Radio 55, side B, track 4: “Bad” by Michael Jackson, #19 on The Top 90 of the ’80s

Michael Jackson - BadOh, Michael Jackson, this was one of the first songs I every recorded off the radio, so obviously it’s got a special place in my heart, especially since the first time I recorded it I ran out of tape.  It’s also bittersweet, because I think this is the last of your songs I recorded off the radio during my youth.  I didn’t realize it at the time, or I probably would have accorded it more significance.  At the time, though, I was probably just shocked that this one, like so many of your other songs that had made the countdown, was not actually the #1 song of the decade.

One of the many lessons I have learned since starting this blog is that you were a ridiculously amazing performer who I spent too many years just focusing on the ridiculous part.  Controversy aside, weird shenanigans aside, anyone who has been alive to hear you sing has been an unbelievably fortunate human being.  You made all the amazing singing and dancing you did seem effortless.  And I wonder what life could have been like for you if you didn’t have such a messed up childhood.  Once you waded through all the pop superstar silliness, you seemed like you really, really wanted to be a good person and help others.  That really struck me as I was listening to this song again.  Because here’s this song about you being bad (not that anyone ever believed it) and talkin’ all tough, but then in the middle of all of it, we’ve got this:  “We can change the world tomorrow.  This could be a better place.”  And immediately afterwards, like you’ve realized your mask of badd-assdom has slipped, you’re all like “but hit me if you don’t like it because I’m BAD!”

This whole song is probably one big metaphor for what it’s like being a guy growing up in a world where being a sensitive male is frowned upon.  I grew up that way.  I know you did, too, Michael Jackson.  It was always really awkward not being the least interested in farming or hunting or fishing or sports growing up where I did.  Part of it is likely me growing up hyper-sensitive to what other people thought of me, but I’m pretty sure there were more than a few in my little neck of the woods who questioned my worth as a man.  Hell, Michael Jackson, I still question that.  Ask my wife, who has pointed out I have an odd fixation on the fact that my hands aren’t manly enough.  But it’s because I grew up where men worked with their hands and you could tell.  I work with my hands, too, but at a keyboard.  Not the same thing.  And definitely not manly.

But the good news is, just in the last year, there’s been a massive sea change on what it means to be a man or a woman or who it’s acceptable to love.  In another century, barring thermonuclear war, super viruses or robot uprisings, the idea that someone would be mocked and persecuted for being gay or straight or white or black or just a little different is going to be a quaint notion that tomorrow’s kids won’t even believe actually happened.  And that’s not bad at all.

“Bad”

<awesome Michael Jackson jam>

Yo butt is mine
Woncha tell ya right

Just show ya face
In broad daylight

I’m tellin’ you
On how I feel

Gonna hurtcha mind
Gon’ shoot ta kill
Shumo

Shumo

Lay it on me

All right

I’m givin’ you
On count’a three

Ta show ya stuff
Or let it be

I’m tellin’ you
Just watch ya mouth

I know ya game
Whatchor about

Well, they say the sky’s the limit
And ta me that’s really true

But my friend ya have seen nothin’
Just wait ’til I get through because I’m bad
I’m bad
Come on (bad bad)
(Really, really bad)
Ya know I’m bad
I’m bad
Ya know it (bad bad)
(Really, really bad)
Ya know I’m bad
I’m bad
Come on
Ya know (bad bad)
(Really, really bad)
And the whole world has ta answer right now just ta tell you once again
Who’s bad

<awesome Michael Jackson jam>

The word is out
Ya doin’ wrong

Gon’ lock you up
Befo’ too long

Your lyin’ eyes
Gon’ tell ya right

So listen up
Don’t make a fight

Yo talk is cheap
You’re not a man

Ya throwin’ stones
Hidejo hands

Well, they say the sky’s the limit
And ta me that’s really true

But my friend ya have seen nothin’
Just wait ’til I get through because I’m bad
I’m bad
Come on (bad bad)
(Really, really bad)
Ya know I’m bad
I’m bad
Ya know it (bad bad)
(Really, really bad)
Ya know I’m bad
I’m bad
Ya know it
Ya know (bad bad)
(Really, really bad)
And the whole world has ta answer right now just ta tell you once again
Who’s bad

<awesome Michael Jackson jam>

We can change the world tomorrow
This could be a better place

If ya don’t like what I’m sayin’
Then woncha slap my face because I’m bad
I’m bad
Shumo (bad bad)
(Really, really bad)
Ya know I’m bad
I’m bad
Ya know it (bad bad)
(Really, really bad)
Ya know I’m bad
I’m bad
Ya know it
Ya know (bad bad)
(Really, really bad)
And the whole world (woo!) has ta answer right now (woo!) just ta tell you once again (woo!)
Ya know I’m bad
I’m bad
Shumo (bad bad)
(Really, really bad)
Ya know I’m bad
I’m bad
Ya know it (bad bad)
(Really, really bad)
Ya know it
Ya know (bad bad)
Ya know
(Really really bad)
Ya know
Come on
And the whole world has ta answer right now just ta tell you once again
Ya know I’m smooth, I’m bad (bad bad)
(Really really bad)
Ya know it
Ya know I’m bad (bad bad)
(Really really bad)
I’m bad, baby

Ya know
Ya know (bad bad)
(Really really bad)
Ya know it
Come on
And the whole world has ta answer right now (woo!) just ta tell you once again
Ya know I’m bad (bad bad)
I’m bad
(Really really bad)
Ya know it

Ya know I’m bad
Ya know (bad bad)
(Really really bad)
Woo!
Ya know I’m bad
I’m bad (bad bad)
(Really really bad)
Ya know it
Ya know
And the whole world has ta answer right now just ta tell you once again
Who’s bad

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3 thoughts on “Radio 55, side B, track 4: “Bad” by Michael Jackson, #19 on The Top 90 of the ’80s

  1. Michael Jackson is and always will be the king of pop love him always great writing

    Liked by 1 person

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