January 20, 2017

5 Reasons Why Who’s Bad is the Best Michael Jackson Tribute Band Around

Friends have been inviting me to Brooklyn Bowl for ages to go see different DJ sets, out to eat, and of course, to bowl. But, to be honest... I’ve never been there for any of those reasons.

There’s only a few times a year I am willing to make the trek to Brooklyn Bowl and that’s when Who’s Bad comes to town.

Founded and based out of North Carolina, Who's Bad is a Michael Jackson tribute act that travels all over the United States and overseas to perform Michael's music. They are the longest running Michael Jackson tribute band and the ONLY ONE to predate Michael's passing in 2009. From the choreography, to the ad libs, to the set-list- all the details of the show have been carefully crafted for the Michael Jackson fan in mind. 

The first time I saw Who's Bad was in 2011. I had recently founded Legacy of Love, a Meetup for Michael Jackson fans in New York City a year prior and made a bunch of girlfriends that I felt very close to. At the time, Michael’s death was still something that weighed heavily on all of us. When it was announced that Who's Bad was playing B.B. Kings Blues Club on my birthday- I knew it was the perfect way to celebrate and the ladies were happy to join me. Now I sometimes prefer to attend concerts and Michael events alone but, I really appreciated the company and support back then.

Located in the heart of Times Square, B.B. Kings was a great place to see them for the first time. The venue not only had a great sound system and a large dance/standing room floor but, also boasted two LCD screens on either side of the stage. They played videos of Michael and other unique silhouetted imagery of themselves in the background. It was one of the best fan gatherings I can remember.

You may have read my first blog post about Who’s Bad, where I talked about how much I enjoyed the show.  That was written almost 3 years ago and after seeing them again at Brooklyn Bowl, I knew it was time to write a follow-up.

Since the initial review, a few band members have changed (including one of the lead performers, fan favorite Taalib York. I will get back to that later,..) And although it's 7 years later and the shock of losing Michael has somewhat dissipated, Who’s Bad still played to a totally packed house. 

Let me be completely transparent; I used to be THAT girl. The kind of fangirl who, like many in the fan community, didn't like tribute acts.  I was quite outspoken about not wanting to see anyone else do Michael songs. Who's Bad changed that.

Who's Bad was the first tribute act I saw after Michaels death and though I’ve seen a handful of others since then, NO other experience (besides the Jacksons concerts) comes closer to seeing Michael Jackson live. Yep, I said it… and I have seen Michael Jackson live and the Jacksons live, six other times (including once with Michael in 2001). Keep reading to find out why...

5 Reasons Why Who's Bad is 

THE BEST Michael Jackson Tribute Band around!

1. They're fans.

One of the things I know to be true, is that 99% of Michael Jackson impersonators and tribute acts are FANS. Why would anyone spend countless hours learning choreography, Michael's mannerisms, perfecting the lyrics, and even a developing time consuming stage makeup routine, if they weren't a fan?

Sometimes impersonators and tribute acts can give off vibes that make you question whether or not they’re still fans, whether or not they are simply on stage just going through the motions... things like that. I don’t really know how to explain it but, if the performers aren’t passionate about what they’re doing, tributes can come off as dry and mechanical. What I've found in Who's Bad, is that you can literally feel energy of a stage full of people who love Michael Jackson and his music. What other tribute show do you know of, where the guys in the band play instruments, do a little background singing, and even some dancing? They're having fun the entire show and the crowd really feeds off that.

2. They are respectful of Michael Jackson. 

I have seen a lot of tribute acts over the past few years and some have been surprisingly kitschy. Others have been somewhat offensive. About 4 years ago, I went to see a tribute show and the lead performer made distasteful jokes in between songs. As a fan, I was hurt to see another fan make fun of Michael just to get laughs out of the audience... but, I guess it comes with the territory. It’s frustrating but, from a business standpoint, I understand it. Sometimes shows do need to be tailored to their respective audiences but, it's still not MY cup of tea. Who's Bad reminds the audience at every show, that they are celebrating the life and the music of Michael Jackson. And to me, that's the way it should be.

As Michael once said himself during his acceptance of the Grammy Legend Award in 1993, “It feels good to be thought of as a person, not as a personality.”  I wouldn't be able to enjoy the show without knowing that the performers up there were representing and celebrating my hero with dignity and class.

3. They are super talented individuals.

Of course, the Who’s Bad features all the classic hits that folks want to hear but, they also play a couple of surprises, including “Love Never Felt So Good,” which was cool hearing accompanied by live instrumentation. The Michaels, James Time III & Joseph Bell both have outstanding voices and do a great job at performing the songs live. Michael was so much more than a dancer and an entertainer… his voice was also a key element of that overall "King of Pop" stage performance. Who’s Bad consistently features performers with vocal talent who are naturals on the stage.

4. The BAND is amazing.

The BAND! I cannot say enough great things about them. The musical direction is on point and I have to give great props to those guys. No other tribute show has got the live Michael/Jacksons sound down like they do. The live music is played with soul and exuberance. One of the main reasons why I feel so pumped after Who's Bad shows, is because of how authentically well they play Michael's music and interacting with the crowd.

5. They do lots of meets and greets and come down to take photos after the show!

One of the reasons I love this act is that I've gotten a chance to speak to several of the members. They are super down to Earth and gladly take photos with fans, when time and venue permits. (I actually haven't met Joseph, AKA "Jobell" yet but, I look forward to meeting him in the near future.)

After the show, I was anxious to meet the Michaels. I had the chance to meet the band’s newest front man, James. He exceeded my expectations both on stage and off. I was impressed with his sharp dance moves and a graceful stage presence reminiscent of Michael’s. But also, how kind he was to take multiple photos and chat with each person who wanted to.

Oh- and BONUS points because he gave me a shout out during the show to compliment me on my CTE shirt!
Me in my CTE Shirt...

...and Michael in his! * via Dangerous Tour- MITM performance*


Seeing Who’s Bad this was time around was a fun experience and I am glad I went on that Friday night. Oh and last but not least... I want to address something that has been a topic of conversation among the fan community lately... What Happened to Taalib York?  Well, after attending the show, I am glad to say I finally found out the answer. That night they announced a special guest in the audience and it was Taalib!

James, Taalib, and Jobell on January 6th at Brooklyn Bowl.

They mentioned that Taalib left the group to explore other opportunities. Very happy for him! The cool part I have to mention, was that he joined current lead men on stage during a memorable performance of “Man in the Mirror”. So awesome to see, ending the evening on a high note!

If you’re interested in seeing when Who's Bad will be in your city, visit their official website whosbadmusic.com or follow them on facebookinstagram and twitter @WhosBADMusic. Tickets are VERY reasonably priced (I don't think I've paid more than $30 USD to see them General Admission in New York but, I would because they are worth sooo much more). They travel all over the world and are probably going to be playing at a town near you sometime soon.

Don’t forget to tag me too and let me know how you enjoyed the show :-)

be sure to follow MJFANGiRL on social.

Until Next Time, xoxo

January 12, 2017

My Michael Jackson Fan Favorites for January & 2017 Resolutions

To start off my January favorites, I have to talk about these awesome shirts at the top of the list.
I am really excited about the new shirts in my collection.

The first one I received as a gift from my sister. We are both head over heels in love with Urban Outfitters and when she saw this online, she rushed to get it for me. First of all, the shirt is by a brand called Junk Food I mentioned this brand in my favorites post from last month because they also made the PYT shirt I shared.

Before Michael Jackson died in 2009, shirts with him on it were pretty difficult to find. But now, companies like Junk Food are making officially licensed shirts in beautiful ladies cut shapes and also in soft and feminine material. This shirt runs a little large but I think it's made to be off the shoulder. I personally like it a lot and could see myself sporting this a lot this Spring. Link to the shirt is here!

If you're interested, run over to Urban Outfitters (fast!) and grab one. I also recommend checking there every few months and searching under the terms "Jackson" and "Michael Jackson" because they often have stylish and new merchandise every few months.

This next shirt is a Bravado licensed shirt from Forever 21. I am not sure if it's still available in stores because I got mine on Poshmark.

I really love browsing both Posh and eBay- it's kind of like when Michael talked about loving to shop at the Salvation Army... you find some good stuff both places (and at rock bottom prices).

What's a new year without a Michael Jackson Calendar? I actually have never purchased one but, I've always received MJ wall calendars on a yearly basis as gifts. I gave in and finally ordered mine off of Amazon.com because I didn't get one this time around. I realized that my kitchen wall just doesn't feel the same without it!

Now there's the option above and then there's the one below, which I like better.
I know I can't be the only one that chooses her calendar based on the photos inside... right? :-)

Here's a link if you're interested in purchasing this version of the  Michael Jackson 2017 Wall Calendar from Calendars.com.

One of my resolutions of the the past few years has been to develop a healthier diet. I'm on a pretty good track. I workout a few times a week and for the most part, I try to make a concerted effort to maintain a diet rich with protein and vegetables. But alas... I'm a sucker for sweets, especially Chocolate chip cookie dough. Well.. my life pretty much changed when a friend introduced me to Lara Bars. These vegan bars are made with less than 5 ingredients, all whole and natural foods. And let me tell you... they are SO GOOD! My favorite flavor is obviously Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough but, Apple Pie and Cashew Cookie come pretty close as my second and third choices. You can get a sampler pack on Amazon or at brick and mortar health food stores, like Trader Joes and Whole Foods.

As Michael Jackson fans, we often spend so much time reading newspaper articles, unauthorized books, and fan forums that it's easy to lose sight of Michael's truth. Though I haven't read MOONWALK in its entirety for almost a full decade, I always take time out to flip through it to rediscover Michael's voice. I've been looking at this book and Marlon Brando's autobiography a lot lately.

Not many people know this but, Marlon Brando is another one of my inspirations. I am a huge fan of classic films and one of my favorites is On The Waterfront. When I discovered him in this film, I was incredibly moved by his performance. And when I saw A Streetcar Named Desire, I was completely sold (and not to mention incredibly in love with the character he played).

Brando was credited with bringing realism to acting and often went to great lengths in preparing himself for roles. He dug deep inside of himself to bring out the realest emotions, his own hurts and pain, to portray characters with unmatched realism.

He was just so raw. I suppose that's part of why he is the only actor I've ever related to and identified with in a personal way. He was a pioneer, an incredible talent, and an activist that wasn't afraid to speak out about what he believed in. Oh and also, Marlon's son Miko was one of Michael's good friends for almost 25 years. If you are interested in learning more about his incredible story, I would recommend checking out his book Brando: Songs My Mother Taught Me or watching my favorite documentary about his life.

A couple of years back I was gifted this keychain in exchange for working an event. I've held on to it ever since. I have a bunch of Michael themed charms on it and it's a little rainbow of sunshine every time I pull my keys out. The Motown ring is one I picked up on a trip to Detroit last year, the Michael Jackson One rhinestone hat was a gift from my mother, and the official fan club one was a gift from my host mother- she found it in a small novelty shop in Japan.

I'll wrap this post up by sharing my resolutions for the upcoming year.
It's taken me a while this time but, I always write out my goals and hopes for the new year.
Even though I rarely look at them, at the end of December, I somehow realize that I usually have accomplished and reached most of them.

Here are some of the ones at the top of my list for 2017:

  • drink more water
  • blog more 
  • spend more time doing things I'm passionate about
  • spend more time with people I love
  • grow in my faith
  • learn (and master) 10 new recipes 
  • go see at least 5 live concerts

What are some of your resolutions for 2017?

until next time... xoxo

be sure to follow MJFANGiRL on social.

January 4, 2017

The History of Michael Jackson: at Disneyland (and My 1st Trip There!)

If my love and appreciation for Michael Jackson came from my father, I must give credit for my love of Disney to my mother.

When I think of Walt Disney, one of the things I often think about is how the hard work, creativity, and the dream of one man could create the massive empire that Disney is today. So inspiring!

Michael Jackson has been quoted as saying about Walt, "I have such admiration for Mr. Walt Disney and what he accomplished with the help of so many talented artists. When I think about the joy he and his company have brought to millions of children - and adults-the world over, I am in awe".

I had been to several of the Disney Parks before but, when I had the opportunity to visit Disneyland for the FIRST TIME last month with one of my best friends, I could barely hold my excitement.

A lot of people who consider their home park to be Walt Disney World are taken aback by the size and scale of Disneyland. That couldn’t be further from my experience.

I found Disneyland to be super unique and cozy. It was easier not to compare it to Walt Disney World because I haven’t been there in 2 years but, I liked Disneyland a lot. Whenever I do Disney World trips, I feel like 3 or 4 days still isn’t enough to do everything.

I think Disneyland is someplace that could be enjoyed comfortably over the course of 3 or 4 days, between the two parks... and I like that it isn’t so overwhelmingly large. For a shorter getaway, it is perfect. The thing I noticed most about Disneyland is that there isn’t that “vacation” vibe that you get at the parks in Orlando. I am not sure about the numbers on this but, I would guess that a lot of people who go to Disneyland are locals. Whereas Walt Disney World is an entirely enclosed and isolated “world” of escapism and magic. Pretty much everyone is on vacation there but, Disneyland was so much more of a chill vibe. I guess it was very California, in that way.

Every year 138 million people visit Disney parks all around the world, including me…. and at one time, Michael Jackson.

Interestingly enough, the first track on the Jackson 5’s debut album, “Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5,” (and the first sung words by Michael on an officially released Motown record!) were “Zip A Dee Doo Dah”.

A Disney original, “Zip A Dee Doo Dah,” is a song from the 1946 film Song of the South. The song was originally created for the live action and animated movie mash up and performed by James Baskett (here). I suppose it is no coincidence that Michael’s debut was in some way connected to Disney.

A bit of “real life” foreshadowing of things to come… perhaps?

Most of us have seen photos of Michael in and around the parks as an adult but, many fans don’t realize that his first performance at a Disney Park was with the Jackson 5. The “Sandy in Disneyland” program was a television special that aired April 10, 1974, featuring the quirky comedienne Sandy Duncan. It aired on CBS and showed Sandy getting into entertaining situations around the park. The program featured many guest stars, including the Jackson 5.

Their segment was only about 4 minutes but, they did a short medley of “I Want You Back” and “ABC”--in pirate/sailor costumes!  If you’re interested, the segment can easily be found here on Youtube.

Six years later, Michael was invited back as a celebrated guest at the park and performed on Kraft Salutes Disneyland’s 25th Anniversary.

This special aired on March 6, 1980 and featured a number of special guests, including The Osmonds. His medley of “When You Wish Upon a Star,” “Ease on Down the Road,” and “Follow the Yellow Brick Road,” was one that I used to listen to regularly on my way to school. It always put me in such a happy mood. It was also during the filming of this special, when Michael requested the presence of Todd Gray to exclusively photograph him for the first time.

Gray’s name should be familiar to you, if you have heard of the book “Before He Was King”. I actually reviewed it here and talked about what a phenomenal collection of photos this was. Todd Gray first shot Michael in 1974 with the Jackson 5 but, once he worked with Michael behind the scenes of the Disneyland special, he continued to be his personal photographer for the next 4 years.

Vanity Fair published an excerpt from Todd Gray about his experience Michael in Disneyland, shortly after Michael’s death in 2009.

 “When Michael was not on the set performing, he took every opportunity to explore the park. The moment the director would release him from the set in order to prepare the next shot, Michael would grab my arm and say, “Come on, let’s hit some rides.” Off we went, the two of us accompanied by a Disney security person, who ushered us through secret passageways, making certain we never waited in line.” (Gray, 2009) 

Michael Jackson and Goofy

Michael Jackson and Minnie

I've heard about Disney Parks accommodating Michael Jackson for private visits after closing for years. Here are a couple shots of an instance of that, also around 1980, as he drove the Disneyland Main Street Omnibus, accompanied by his sister Janet Jackson.

In the years following, Michael Jackson would have an incredibly long history with the Disney Parks and the Walt Disney Company.

There is a lot to cover so, I will be revisiting this someday. If you're curious, I'd love to talk more about my time spent at Disneyland (including what I loved MOST) and some other cool tidbits about Michael and The Happiest Place On Earth.

In the meantime, please check out this post about my experience watching Captain EO with other MJ fans during my trip to Orlando in 2014- it’s a good one!

Be sure to follow MJFANGiRL on social for more! 

Until Next Time, xoxo

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