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Smooth Criminal

by

Michael Jackson



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

Many of the songs Jackson writes are very personal in nature, but this one (which he wrote himself) tells the fictional story of a particularly adept gangster, something far from his personal experience. Jackson takes the role of onlooker in the song, coming across the victim and asking her over and over - "Annie are you OK?" Apparently, Annie is not OK, as she's been struck by the smooth criminal.
This song was a highlight of Jackson's live shows, where he performed variations of the 45 degree lean popularized in the video, often leaving the crowd wondering how it was done. The routine grew more elaborate over time; on the Dangerous tour (1992-1993), he basically reenacted the video with four dancers. The HIStory tour (1996-1997) brought a more theatrical performance, with Jackson dressed like a 1930s Chicago gangster. He would appear on stage with a prop machine gun and blast away six or so rival gangsters, whose bodies were then dragged off stage to great applause.
There are four versions of the video, with the original being in the Moonwalker film. The most famous aspect of the video is the forward lean where Michael and his dancers appear to defy gravity. In the video, ropes and magnets were used to achieve the special effect. On stage, the dancers wore special shoes that could be furtively inserted into pegs on the stage floor, then quickly removed to resume full motion. The technique was filed under United States Patent Law by Jackson and two collaborators in 1993, although the patent expired in 2005. (thanks, Becca - Fort Collins, CO)
It was the recording engineer, Bruce Swedien, who was the voice of the police chief on Jackson's recording.
Alien Ant Farm's version was a hit in 2001, going to #23 in the US and #3 in the UK.
Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson Artistfacts
More Michael Jackson songs
More songs that were hits for more than one artist
More songs about people who committed crimes
More songs commonly played at sporting events
More songs covered by the Glee cast

Comments (26):

Simon Stewart, Dundee, United Kingdom: it's a long-known magician's trick to have the peg in the floor & special shoes.
- Cyberpope, Richmond, Canada
Does it not occur to anyone that it is a combination of magnets and the entire stage moving that allows the lean?
- Simon Stewart, Dundee, United Kingdom
Actually, this video was a tribute to Fred Astaire. In the movie, "Band Wagon," there is an elaborate bar scene with Fred and Cyd Charisse which Smooth Criminal borrows heavily from. You can see MJ is dressed identically (albeit updated) and even the lead in is remarkably identical. You can find mashups on Youtube
- Jim, Ventura, CA
The commenters who think that Jackson is using the CPR term are right as rain. Not only does the training teach one the phrase, "Annie are you OK?" but the words are taught to be said over and over, three or four times in a row, exactly the way they are in the lyrics. One can imagine a neighbor discovering the body, or a MDT arriving at the apartment using those exact words to revive her.
- Joe, Fort Lauderdale, FL
um the leaning effect were not with ropes, MJ holds a patent on something that goes in the shoes to help you lean forward, the song is about rape, and MJ did Swear in "Scream" - "Stop messing with me, just stop messing iwth me...just stop F---in' with me, make me want to scream." -its right before the break before janet says "o my god i can't believe what i saw as I turned on the tv this evening" (it needs to be the unedited one because the edited one puts a noise over it.)
- Kaz, C, OH
I saw an interview on VH1 about 2 minutes ago where Michael Jackson said this song was really just about random stuff he was reading in the LA Times, random crime, etc. It wasn't any single incident, he just liked the way the song sounded. He had an odd personal life, but he was a genius when it came to knowing a good song when he heard it. It's a shame that people are so hung up on events in his life, which you should note he was found innocent every single time, instead of focusing on just how intelligent he really was.
- Jas, Clifton, TX
Isnt it obvious, it is simply about a murder.nothing else. just that
- spongebob, bikini bottom, KY
@KAren, i thought that also, and my husband thought it was annie are you walking, hi hiiiiii funny RIP M.J.
- pe, bilzen, Belgium
Annie Oakley was not a gunfighter, she was an exhibition shooter. In other words she was a sharpshooter. Great song, R.I.P.- MJ
- ANNIE, ASHLAND, PA
I Heard this was a video about a gangster that breaks into Annie's house, kills her parents (bloodstains on the carpet) and s Annie whoever that is
- eddie, Long Island, NY
"dad gone it" means something along the lines of "dammit". But Michael Jackson would never swear. haha
- Matt, Seminole, OK
I think the smooth criminal was a guy who sweet talked Annie out of her virginity then left. And now Annie is all upset cause her little heart is broken.
- Joel, San Diego, CA
I instantly thought about those dummies that you perform CPR in First Aid class or one of those villains from 1040's movies. One of my friends told me that she thinks it's about domestic violence.
- Kiarra, St. Charles, MO
I was not a big fan of Michael Jackson but this song is great and Alien Ant Farm did a good remake.R.I.P.Michael Jackson
- jimmy, Knox, TN
Well, I think Hillary from Chicago is right on for the meaning of the chorus "Annie are you okay". Look at one of the verses in the song: "So They Came Into The Outway
It Was Sunday - What A Black Day
Mouth To Mouth Resus - Citation
Sounding Heartbeats - Intimidations

Makes sense to me. Thank you Hillary!
- Mary, Phoenix, AZ
The pregnant pause in the middle of the song adds to the dramtic effect. You sit there in anticipation waiting for him to break out with more. Very effective.
- Brenda, Idaho Falls, ID
For CPR classes they use a training doll/dummy called CPR Annie, and the first thing you're taught is to gently shake it and ask "Annie are you okay"
- Hillary, Chicago, IL
I love this song. it's my favorite and favorite video! RIP MJ!! We're all with you man!!
- Kelsey, Bat Country, VA
anyone knows what "dad gone it" means?
the lyrics say that supposedly.
- nabila, Santa Rosa, Argentina
The music was also used in the Sega Genesis game "Moonwalker"
- Alan, London, United Kingdom
I read recently about the shoes; there are pegs in the floor that fit into the heels of the shoes to hold the dancers' feet in place for those leans. (For the record, I went for years thinking it was, "Eddie, are you OK?" Shows what I know.)
- Karen, Manchester, NH
I figured that Annie was a woman that Michael Jackson was particularly close to (note the past tense...)
- Matthew, Milford, MA
This is just a great song no matter who sings it!
- Linc, Beaumont, TX
jason, dublin, Ireland.

he does it with special shoes, my brother really wants the same type of shoes.

and there are NO! strings, EVER!
- Emily, Newcastle, Australia
One of THE best music videos ever made. An instant classic.
- Jamie, Lancaster, England
great song and an equally great video. how exactly does he do that lean thing in the s.c. video and live performance?
- jason, dublin, Ireland
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