Smooth Criminal

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"Smooth Criminal"
Smooth Criminal.jpg
Single by Michael Jackson
from the album Bad
B-side"Smooth Criminal" (instrumental)
ReleasedNovember 24, 1988 (1988-11-24)[1]
Format
Recorded1986–87[2]
StudioWestlake Recording Studios (studio D), Los Angeles
Genre
Length4:17
LabelEpic
Songwriter(s)Michael Jackson
Producer(s)
Michael Jackson singles chronology
"Another Part of Me"
(1988)
"Smooth Criminal"
(1988)
"Leave Me Alone"
(1989)
Audio sample

"Smooth Criminal" is a song by American singer Michael Jackson from his seventh studio album Bad (1987). It was written and composed by Jackson, and produced by Jackson and Quincy Jones. It was released as the album's seventh single on November 14, 1988. It features a fast beat with lyrics about a woman who has been attacked in her apartment by a "smooth criminal". The refrain "Annie, are you OK?" was inspired by Resusci Anne, a dummy used in CPR training.

"Smooth Criminal" peaked at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the sixth top 10 single from Bad.[4] It also peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot Black Singles chart. It was certified 2x Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The song reached number one in Belgium, Iceland, the Netherlands and Spain. Though "Smooth Criminal" was not one of the Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles, in retrospective reviews it has been regarded as one of the best songs on Bad and one of Jackson's signature songs.[5] It has appeared on numerous greatest hits albums and was performed on all of Jackson's solo tours.

The music video for "Smooth Criminal" premiered on MTV on October 13, 1988. The video is the centerpiece of the 1988 film Moonwalker. The 1930s influenced setting and Jackson's white suit and fedora pays tribute to the Fred Astaire musical comedy film The Band Wagon. In the video, Jackson and the dancers perform an "anti-gravity lean" that appears physically impossible.

"Smooth Criminal" was re-released in 2006 as a single as a part of Jackson's Visionary: The Video Singles boxset. Rolling Stone ranked the song sixth on their list of the 50 Best Michael Jackson Songs, writing that it was "his best blend of R&B groove and rock edginess, and a turning point in his shift toward darker, harder-edged material".[5]

Composition[edit]

"Smooth Criminal" is in the key of A minor.[6] Jackson's vocal spans from G3 to E5.[6] It has a moderate tempo of 118 beats per minute.[6] The lyrics describe a narrator who finds a bloodstained carpet and an unconscious body.[7]

The chorus refrain, "Annie, are you OK?", was inspired by Resusci Anne, a dummy used in CPR training. Trainees learn to say "Annie, are you OK?" while practicing resuscitation on the dummy.[8]

"Smooth Criminal" evolved from an earlier song written by Jackson, "Al Capone", released on the 2012 reissue Bad 25.[9]

Release[edit]

"Smooth Criminal" peaked at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the sixth top 10 single from Bad.[4] It is certified 2x Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). It is also certified Platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI).[10] The song reached number-one in Belgium, Iceland, the Netherlands and Spain and the top 10 in Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Switzerland and the UK.

Critical reception[edit]

Jason Elias of AllMusic wrote that "Smooth Criminal" was "a gorgeous and exhilarating record ... [it] presents Michael Jackson at his most captivating and it never fails to impress".[11] Rolling Stone named it the sixth best Jackson song, writing that it was "his best blend of R&B groove and rock edginess, and a turning point in his shift toward darker, harder-edged material."[12] In a retrospective review of Bad, Newsweek wrote: "[Smooth Criminal] is a sleek, exhilarating action sequence of a song that's unlike anything else in Jackson's catalog ... an urgent and inspired highlight. Bad is at its best when it explores the darker, more paranoid side that began to consume Jackson's life in the late '80s, and this song captures that impulse."[13] Entertainment Weekly wrote: "If there was one song on Bad that truly captured the sense of artistic freedom that Jackson felt after Thriller, it was this track ... This is pop music as suspense drama."[14]

Music video[edit]

Jackson originally wanted to make the music video in the western genre, but decided after watching The Godfather with director Colin Chilvers to change it to a 1930s gangster style.[15] Jeffrey Daniel of the soul music group Shalamar co-choreographed the "Smooth Criminal" video with Jackson and Vincent Paterson, who was a back-up dancer in "Beat It" and "Thriller". It was directed by special effects coordinator Colin Chilvers. The dance sequence of the video in the 1930s style lounge (and Michael's white suit and fedora) pays tribute to the Fred Astaire musical comedy film The Band Wagon. The film was shot between mid-February and April 1987 at Culver City, California and in the backlot at Universal Studios Hollywood.[16][17] The video premiered on MTV on October 13, 1988.[citation needed]

Jackson and the dancers perform an "anti-gravity lean" that appears physically impossible.[18] The dancers lean forward 45 degrees with their backs straight and feet flat on the floor, and hold the pose before returning upright.[18] The lean moves the body's center of mass further than it can support.[18] In the video, the illusion was achieved using cables and a harness.[19][20] In October 1993, Jackson and his team patented a method of performing the lean in concert using specially designed shoes that hook into pegs that rise from the stage.[18] Even with the shoes, the move requires good athletic core strength.[20]

Jackson performing the "anti-gravity lean" in the "Smooth Criminal" music video.

The style of clothing as well as mannerisms Jackson portrayed were reused in the numerous adaptations of the video game Michael Jackson's Moonwalker. The song itself serves as the background music for the "Club 30s" stage, the nightclub seen in the music video, that appears in the game.[21] The video is the centerpiece of the 1988 film Moonwalker.[citation needed]

The video won Best Music Video at the 1989 Brit Awards[22] and the Critic's Choice awarded Jackson the "Best Video" award and the People's Choice Awards for "Favorite Music Video" for that same year.[citation needed]

On December 27, 2019, American television personality Kim Kardashian revealed on Instagram that she had bought Jackson's original "Smooth Criminal" fedora, which still had his makeup on it, as a Christmas gift for her daughter North West.[23]

Personnel[edit]

Charts[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1988–89) Peak
position
Australia (ARIA)[24] 29
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[25] 17
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[26] 1
Denmark (IFPI)[27] 5
France (SNEP)[28] 4
Germany (Official German Charts)[29] 9
Iceland (Íslenski Listinn Topp 10)[30] 1
Ireland (IRMA)[31] 4
Italy (FIMI)[32] 7
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[33] 1
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[34] 1
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[35] 29
Spain (AFYVE)[36] 1
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[37] 5
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[38] 8
US Billboard Hot 100[4] 7
US Hot Dance Club Play (Billboard)[4] 10
US Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales (Billboard)[4] 13
US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles (Billboard)[4] 2
Chart (2006) Peak
position
France (SNEP)[28] 61
Ireland (IRMA)[31] 14
Italy (FIMI)[32] 6
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[34] 20
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[39] 1
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[38] 19
Chart (2009) Peak
position
Australia (ARIA)[24] 16
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[25] 30
Canada (Hot Canadian Digital Singles)[4] 22
Denmark (Tracklisten)[40] 28
Europe (Eurochart Hot 100 Singles)[41] 20
France (SNEP) Download Chart[42] 10
Italy (FIMI)[32] 17
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[34] 22
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[35] 37
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[39] 33
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[43] 12
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[37] 12
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[38] 13
UK Download (Official Charts Company)[44] 13
US Hot Digital Songs (Billboard)[4] 12
Chart (2013) Peak
position
France (SNEP)[28] 172
Chart (2016) Peak
position
Poland (Polish Airplay Top 100)[45] 76

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (1989) Position
United States (Billboard)[46][47] 93

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[48] Gold 45,000double-dagger
Italy (FIMI)[49] Gold 25,000double-dagger
United Kingdom (BPI)[51] Platinum 614,000[50]
United States (RIAA)[52] 2× Platinum 2,000,000double-dagger

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

Track listing[edit]

Alien Ant Farm version[edit]

"Smooth Criminal"
Alien ant farm smooth criminal.png
Single by Alien Ant Farm
from the album Anthology
ReleasedJuly 24, 2001 (2001-07-24)
FormatCD single
Recorded2000
GenreNu metal[54]
Length3:29
LabelDreamWorks
Songwriter(s)Michael Jackson
Producer(s)Jay Baumgardner
Alien Ant Farm singles chronology
"Movies"
(2001)
"Smooth Criminal"
(2001)
"Movies (re-release)"
(2001)

In 2001, Alien Ant Farm released a cover version of "Smooth Criminal" as the second single from their album Anthology. According to the band members, they would play a few riffs of the Jackson song while warming up before gigs and audience members would request them to play the entire song. This positive feedback encouraged them to record their own rendition of "Smooth Criminal" and include it on Anthology.

The cover became a number one hit on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart and was also a number one hit in Australia and New Zealand. It reached number three in the UK. The music video was directed by Marc Klasfeld, and features multiple references to Michael Jackson music videos, including the "Smooth Criminal" video itself. Their 1999 album Greatest Hits includes a hidden track named "Slick Thief", which is an early version of "Smooth Criminal".

Charts[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (2001) Peak
position
Australia (ARIA)[55] 1
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[56] 6
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[57] 3
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[58] 4
Denmark (Tracklisten)[59] 3
Europe (Eurochart Hot 100)[60] 6
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[61] 2
France (SNEP)[62] 27
Germany (Official German Charts)[63] 5
Ireland (IRMA)[31] 2
Italy (FIMI)[64] 11
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[65] 4
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[66] 4
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[67] 4
Norway (VG-lista)[68] 7
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[69] 3
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[70] 5
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[71] 4
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[72] 3
UK Rock and Metal (Official Charts Company)[73] 1
US Billboard Hot 100[74] 23
US Alternative Songs (Billboard)[75] 1
US Mainstream Rock (Billboard)[76] 18
US Mainstream Top 40 (Billboard)[77] 12

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (2001) Position
Australia (ARIA)[78] 8
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[79] 61
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[80] 24
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[81] 55
Europe (Eurochart Hot 100)[82] 31
Germany (Official German Charts)[83] 43
Ireland (IRMA)[84] 17
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[85] 40
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[86] 42
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[87] 48
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[88] 39
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[89] 32
Chart (2002) Position
Australia (ARIA)[90] 60

Decade-end charts[edit]

Chart (2000–2009) Position
Australia (ARIA)[91] 48

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[92] 2× Platinum 140,000^
Belgium (BEA)[93] Gold 25,000*
Germany (BVMI)[94] Gold 250,000^
Sweden (GLF)[95] Gold 15,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[96] Gold 20,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[97] Platinum 600,000double-dagger

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone

Glee version[edit]

In January 2012, Naya Rivera (as her character Santana Lopez) and Grant Gustin (as Sebastian Smythe) performed "Smooth Criminal" as a duet in the season three episode "Michael" of the American musical television show Glee, backed by musical duo 2Cellos. The song was filmed in a similar environment as the 2Cellos music video, in a room surrounded by empty chairs as the two musicians play. This cover debuted and peaked at number 26 at Billboard Hot 100, number 10 at Billboard Digital Songs, and number 28 at Billboard Canadian Hot 100 chart at the week of February 18, 2012.[98]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]