Album: Tidal (1996)
Charted: 21
  • songfacts ®
  • Artistfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • This song is about Apple making a mistake in a relationship (cheating, perhaps?) and therefore making her a "criminal." Depression and self-loathing were a common theme in Fiona's songwriting at the time. She told Interview magazine: "It's psychologically and chemically impossible for me to be happy."
  • Fiona wrote this when she was only 18 years old, and it was released when she was 19. The video got a lot of attention because the scantily clad Apple looked like she was underage, which was the point of the clip. It was directed by Mark Romanek, whose credits include "Closer" by Nine Inch Nails and "Rain" by Madonna. "We wanted something blatantly erotic," he told Entertainment Weekly. The lighting look was achieved by attaching a regular light bulb to the camera, which gave it the look of a flash that had just gone off.
  • This won the 1998 Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.
  • This was Fiona's first single and her only Top 40 hit. She stayed away from trends, which kept her away from the pop charts but earned her a devoted following.
  • Apple told Pitchfork in 2012 that she wrote this song, "in 45 minutes when everyone else went to lunch because I had to have a hit."
  • Here's a sentence we didn't think we'd ever write: This song was sung by a set of conjoined twins on a 2014 episode of American Horror Story: Freak Show. The show was set in 1952, but featured music from a later era (David Bowie's "Life On Mars?" appeared in the previous episode).

    "Criminal" served the storyline, since the twins character had killed their mother and were being investigated by the police. The scene set up a conflict between the two twins, as the more laconic one ended up having the great voice capable of singing the tune.

    The show's creator Ryan Murphy says that the only modern music used on the show was by artists who identified themselves as freaks; Fiona Apple approved this characterization and allowed the song to be used.
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Comments: 13

  • Jeff from OregonThe man she refers to could easily be her father. "He's all I ever knew of love" ... daddy's love. She feels guilt because she willingly did something she knows her father would (extremely) disapprove of.
  • Miranda from Bellingham, WaKelli is right. The video is definitely presenting her as a heroin addict. I've noticed that a lot of fans tend to interpret her lyrics to be about sex or love. But stop for a moment and consider that she's been a bad, bad girl because she's used heroin again after promising her man she wouldn't.

    Heaven help me for the way I am. (The way she is is a heroin addict)
    Save me from these evil deeds. (The evil deeds are lying and stealing to get her fix)
    Before I get them done.
    I know tomorrow brings the consequence
    At hand. (She knows how bad she'll feel the next day after using)
    But I keep livin this day like
    The next will never come. (Now if that isn't the mantra of a heroin addict, nothing is.)
    Oh, help me, but dont tell me
    To deny it.
    Ive got to cleanse myself. (She's got to cleanse herself...that is she's got to get CLEAN.)
    Of all these lies till Im good
    Enough for him.
    Ive got a lot to lose and I'm
    Bettin high (She knows she's about to lose all that matters to her, but she is instead betting high...getting high)
    So Im beggin you before it ends
    Just tell me where to begin. (She has no idea hot to stop, even though she wants.)

    These lyrics make so much more sense when her "evil deeds" are about heroin and not sexual cheating.
  • Marlee from Bordentown, Njwhy couldn't it be about her rape? the lyrics aren't supposed to be taken literally. she isn't a criminal, she hasn't done anything wrong. it isn't about her cheating or anything. those who have been raped usually feel it is their fault, or are told that it is. it is supposed to be ironic.
  • Theresa from Murfreesboro, TnThe song is ok but it's the video that I love. Fiona sure knows how to play the victim, her music is fantastic.
  • Morbidious from Deerlodge, TnI'm glad (in this case) that I'm not the guy she is singing about....because it would absolutely DESTROY ME if I'd had a relationship with her only to find out she cheated on me....but looking at the bright side, atleast I would be able to say that I knew her. :]
  • Mike from Santa Barbara, CaThe video to this song was squalid-looking, as if it were a porn set after filming had ended.
  • Christine from Belmont, NhI think this song is about a girl (Fiona) who has lied maybe cheated on a man hshe finally realizes she loves... Obvious insecurities about her past choices make her feel as though she isn't good enough for him... So she has to change and redeem her self from her "sins"... LOVE IT
  • Kelli from Cedar Rapids, IaShe kind of has that heroin-chic thing going...
  • Ash from Charleston, WvBest song of 1996.
  • Amy from Fort Worth, TxI love this song! For some reason it gets me really hot!
  • Kurt from Downers Grove, IlGood god she looks hot in this video!
  • Amanda from Ipswich, EnglandI agree Leah. I think this is about punishing a good man for all the things a bad man has done. Been there!
  • Leah from Huntsville, AlI don't think the first comment is correct. If you listen to the lyrics of the song, it doesn't make sense that it would be about her rape.
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