This is Apple's best-known song, but it didn't gain traction until well over a year after Tidal
was released. When the album was issued in July 1996, "Shadowboxer
" was the first single. Apple got some publicity and appeared on Saturday Night Live
that November, but the next singles, "Sleep To Dream" and "Never Is A Promise," didn't get much attention. "Criminal" made a splash with the video, and in August 1997 it earned enough radio play to show up on the Modern Rock chart, where it eventually rose to #4.
Then, on September 4, Apple won Best New Artist in a Video (for "Sleep to Dream," not "Criminal") at the MTV Video Music Awards, an award expected to go to Hansen, whose "MMMbop
" was inescapable. "I'm not going to do this like everybody else does it," she said at the beginning of her speech
. Then she tried to make a cogent argument to an audience that was there for pure entertainment. "This world is bulls--t and you shouldn't model your life about what you think that we think is cool," she explained to the stunned crowd. By substituting chagrined advice for conventional platitudes, she created a viral moment, one that followed her around the rest of her career.
Sony responded by releasing "Criminal" as a single, taking advantage of the wave of publicity. The song debuted at #28 on October 4, and peaked at #21 on November 29. The Tidal
album went on to sell over 3 million copies.