"Smooth Criminal" is the seventh single from Michael Jackson's 1987 Bad album. The song contains a fast-paced beat intertwined with Jackson's lyrics about a woman named Annie, who has been attacked in her apartment by a "smooth" assailant. "Smooth Criminal" was the original title for the album, but Quincy Jones did not like it. It was released as a single on October 24, 1988, and peaked at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100.[1] It was re-released on April 10, 2006, as a part of the Visionary: The Video Singles box set. The re-released Visionary single charted at number 19 in the UK. The piece is one of Jackson's signature songs, and has appeared on numerous greatest hits albums, including Number OnesThe Essential Michael JacksonMichael Jackson: The Ultimate CollectionKing of PopThis Is It, and Immortal.

The song also serves as the theme song to Jackson's 1988 film Moonwalker. The single has sold over 7.5 million copies.


 [hide*1 Background and composition

Background and composition[edit]Edit

"Smooth Criminal" is a song written by Michael Jackson and co-produced with Quincy Jones. Two early versions of the song were written by Jackson in 1985 and the original demo was recorded in 1986. The first song was called "Chicago 1945" which evolved into "Al Capone" (which was later released on the Bad 25th anniversary edition of the album). This version didn't make the album and was re-worked and re-written as "Smooth Criminal". This song is played in the key of A minor.[2] Jackson's vocal spans from G3 to E5.[2] It has a moderate tempo of 118 beats per minute.[2]

The refrain of the song contains the phrase "Annie, are you OK?" This is a phrase used in CPR training courses. Resusci Anne, otherwise known as "Annie" in English-speaking countries, is the name of a mannequin commonly used in CPR training. As part of the training, trainees are taught to say "Annie, are you OK?" to the dummy in order to check that the patient is conscious and responsive. A paramedic in the field is supposed to address the patient by her actual name, but many have been known to say "Annie" out of habit. Michael Jackson once took a CPR course.[3]

Critical response[edit]Edit

Jason Elias of Allmusic called this song one of Jackson's best: "Despite the content "Smooth Criminal" is a gorgeous and exhilarating record."[4] The New York Times Jon Pareles wrote: "in Smooth Criminal, the singer finds a bloodstained carpet and an unconscious body, and asks, obsessively, Annie are you O.K.? when, clearly, she's not."[5] Rolling Stones Davitt Sigerson wrote: "Smooth Criminal" may be the result of retiring too soon after a Brian de Palma picture."[6]

Music video and live performances[edit]Edit

Jackson originally wanted to make the music video in the western genre, but he later decided to change it to a 1930s gangster style.[7] Film was shot between mid-February and April 1987. The video for "Smooth Criminal" is the first time Jackson unveiled his anti-gravity lean in which the performer has both feet planted on the floor and leans forward close to a 45 degree angle, creating the illusion that the performer is defying gravity. The lean was accomplished in the video with wires. The video is featured on the DVDs History on Film, Volume II (full Moonwalker version), Number Ones (sped-up version),Visionary: The Video SinglesMichael Jackson's Vision (edited Moonwalker version) and Bad 25 (short version).

The style of both the clip and the clothes as well as mannerisms Jackson portrayed were reused in the home computer, the arcade, the Sega Master System, the Sega Mega Drive and the Sega Game Gearadaptations of Moonwalker. The song itself serves as the soundtrack for the Club 30s stage, the nightclub from the movie, in all versions of the game.

The song was performed live in all of Jackson's tours, the BadDangerous and HIStory tours. During the second leg of Jackson's 1988–89 Bad World Tour, directed and choreographed by Jackson and Vincent Paterson. The performance featured a dance routine modeled after the scene from Moonwalker. This version of the song is available on the DVD Live at Wembley July 16, 1988. By the time the 1992 Dangerous World Tour came around, this performance became a regular on Jackson tours, including his HIStory World Tour. A spoken word and synth recording preceded the song on the second leg of the Bad tour and on the subsequent Dangerous World Tour, the same recording having been used as an intro for the song "This Place Hotel" on the first leg of the Bad Tour. Like the robot move from "Dancing Machine", this showcased Jackson's talent for creating unique moves to enhance stage performances. This performance can be seen on the Bucharest Dangerous Tour performance which is included as a DVD in The Ultimate Collection box set.

Part of the song was also briefly used in the middle of the live version of the song "Dangerous" since Jackson's performance at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards. In the HIStory Tour, he used a snippet of this song during his performance of "Dangerous".

Film adaptation[edit]Edit

Further information: Moonwalker

The song was adapted into a short film which was the centerpiece of the 1988 film Moonwalker starring Michael Jackson and Joe Pesci in the lead roles.


The film begins with three homeless children—Sean, Katie and Zeke (Sean LennonKellie Parker and Brandon Quintin Adams)—sneaking through a big city to see their friend Michael walk out of his store in a black suit covered over with his white jacket. As Michael stands in front of the door, he gazes at the night sky before he is attacked by mobsters with machine guns. The film then backtracks to show Michael and the children playing in a meadow in happier times. Their dog Skipper runs away, and as Michael and Katie look for him, they uncover the lair of Mr. Big (Joe Pesci). Mr. Big—whose real name is Frankie LiDeo, which is an anagram of Frank DiLeo—is a drug-dealing mobster with a disciplined private army at his command. He wants to get the entire population of Earth addicted to drugs, starting with children. He likes to eat nuts and leaves nutshells wherever he goes. He is obsessed with spiders, as displayed by their abundance at the entrance to his lair and his operation named "bugs and drugs". Further, all his henchmen sport a spider crest on their uniforms. Katie screams when she sees a spider on her hand, and Mr. Big discovers them spying on his operation.

The story returns to the shooting in front of Michael's store. Unknown to the mobsters, Michael has a lucky star, and using it, he escaped the gunfire. Upon realizing that Michael has escaped again, Mr. Big orders his henchmen to track him down with dogs. Michael is eventually cornered in an alley, where he uses his lucky star again to turn into a sportscar (the 1970 Lancia Stratos prototype) that mows down several of Mr. Big's henchmen. Michael is pursued through the city streets until he loses the henchmen. Meanwhile, the children scout out Club 30's, where Michael had told them to meet him, and find only an abandoned and haunted nightclub. As Michael arrives, Katie sees a silhouette of him turning back from a car into himself, this time in a white and blue suit. The door of the club opens with a gust of wind, and Michael walks in to find it filled with zoot suiters and swing dancers. The children gather outside a window of the club and watch Michael dance to "Smooth Criminal."

The song used in the film is much longer than the album release, with several lyrics that clarify the story. There is also an interlude wherein Jackson joins the other dancers in a modern interpretive dance. At the climax of the song, Mr. Big lays siege to the club and kidnaps Katie. Michael follows them back to Big's lair and ends up surrounded by his henchmen. Mr. Big appears and taunts Michael by threatening to inject Katie with highly addictive narcotics. Katie breaks free for a moment, but Mr. Big grabs her again and starts kicking Michael. As Mr. Big stands over Michael and orders his henchmen to kill him and Katie, Michael looks up and sees his lucky star. He transforms into a giant robot and kills all of Mr. Big's soldiers, then turns into a spaceship. Mr. Big gets into a large hillside-mounted energy cannon, firing on the spaceship as it flies into a nearby ravine. The children are his next target, but the spaceship returns from the ravine just in time to fire a beam into the cannon with Mr. Big inside, destroying it and killing him. The children watch the ship fly into the night sky with a shower of light.

The children return to the city, believing that Michael is gone forever. As the boys talk about Michael, Katie walks away crying and clutching a paper star. As she sits in a corner wishing for him to come back, the paper star flies out of her hand and Michael walks out of the night fog. He takes them to Club 30's, where they find that the club has turned into the backstage area of a concert. Michael's stage crew return the children's missing dog and then escort Michael onto the stage where he performs "Come Together".


  • Written, composed, clap, solo and background vocals by Michael Jackson
  • Produced by Quincy Jones
  • Co-produced by Michael Jackson
  • Bill Bottrell, John Robinson, Bruce Swedien: Drums
  • David Williams: Guitar
  • Kim Hutchcroft, Larry Williams: Saxophones
  • Gary Grant, Jerry Hey: Trumpets
  • Kevin Maloney: Muted Steinway piano
  • Christopher Currell: Synclavier
    • Certain synclavier effects by Denny Jaeger and Michael Rubini
  • John Barnes, Michael Boddicker: Synthesizers
  • Chief of police announcement by Bruce Swedien
  • Michael Jackson's heartbeat recording by Dr. Eric Chevlen; digitally processed in the Synclavier
  • Rhythm arrangement by Michael Jackson and John Barnes
  • Vocal arrangement by Michael Jackson
  • Horn arrangement by Jerry Hey

Chart performance[edit]Edit

Chart (1988–1989) Peak


Australia (ARIA)[8] 29
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[9] 17
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[10] 1
Canadian RPM Top Singles 6
Eurochart Hot 100 Singles 2
France (SNEP)[11] 4
Germany (Media Control Charts)[12] 9
Ireland (IRMA)[13] 4
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[14] 1
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[15] 1
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[16] 29
Spain (AFYVE)[17] 1
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[18] 5
UK (Official Charts Company)[19] 3
US Billboard Hot 100[1] 7
US BillboardHot Dance Club Play[1] 10
US BillboardHot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales[1] 13
US BillboardHot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles[1] 2
Chart (2006) Peak


France (SNEP)[11] 61
Ireland (IRMA)[13] 14
Italy (FIMI)[20] 6
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[15] 20
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[21] 1
UK (The Official Charts Company)[19] 19
Chart (2009) Peak


Australia (ARIA)[8] 16
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[9] 30
Denmark (Tracklisten)[22] 28
Eurochart Hot 100 Singles[23] 20
French Digital Singles Chart[24] 10
Hot Canadian Digital Singles[1] 22
Italy (FIMI)[20] 17
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[15] 22
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[16] 37
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[21] 33
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[25] 12
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[18] 12
UK (Official Charts Company)[19] 13
UK Download Chart[26] 13
US BillboardHot Digital Songs[1] 12
Chart (2013) Peak


France (SNEP)[11] 172

Track listing[edit]Edit

  • 7" single:[27]
  1. "Smooth Criminal" (single mix) – 4:10
  2. "Smooth Criminal" (instrumental) – 4:10
  • 12" maxi and CD-maxi:[27]
  1. "Smooth Criminal" (extended dance mix) – 7:46
  2. "Smooth Criminal" (extended dance mix radio edit) – 5:20
  3. "Smooth Criminal" ("Annie" mix) – 5:35
  4. "Smooth Criminal" (dance mix – dub version) – 4:45
  5. "Smooth Criminal" (a cappella) – 4:12
  • Visionary single:[27]

CD side:

  1. "Smooth Criminal" – 4:10
  2. "Smooth Criminal" (extended dance mix) – 7:45

DVD side:

  1. "Smooth Criminal" (music video)
  • 3" CD single:[27]
  1. "Smooth Criminal" (extended dance mix) – 7:46
  2. "Smooth Criminal" ("Annie" mix) – 5:35
  3. "Smooth Criminal" (dance mix – dub version) – 4:45
  1. "Smooth Criminal" (single mix) – 4:12
  2. "Smooth Criminal" (extended dance mix) – 7:46
  3. "Smooth Criminal" (extended dance mix radio edit) – 5:20
  4. "Smooth Criminal" ("Annie" mix)  (different from other releases) – 5:35
  5. "Smooth Criminal" (dance mix – dub version) – 4:45
  6. "Smooth Criminal" (a cappella) – 4:12

Music video[edit]Edit

Jeffrey Daniel of the soul music group Shalamar co-choreographed the "Smooth Criminal" video with Jackson and Vincent Patterson, 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. Currently there are four different versions of the video for "Smooth Criminal", as well as an additional vignette created for the 2009 This Is It concert series:

  • Original Moonwalker version - This is the version included in the Moonwalker film. While technically the whole "Smooth Criminal" segment is about 40 minutes long, the actual "Smooth Criminal" song section is only about ten minutes. It is generally the most complete version of the video and includes the unedited middle section of interpretive dance with the dancers but does not include the last six seconds where a flapper fans herself after the door is shut behind Michael. In comparison to the original song this version has two lines in the second stanza added: "Everytime I try to find him he's leaving no clues left behind him. And they have no way of knowing of the suspect, or what to expect."
  • Moonwalker edit - This version is included on History on Film, Volume II as well as Michael Jackson's Vision and it is basically an edited version of the ten-minute song section from the "Smooth Criminal" segment in the film Moonwalker. It is essentially the same, however it has some minor changes including: different opening music and no dialogue, the middle section with the dancers chanting has been truncated (some of the chanting has been shortened) and ends similarly to the original where Michael exits the club but with the addition of the lead flapper fanning herself.
  • Album version - This is the version of the video that is on Michael Jackson's official website, as well as his YouTube channel. It also appears during the end credits for Moonwalker and Number Ones (video) and was included on the Visionary single and the bonus taget exclusive DVD of Bad 25. The video is a montage of clips from the original Moonwalker version, that have either been sped up, or slowed down, and glossed with an added blur effect, as well as some alternate angles. The video is four minutes and seventeen seconds long. Throughout the video, the regular version of the song is played.
  • Single version - This unreleased version is edited to be in sync with the single mix taken from the "Smooth Criminal" single released October 24, 1988. It excludes the added lyric and interlude. This video is four minutes and three seconds long. It is considered an MTV Base video.
  • This Is It vignette - 2009 video, shot in black and white and intended to be shown during the London O2 concert series. It runs three minutes and forty-two seconds and features Jackson in a reprisal of his Moonwalker character, digitally inserted in the 1946 film noir Gilda which includes the song "Put the Blame on Mame" along with a few shots/scenes of his film Moonwalker.

The video won Best Music Video at the 1989 Brit Awards 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.

Anti-gravity lean[edit]Edit

[1][2]Jackson performs an anti-gravity lean in the "Smooth Criminal" music video.

In the video, Michael Jackson performs a seemingly impossible forward lean by using hidden cables. To accomplish this maneuver for stage performances, though, Jackson patented a hitching mechanism which was built into the floor of the stage and the performer's shoes.[28] The system consists of pegs that rise from the stage at the appropriate moment, and special shoes with ankle supports and cutouts in the heels which can slide over the pegs and be temporarily attached to the stage. These allow a performer to lean without needing to keep his center of mass directly over his feet.[29] However, the trick still required very good core strength.

During the HIStory World Tour, the concert in MoscowRussia on September 17, 1996, Michael's one shoe had become unlatched from the stage, causing him to lose his balance. The sole of the shoe was re-designed after that performance. The pair of shoes used during the Moscow show were displayed at the Hard Rock Cafe in Moscow for several years; later they were sold at auction for $600,000 after Jackson's death in the summer of 2009.


Alien Ant Farm cover[edit]Edit

"Smooth Criminal"
Single by Alien Ant Farm
from the album Anthology
Released July 24, 2001
Format CD
Recorded 2001
Genre Nu metal,[30]funk metal
Length 3:29
Label SKG Music
Writer(s) Michael Jackson
Producer(s) Jay Baumgardner
Alien Ant Farm singles chronology
"Smooth Criminal"




In 2001, Alien Ant Farm released a cover of "Smooth Criminal" as their debut 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. It became a number one hit on Billboard'sModern Rock Tracks chart and was also a number one in Australia. The song was also featured in the 2001 film American Pie 2, during a scene whereinJason Biggs' character, Jim, superglues his hand to his crotch. The album Greatest Hits (1999) includes a hidden track named "Slick Thief", which is in fact an early version of "Smooth Criminal". This version was featured on the video games Karaoke Revolution and Guitar Hero On Tour: Decades. It was released asdownloadable content for the Rock Band series of video games.

Chart (2001) Peak


Australia (ARIA)[31] 1
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[32] 6
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[33] 3
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[34] 4
Denmark (Tracklisten)[35] 3
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[36] 2
France (SNEP)[37] 27
Germany (Media Control Charts)[38] 5
Ireland (IRMA)[13] 2
Italy (FIMI)[39] 11
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[40] 4
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[41] 4
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[42] 4
Norway (VG-lista)[43] 7
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[44] 5
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[45] 4
UK (The Official Charts Company)[46] 3
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[47] 23
U.S. BillboardHot Mainstream Rock Tracks[47] 18
U.S. BillboardModern Rock Tracks[47] 1
U.S. BillboardTop 40 Mainstream[47] 12
U.S. BillboardTop 40 Tracks[47] 24

Other cover versions[edit]Edit


  • In 2002, the band ApologetiX recorded a parody of "Smooth Criminal" called "Smooth Grandmama" for their album Grace Period.[48] The song's instrumentation is a parody of the Alien Ant Farm version.
  • In 2008, violinist David Garrett recorded a classical instrumental cover of "Smooth Criminal". It was released on his album Encore.
  • In 2008, J.Viewz, stage name of Israeli musician Jonathan Dagan and his band, recorded an easy-listening/jazz cover of "Smooth Criminal", which was released on the EP Besides.
  • In 2008, South Korean boy band TVXQ's 3rd Japanese album T, has a track called "Trick" that features "Smooth Criminal"'s pre-chorus ("Are you okay, Annie?" is changed to "Are you okay, honey?")
  • In 2009, Wizard rock band The 8th Horcrux recorded a parody, entitled "Ginny, Are You OK?", referencing Ginny Weasley and the plot of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. It also is based on the Alien Ant Farm version.[49]
  • Lucky Boys Confusion performed a cover as a staple of their live performances but declined to record it for their major label debut.
  • In 2009, singer Shakira paid homage to Jackson by doing an anti-gravity lean in her "She Wolf" music video.
  • In 2009, South Korean pop groups SHINeeSuper Junior and Girls' Generation did a performance of "Smooth Criminal" at the Gayo Festival.


  • Delmos Wade performed a cover of "Smooth Criminal".[50][51]
  • In 2011, the Uzbek band Abbos performed an instrumental version of "Smooth Criminal" with traditional Uzbek musical instruments.[52]
  • In January 2011, musical duo 2Cellos (consisting of Luka Šulić and Stjepan Hauser) recorded a cover of "Smooth Criminal" played solely on cello, which became a hit on YouTube[53] and was later included on their debut album.
  • In January 2012, Naya Rivera (as her character Santana Lopez) and Grant Gustin (as Sebastian Smythe) sung "Smooth Criminal" as a duet on the 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.[54]
  • In 2012 Italian jazz trumpeter Enrico Rava released a version on his tribute album Rava on the Dance Floor.

Appearances in other media[edit]Edit

Ad blocker interference detected!

Wikia is a free-to-use site that makes money from advertising. We have a modified experience for viewers using ad blockers

Wikia is not accessible if you’ve made further modifications. Remove the custom ad blocker rule(s) and the page will load as expected.