25 years ago, Michael Jackson was “Bad.” The release of this album marked another creative and commercial height for the superstar artist, already in possession of the world’s top-selling album of all time with “Thriller.” On this project, Jackson would cement his icon status and again make music that wasn’t just popular; it became a part of the culture of the times. This Thursday on ABC at 9:30 p.m., director Spike Lee presents “Bad 25,” his take on the phenomenon that was Jackson through the window of this specific project. He explores Jackson’s impact on music as well as his often strange existence in the kind of fishbowl that few people can imagine.
But Lee’s focus is mainly on the music and Jackson’s creative genius. “People at the top of their fields make it look so easy," told USA Today. "You think Michael Jordan came out of the womb dunking, or Frank Sinatra was born with that voice. But it doesn't happen like that — these people bust their (butts). Michael Jackson sang for his supper from the time he was five."
Lee talks to many of Jackson’s contemporaries and musical peers as well as cultural critics who witnessed the Jackson phenomenon take place. Jackson’s one-time backup singer Sheryl Crow, Questlove of The Roots, Kanye West and director Martin Scorsese are shared their memories. Lee himself worked with Jackson on his videos/short films for the song “They Don’t Care About Us,” but admits he didn’t get to know the reclusive Jackson that well.
Two notable exceptions to the array of Jackson contemporaries and collaborators are Quincy Jones and Wesley Snipes. Jones is only seen in archival footage as he and Lee’s schedules just didn’t jibe, and although Lee visited Snipes in federal prison where he’s currently serving time on federal tax charges, he was not permitted to shoot. Of course, there is footage of Jackson himself and some insight into how he approached his art. Viewers of his concert preparation film “This Is It,” shot shortly before his untimely death, will remember its portrayal of Jackson as focused and exacting.
“Bad25” is over 2 hours in its original documentary version, though ABC viewers will see a shorter version. A DVD will be available in 2013. Watch a preview below.