Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of ‘Bad’ With Michael Jackson’s Weirdest Video
This week marks the release of the 25th anniversary edition of Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad,’ aka the album that everyone thinks isn’t as good as ‘Thriller.’ Despite not being as beloved as ‘Thriller,’ ‘Bad’ produced five number one singles, a feat that went unbroken until Katy Perry strapped whipped cream shooters to her chest and caused ‘Teenage Dream’ to have the most chart-topping singles in history.
In fact, 10 of ‘Bad’s' 11 tracks were released as singles. You probably know most of them (‘The Way You Make Me Feel,’ ‘Smooth Criminal’), but there’s one that there’s a good chance you’ve never heard. ‘Liberian Girl,’ a mid-tempo ballad that opens with some spoken word Swahili for some reason, was written by Michael for his good pal Elizabeth Taylor. (The British-born Taylor doesn’t have an ounce of Liberian blood in her, but whatever.) And like the rest of the singles on ‘Bad,’ ‘Liberian Girl’ had a video. Only this video is a little…different.
Hey, they can’t all be ‘Thriller.’ (Or even ‘Speed Demon,’ for that matter.) Sometimes you just want to call in all your famous friends for a gratuitous cameo fest, call it a day and make a beeline for Disneyland with Webster.
The basic premise, if you can call it that, of the ‘Liberian Girl’ video is that Michael has brought all of his celebrity pals together for a video shoot. And what a deep Rolodex of pals it is! Everyone from Sherman Hemsley (who shows off his moonwalk) to David Copperfield shows up to hang out on the vaguely Arabian Nights-themed set and deliver bits of dialogue and other schtick.
(Yes, that’s Blossom.) It’s unclear what anyone is doing other than hanging out. Is Paula Abdul supposed to be the choreographer? At one point Whoopi Goldberg rightly asks who’s directing the video, and then there’s a cut to Steven Spielberg but he’s never actually shown directing anything. Still, there are a few amazing bits of action, such as:
John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John reuniting four years after their career-killing vehicle ‘Two of a Kind.’ They perform some random romantic scene and Travolta does jazz hands for absolutely no reason.
Jasmine Guy being catty to Rosanna Arquette and strutting around like the set mean girl while quaffing a mimosa.
Blair Underwood and Ricky Schroder playing the world’s most awkward rock/paper/scissors game before confusing Weird Al for MJ.
Suzanne Somers pointing out “the guy in ‘LA Law’” to Bubbles as if he knows who or what that is.
Whoopi pitching Carl Weathers on a sequel to ‘Jumping Jack Flash’ and ‘Action Jackson’ called ‘Action Jumping Jackson.’ (The fact that this never happened is a serious crime.)
Debbie Gibson singing while probably thinking about how she was the most famous person on set at the time.
And Malcolm-Jamal Warner talking on a giant portable phone next to another phone.
But mostly everyone just sits around and waits for Michael to show up. Towards the end, Dan Aykroyd and Steve Guttenberg barrel in on police motorcycles and you (wrongly) think that something might actually happen. Aykroyd asks where Michael is, when suddenly…
Oh, that scamp! He was filming them the entire time.
A forgotten part of Jackson’s legacy today, the ‘Liberian Girl’ video is a reminder of the time when the King of Pop could literally get his celebrity pals to show up for anything, be it the ‘We Are the World’ recording or the most phoned-in video shoot in music history.