Criminal (Fiona Apple song)

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Single by Fiona Apple
from the album Tidal
B-side"Sleep to Dream" (live)
ReleasedSeptember 16, 1997
StudioOcean Way Recording (Los Angeles, California)
Songwriter(s)Fiona Apple
Producer(s)Andrew Slater
Fiona Apple singles chronology
"Sleep to Dream"
"Never Is a Promise"
Music video
"Criminal" on YouTube

"Criminal" is a song by American recording artist Fiona Apple, released in September 1997 as the third single from her debut studio album, Tidal. Apple has stated that the song is about "feeling bad for getting something so easily by using your sexuality".[2] Apple's highest-charting single, it peaked at number 21 on the Billboard Hot 100 (her only entry to date), as well as number four on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks.

The song won the Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance at the 40th Grammy Awards and was nominated for Best Rock Song. "Criminal" was listed at No. 55 on VH1's "100 Greatest Songs of the '90s",[3] and No. 71 on Blender magazine's 2005 list of "The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born".[2]

Music video[edit]

The song's music video was directed by Mark Romanek in May 1997 with cinematography by Harris Savides. It was released a month later in June 1997. Visual enhancements including the retroreflector in Fiona's eyes and additional lighting vignettes were created by visualist Ash Beck. The video features Apple sulking in various states of undress, and The New Yorker described her as "looking like an underfed Calvin Klein model",[4] known as the "heroin chic" look. It explores themes of voyeurism and adolescence.[5] In 1998, the video won an MTV Video Music Award for Best Cinematography.

The video was featured in the 1997 MTV special "Beavis and Butt-Head Do Thanksgiving".[6] Up until Beavis and Butt-Head's revival in 2011, it was the most recent music video to be critiqued by the duo, along with Marilyn Manson's "Long Hard Road Out of Hell" video, which was also featured in the special.[6]

Track listing[edit]

  • "Criminal" – CD[7]
  1. "Criminal" – 5:42
  2. "Sleep to Dream" (Live) – 4:36


Chart (1997–1998) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[8] 51
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[9] 28
Canada Rock/Alternative (RPM)[10] 9
US Billboard Hot 100[11] 21
US Adult Alternative Songs (Billboard)[12] 2
US Adult Top 40 (Billboard)[13] 17
US Alternative Airplay (Billboard)[14] 4
US Mainstream Top 40 (Billboard)[15] 18

Certifications and sales[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
United States (RIAA)[16] Platinum 1,000,000double-dagger

double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Cover versions[edit]

Singer Natalie Cole covered the song for her twentieth studio album Leavin' (2006). Len Righi of The Morning Call wrote that she was surprised at Cole's ability to transform the "agonizing, brazen lament" into "a funky, Tina Turner-type, rump-shaker".[17]


The music video for "Criminal" was the main inspiration for It Was Romance frontperson Lane Moore's music video to her song "Hooking Up with Girls", with many visuals as well as costumes inspired by the video.[18][19]


  1. ^ Richin, Leslie (January 12, 2017). "20 Alternative Rock Hits Turning 20 in 2017". Billboard. Retrieved November 29, 2018.
  2. ^ a b "The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born: 51-100". Blender. October 2005. Retrieved June 29, 2007.[dead link]
  3. ^ "VH1: 100 Greatest Songs of the '90s". VH1. Archived from the original on 2014-11-08. Retrieved 2014-11-18.
  4. ^ Frere-Jones, Sasha. "Extraordinary Measures". The New Yorker. October 10, 2005. Retrieved June 18, 2007.
  5. ^ Zeltner, Mark. "Fiona Apple's 'Criminal' and Video Voyeurism for the '90s". Images, issue 5. Retrieved June 28, 2007.
  6. ^ a b Kain. "Top Thanksgiving Cartoon Specials". 95 Rock KKNN. Retrieved 2020-01-19.
  7. ^ "Criminal" (Liner notes) (Barcode: 098707859526) September 10, 1996
  8. ^ "The ARIA Australian Top 100 Singles Chart Week Ending 24 May 1998". ARIA. Retrieved 2016-02-04.
  9. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 3451." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. February 9, 1998. Retrieved January 1, 2019.
  10. ^ "Top RPM Rock/Alternative Tracks: Issue 3315." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. September 1, 1997. Retrieved January 1, 2019.
  11. ^ "Fiona Apple Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved January 29, 2011.
  12. ^ "Fiona Apple Chart History (Adult Alternative Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved January 29, 2011.
  13. ^ "Fiona Apple Chart History (Adult Pop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved January 29, 2011.
  14. ^ "Fiona Apple Chart History (Alternative Airplay)". Billboard. Retrieved January 29, 2011.
  15. ^ "Fiona Apple Chart History (Pop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved January 29, 2011.
  16. ^ "American single certifications – Fiona Apple – Criminal". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved March 27, 2020. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH. 
  17. ^ Righi, Len. "Natalie Cole". The Morning Call. Archived from the original on November 21, 2016.
  18. ^ It Was Romance's New Video Is A Remake Of Fiona Apple's "Criminal" A ’90s dream come true
  19. ^ This Lesbian Homage to Fiona Apple’s ‘Criminal’ Is Exactly What You Need Right Now

External links[edit]