Criminal (Fiona Apple song)

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Single by Fiona Apple
from the album Tidal
Released September 16, 1997
Format CD Single
Length 5:42
Label Work, Columbia
Writer(s) Fiona Apple (lyricist/composer)
Producer(s) Andrew Slater
Fiona Apple singles chronology
"Sleep to Dream"
"Never Is a Promise"

"Criminal" is a song by Fiona Apple. Apple said that the song is about "feeling bad for getting something so easily by using your sexuality."[1] It was released as the third single from the album Tidal in September 1997, and is Apple's biggest hit, peaking at #21 on the Billboard Hot 100, as well as #4 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. The song won the Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance at the 40th Grammy Awards and was nominated for Best Rock Song. The song was listed at number 71 on Blender magazine's 2005 list of "The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born".[1] It reached #55 on VH1's "100 Greatest Songs of the 90's.[2]

Though the lyrics appear to be mostly original work, the intro line "I've been a bad, bad girl", and accompanying melody were first heard on a recording made by Alan Lomax entitled "Prison Blues", performed by Ozella Jones.[3]

Music video[edit]

The song's music video was directed by Mark Romanek with cinematography by Harris Savides. 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] It explores themes of voyeurism and adolescence.[5] In 1998, the video won an MTV Video Music Award for Best Cinematography.

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Criminal" – 5:42
  2. "Sleep to Dream" (live) – 4:36


Chart (1997/1998)[6] Peak
Australia (ARIA)[7] 51
US Billboard Hot 100[8] 21
US Adult Top 40 (Billboard)[9] 17
US Alternative Songs (Billboard)[10] 4
US Mainstream Top 40 (Billboard)[11] 18
US Radio Songs (Billboard)[12] 21

Cover versions[edit]

In 2006, singer Natalie Cole covered "Criminal" for her album Leavin'.[citation needed]

In 2011, the band The Pretty Reckless played a live cover of "Criminal" for KHFI-FM.[citation needed]

Actress Sarah Paulson covered the song in the episode "Massacres and Matinees" on American Horror Story: Freak Show in 2014.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b "The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born: 51-100". Blender (magazine). October 2005. Retrieved June 29, 2007.[dead link]
  2. ^ "VH1: 100 Greatest Songs of the '90s". VH1. Retrieved 2014-11-18. 
  3. ^ "Lomax Blues Compilations go to the Source". Billboard. Retrieved 2015-09-29. 
  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. ^ "Tidal > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles".
  7. ^ "The ARIA Australian Top 100 Singles Chart Week Ending 24 May 1998". ARIA. Retrieved 2016-02-04. 
  8. ^ "Fiona Apple – Chart history" Billboard Hot 100 for Fiona Apple. Retrieved January 29, 2011.
  9. ^ "Fiona Apple – Chart history" Billboard Adult Pop Songs for Fiona Apple. Retrieved January 29, 2011.
  10. ^ "Fiona Apple – Chart history" Billboard Alternative Songs for Fiona Apple. Retrieved January 29, 2011.
  11. ^ "Fiona Apple – Chart history" Billboard Pop Songs for Fiona Apple. Retrieved January 29, 2011.
  12. ^ "Fiona Apple – Chart history" Billboard Radio Songs for Fiona Apple. Retrieved January 29, 2011.

External links[edit]