjoyable (although that’s not to say you won’t roll your eyes a couple of times.) Until a documentary comes out tracing the making of Thriller or Off The Wall, or the definitive biography is created, I’d have to say that Bad 25 is the most enjoyable biographical account of Michael Jackson on video to have been created so far. Documentarians, the bar has been raised.