I Want My MTV: Bad by Michael Jackson - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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I Want My MTV: Bad by Michael Jackson

My friend you have seen nothing, just wait 'til I get through...
Released on September 7th 1987, as the second single from Michael Jackson's album of the same name, Bad reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100, as well as topping the charts in Ireland, Norway, Spain and the Netherlands, plus making the top 10 in Australia, Austria, France, Germany, New Zealand, Switzerland, Sweden and the United Kingdom. There can be little doubt that the exceptional "short film" music video helped the single's success.

Jackson had written the song in 1986, and in an interview with Ebony and Jet magazines he said he was inspired by a true story that he'd read about in either Time or Newsweek.
"It's about this kid from a bad neighborhood who gets to go away to a private school. He comes back to the old neighborhood when he's on a break from school and the kids from the neighborhood start giving him trouble. He sings, "I'm bad, you're bad, who's bad, who's the best?" He's saying when you're strong and good, then you're bad."
Once completed, Jackson hoped to duet on Bad with Prince, but the purple one declined the invitation. In a later interview, Prince said:
"The first line of that song is 'your butt is mine'. Then I said 'Who's going to sing that to who?' ... because you sure aren't singing that to me, and I sure ain't singing it to you."
Clearly a duet with Prince, one of the only other recording artists of the era who rivaled Jackson in success and fandom, would've sold the track by itself. With Bad now being a solo outing for Michael, he'd turn to the music video to promote the song. And just as he'd done four years earlier with the John Landis directed Thriller, Jackson secured the services of a major Hollywood director. None other than Martin Scorsese.

It is absolutely nuts to think that the man widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential directors in film history, responsible for Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Cape Fear and so many other cinematic masterpieces, found himself behind the camera for a pop-song video. But he did, and as you'd expect from both Scorsese and Jackson, the result was not your average 3 minute promo...

Scorsese delivered a full 18-minute short film, shot in and around Brooklyn, including the Hoyt–Schermerhorn Streets subway station, over a 6-week period during November and December 1986. Jackson portrays a teenager named Darryl, who has just completed a term at an expensive private school before returning to the city, taking the subway back to his neglected neighborhood. Darryl finds his home is empty, but is eventually greeted by his old friends.

If you need any proof that neither Jackson or Scorsese (or likely anyone involved in the production) had any experience of "the ghetto" or gang-life, then look no further than the name they gave to the leader of the gang who Darryl used to hang with - Mini Max. Because that sounds like a truly authentic gang name, right? And not at all like a type of delicious Walls ice cream treat. Oh no! Never mind though, as all is forgiven because Mini Max is played by the then-unknown Wesley Snipes.
As Mini Max (bwah-ha-ha. Sorry it's hard not to laugh) and the other gang members start to realise how much Darryl has changed, and how uncomfortable he has become with their criminal activities (stealing ice creams and the like), Darryl takes the gang to a subway station in an attempt to show his friends he is still "bad" by robbing an elderly man. We as viewers know there's no-way Jackson's character is going to go through with that, and instead he performs a dance routine to show Mini Max and the boys just how "bad" he really is. Because that's just like life in the ghetto, isn't it?...
Respect is earned, with Mini Max and Darryl shaking hands (and the latter suggesting his old friend try a new name, like Big Feast) and parting company.

The full 18 minute video, which is book-ended in monochrome footage sandwiching the colour dance routine, was introduced in a TV special, Michael Jackson: The Magic Returns, which aired on CBS during primetime on August 31st 1987. Although this version was shown at some point in most territories, including several plays on MTV, the full Bad short-film was edited down to a 4-minute shorter version, basically just keeping the song, for standard rotation on MTV and broadcast on music chart shows around the world. Both videos used a different version of Bad, featuring an alternative organ solo in the middle, as opposed to the commercially released version.

Bad has been praised as one of the most iconic and greatest videos of all time, with Jackson's outfit recognised as an influence on fashion, even moreso than that memorable red & black jacket of Thriller. Jackson co-choreographed the shoot with Jeffrey Daniel and Gregg Burge. Daniel was influenced by West Side Story when designing the dance routines but wanted to keep the scene more contemporary and incorporated the "moonwalk" into the movements, commenting:
"It's like a train coming across the screen ... and that's the effect I was looking for and it worked."
The music video received a nomination for best choreography at the 1988 MTV Video Music Awards Ceremony (as did Jackson's video for The Way You Make Me Feel), however Michael lost out to his sister, with Janet Jackson taking home the trophy for The Pleasure Principle.

Big brother Michael didn't go home empty handed as he was presented with the Video Vanguard Award, the first black artist to receive the honor and the first time a single artist hadn't shared the award since its introduction at the inaugural 1984 MTV Video Awards. As you may well know, this special award presented by MTV for "outstanding contributions" and "profound impact" on music video and popular culture, was renamed the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award in 1991, which given the artist's commitment to the music video genre feels like a fitting tribute.

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