Michael Jackson

Smooth Criminal

Song Review by

OK, this one's a little weird, but "Smooth Criminal" captures Jackson at his best and continues the nervous energy of the album's best tracks. But the song's subject matter is still grim to a fault: a regrettable home invasion with a woman named Annie as the song's unwitting victim. Although Jackson's public persona had him pegged as a person who got weepy over road kill, he didn't muster much sympathy for Annie. In fact, on this potent track he sounds like he's having the time of his life shouting things like, "Dad gone it Annie/Dad gone it, lady/Hoo!" That, of course, offered no succor to Annie and Jackson sounded like the charter member of the perpetrator's fan club as he sang, "You've been hit by/You've been struck by/A smooth criminal/...Aaoh!" The perverse nature of "Smooth Criminal is no doubt interesting -- it's the musicality that makes it special. This is glossy, aural striking L.A. pop/R&B before it turned to derivative, aimless junk. The song filled with tension, faint Oriental motifs of the synths, locking guitars, and a bass pattern that followed Jackson's vocals. That helps the song's sinister quotient. The track's recording engineer Bruce Swedien plays the chief of police here and he even delivers his command in rhythm. Despite the content "Smooth Criminal" is a gorgeous and exhilarating record, produced by Quincy Jones; Jackson was co-producer. The video for the song was included Jackson's 1989 film/clips effort Moonwalker. The clip sidestepped the issue-for better or worse, setting it in a juke joint, with Jackson in a matching white Fedora and cool suit, miles and decades away from the "crime." In every medium, "Smooth Criminal" presents Michael Jackson at his most captivating and it never fails to impress.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Bad 1987
Epic 4:16
Moonwalker 1988 Sony Music Distribution 0:00
Dangerous: The Short Films 1993 Sony Music Distribution
History on Film, Vol. 2 1997 Sony Music Distribution 9:23
Number Ones 2003 Epic 4:17
Number Ones [DVD] 2003 Epic 4:16
Bad/Dangerous 2004 Sony Music Distribution 4:17
The Ultimate Collection [Sony/Epic] 2004 Legacy / Epic 4:18
The Essential Michael Jackson 2005 Legacy / Epic 4:17
No Image 2006 Epic / Sony BMG 7:46
No Image 2006 Epic 7:46
King of Pop 2008 Epic 4:17
The Collection 2009 Sony BMG / Sony Music Entertainment 4:17
Michael Jackson's This Is It 2009 Epic 4:17
No Image Live Storm 5:15