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by Josh Friedberg
[Read Part One]
After releasing the best-selling album ever, Thriller, in 1982, the expectations for Michael Jackson’s success were understandably high. So by lots of different measures, 1987’s Bad was inevitably a disappointment, but it also showed Jackson’s growth as a songwriter and an artist.
On Thriller, Jackson wrote four songs out of nine, whereas on Bad, he wrote nine songs out of eleven. And despite the clunky and very dated production, Jackson’s voice, though more strained than on Thriller, performs well throughout, especially on ballads like “Man in the Mirror” and “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You,” a duet with Siedah Garrett. He sounds rougher from the get-go, bragging about his edginess on the opening title track and sounding hellbent on obtaining his object of desire on “The Way You Make Me Feel,” a standout hit from the album.
written by Josh Friedberg
Michael Jackson was a genius—no joke. The man may be more remembered as an entertainer than as an artist, but separately from his groundbreaking dancing, concerts, and music videos, most of his studio output as an adult is very much worth listening to, whether or not you like to dance.
His level of craftsmanship in the studio was exceptionally high, and the picture that emerges from Steve Knopper’s 2015 biography, MJ: The Genius of Michael Jackson (which I reviewed here) is of a driven perfectionist who always strove to create something new.
Many disparage his work after 1982’s blockbuster success, Thriller, but since his death in 2009, much of his work has come under considerable especially 1991’s Dangerous. With CHIRP sponsoring a Classic Album Sundays listening party for 1979’s Off the Wall this coming Sunday, it is an ideal time to revisit the adult solo career of the King of Pop.
by Josh Friedberg
For such an icon, Michael Jackson can be a polarizing figure for biographers—and for pop culture fans in general. Some works focus on his musical accomplishments, while others focus on his tabloid-worthy plastic surgeries and alleged pedophilia.
Rolling Stone contributing editor Steve Knopper’s 2015 book MJ: The Genius of Michael Jackson may sound like a fan’s testament to an exceptional artist and superstar, but the title is somewhat misleading. This is a biography of Jackson that moves briskly while still giving comprehensive coverage to key moments in Jackson’s life and career.
Today's Rediscovering Our Record Collections examines my reaction over time to Michael Jackson's 1982 landmark, Thriller. By all accounts a milestone in the history of popular music, Thriller cemented Michael Jackson's status as a central figure in late-20th century popular culture, becoming the biggest-selling album of all time worldwide; hitting #1 on the album charts in six (!) continents; breaking the color line on MTV with its groundbreaking music videos; and enabling a gigantic crossover success for Jackson, uniting audiences of all racial and ethnic backgrounds for a common cause of celebration.