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 14, 1988 (1988-11-14)[1]
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). Written by Jackson, produced by Jackson and Quincy Jones, and released as the album's seventh single on November 14, 1988, it features 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 cardiopulmonary resuscitation training.[4]

"Smooth Criminal" peaked at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the sixth top 10 single from Bad.[5] 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" did not reach number-one on the Billboard Hot 100, retrospective reviews have hailed it as one of the best tracks on Bad and one of the best songs of Jackson's entire career.[6] It has appeared on numerous greatest hits albums and was performed on all of Jackson's solo tours.

The music video for "Smooth Criminal", which premiered on MTV on October 13, 1988, 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 apparently physically impossible "anti-gravity lean".

"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".[6]

Composition[edit]

"Smooth Criminal" evolved from an earlier song written by Jackson, "Al Capone", released on the 2012 reissue Bad 25.[7] It is in the key of A minor,[8] and Jackson's vocal spans from G3 to C6.[8] The lyrics describe a narrator who finds a bloodstained carpet and an unconscious body.[9] The chorus refrain, "Annie, are you OK?", was inspired by Resusci Anne, a dummy used in cardiopulmonary resuscitation training. Trainees learn to say "Annie, are you OK?" while practicing resuscitation on the dummy.[4]

Release[edit]

"Smooth Criminal" peaked at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the sixth top 10 single from Bad.[5] It is certified 2x platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, and platinum by the British Phonographic Industry.[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 performing the "anti-gravity lean" in the "Smooth Criminal" music video.

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

Paterson came up with the idea of the "anti-gravity lean" that Jackson and the other dancers perform 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] The illusion was achieved using cables and a harness.[19][20] In October 1993, Jackson's 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]

The video won Best Music Video at the 1989 Brit Awards[21] 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.[22]

In 2019, American television personality Kim Kardashian bought Jackson's "Smooth Criminal" fedora, which still had his makeup on it, for her daughter North West.[23]

Other media[edit]

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 serves as the background music for the "Club 30s" stage, the nightclub seen in the music video, that appears in the game.[24] The video is the centerpiece of the 1988 film Moonwalker.[citation needed]

Track listings[edit]

Personnel[edit]

Adapted from single liner notes and Michael Jackson website.[26]

Charts[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Denmark (IFPI Danmark)[60] Gold 45,000double-dagger
France (SNEP)[61] Silver 200,000*
Italy (FIMI)[62] Gold 25,000double-dagger
Mexico (AMPROFON)[63] Gold 30,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[64] Platinum 1,000,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[65] 2× Platinum 2,000,000double-dagger

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

Alien Ant Farm version[edit]

"Smooth Criminal"
Alien ant farm smooth criminal.png
Single by Alien Ant Farm
from the album Anthology
ReleasedMay 22, 2001 (2001-05-22)
Recorded2000
GenreNu metal[66]
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 May 2001, American rock band Alien Ant Farm released a cover version of "Smooth Criminal" as the second single from their second studio album, Anthology (2001). 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 the US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart and was also a number-one hit in Australia for eight weeks. In Europe, it reached number three in the United Kingdom and charted within the top 10 in 10 other countries. Directed by Marc Klasfeld, the music video references various 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]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[104] 2× Platinum 140,000^
Belgium (BEA)[105] Gold 25,000*
Germany (BVMI)[106] Gold 250,000double-dagger
Mexico (AMPROFON)[63] Gold 30,000*
Norway (IFPI Norway)[107] Gold  
Sweden (GLF)[108] Gold 15,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[109] Gold 20,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[110] Platinum 600,000double-dagger

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

Release history[edit]

Region Date Format(s) Label(s) Ref(s).
United States May 22, 2001 (2001-05-22) Alternative radio DreamWorks [111]
Europe August 20, 2001 (2001-08-20)
  • CD
  • cassette
[112]
United States August 21, 2001 (2001-08-21) Contemporary hit radio [113]
United Kingdom September 17, 2001 (2001-09-17)
  • CD
  • cassette
[112][114]
Australia October 15, 2001 (2001-10-15) CD [115]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]