Michael Jackson made some of the most iconic, visually fascinating music videos of all time. Some of them were more like short films, especially given the level of talent he worked with. For this and every Saturday in February, we'll look at some of his videos as if they were movies and discuss them accordingly.
He's bad, he's bad, he's really, really bad. Gee, Michael, thanks for the tip. Very enlightening. As I mentioned last week in talking about "Smooth Criminal," whenever Michael Jackson tried to act tough in his videos, it never seemed completely convincing somehow, as if he were trying to convince himself of his masculinity as much as anyone else. In my opinion, anyway.
Bad the album represented a major image change at the time. The young man we knew and grew up with prior to both album and single came across as more innocent, comfortable around ladies but not quite so masculine.
"Bad" the video was different, not only for the black leather outfit and the gritty subway setting, but because of Jackson's facial transformation as well. His skin looked lighter and smoother, his hair was straighter, and his nose was smaller - all of which made him look less identifiably black. (The first time I heard the Kanye West lyric "Got a light-skinned friend look like Michael Jackson/Got a dark-skinned friend look like Michael Jackson" I laughed out loud.) Allegedly there were medical reasons for this, and maybe that was true, but the implications were too big to ignore. Jackson, a "crossover" success story if ever there was one, suddenly seemed to be denying his racial heritage.
I was too young to fully consider these implications at the time Bad came out, however. I was more interested in the video. Directed by none other than Martin Scorsese from a story idea by crime novelist Richard Price, it was set in an actual Brooklyn subway station (shortly after Jackson died, a local politician tried and failed to get the station renamed after him). Scorsese, of course, has always had a great facility for incorporating music into his feature-length films, and his style doesn't feel out of place here, amidst all the dance choreography. Once again, as in "Ghosts," Michael's character is trying to be molded into something that he doesn't want to be and he rebels (IMDB says that this was inspired by a true story), and he magically conjures up a posse to back him up (well, not literally in this case, but they do come out of nowhere).
It's a memorable, iconic video that has stood the test of time (as well as Weird Al parodies). One can't criticize it too much, in the end.