“Smooth Criminal” by Michael Jackson

The best way to describe this Michael Jackson classic is as it being centered on “Annie”, who is assaulted by the “Smooth Criminal”. Who these individuals are exactly aren’t specified. But for the most part Annie is chilling inside her apartment, and the “Smooth Criminal” comes in and ‘strikes her down’, drawing blood in process. In fact it seems the reason he is referred to as being “smooth” is due to his ability to sneak into her home undetected.  And the implication is that he continues to assault her until she meets “her doom”.

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Michael Jackson's Smooth Criminal at Lyrics.org.

And the best way to describe Jackson’s role in the scheme of things is as a concerned citizen or perhaps personal associate of Annie’s. Thus he doesn’t narrate the tale simply by detailing the intrusion. Instead he displays a palpable concern for Annie’s welfare. Also the second verse implies that there is an active search going for Annie’s attacker, which the singer is very much vested in.


So conclusively, the subject of this song is actually “Annie”, not the titular “Smooth Criminal”. And for the most part, the narrator is expressing two sentiments. One is lamenting the fact that she was a victim of a sly home intruder who violently assaulted her. And the second is a strong concern for her well being.

Lyrics of "Smooth Criminal"

Music Video

The highly-cinematic “Smooth Criminal” video was directed by Colin Chilvers, who actually specialized in special effects. And it was inspired by films such as “The Band Wagon” (1953) and “The Godfather” (1972).

It received three nominations (Best Dance Video, Best Choreography in a Video and Best Cinematography in a Video) at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1989 yet didn’t win any. However, it did manage to win the following coveted awards:

  • Brit Award (Best Music Video)
  • World Music Viewer Choice Award
  • BPI Award (Video of the Year)
  • Critic’s Choice Award (Best Video)
  • People’s Choice Award (Favorite Music Video)

It won all of the above-mentioned awards in 1989.

“Anti-Gravity Lean”

The video is famous for featuring a dance move that MJ and his homeys perform that has come to be known as the “anti-gravity lean”. This feat was actually achieved using “cables and a harness”.

And when they performed it on stage they used a special kind of shoe-and-floor design, which of course MJ had patented.

Video helped make “Moonwalker” a success

The music video also played a big role in Michael Jackson’s epic 1988 anthology film entitled “Moonwalker”.  In fact the total amount of time allotted to “Smooth Criminal” in the feature is over 40-minutes long (while the song itself is a little over 4 minutes), in addition to the visual featuring over 40 dancers.

Source of “Annie, are you okay?”

The catchiest line in this song is the phrase “Annie, are you okay?”  Michael Jackson (1958-2009) actually picked this term up while learning CPR using a ubiquitous dummy who is referred to as “Resusci Anne”.

Birth of “Smooth Criminal”

“Smooth Criminal” itself evolved from a song entitled “Al Capone” which Michael Jackson recorded but never released in his lifetime. In fact “Al Capone” wasn’t made available to the public until 2015, a significant amount of time after Jackson had passed away.

“Smooth Criminal” was such a Success

In 1990 the track won a BMI Pop Award for “Most Played Song”.

“Smooth Criminal” went on to chart globally, reaching number one in Belgium, Iceland, the Netherlands and Spain.

Moreover it peaked at number 7 on the US Billboard Hot 100. In the United Kingdom, it reached an impressive number 8. This wasn’t all. “Smooth Criminal” also charted in quite a few other countries.

Additionally the track has been certified Double-Platinum in Michael Jackson’s homeland of the US.

“Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker”

One notable pop media presentation which “Smooth Criminal” was feared in is “Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker”, a memorable 1988 video game which featured the King of Pop himself.

Did Michael Jackson write “Smooth Criminal”?

Yes, he did. “Smooth Criminal” was written exclusively by the multi-talented Michael Jackson.

And he also co-produced the song alongside the legendary Quincy Jones.

All of this combined contributes to “Smooth Criminal” being one of the more-recognizable songs in Michael Jackson’s unparalleled repertoire. As such, it is known to have been an ever-present number on the setlists of his solo tours.

When did “Smooth Criminal” come out?

Michael officially released this great classic of his on 21st October, 1988. It was one of the songs on his legendary “Bad” album. That album featured a ton of hits, including the likes of “Dirty Diana” and “Liberian Girl“.

7 Responses

  1. Dusty Kemsley says:

    Nice detailed facts. Michael is a genius.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Michael actually wrote this song for CPR. It goes at the beat, and “smooth” criminal is the heart because the heart is a smooth muscle. It means Annie had a heart attack or something.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Am I the only person who feels uncomfortable about how popular and upbeat this song is when it’s about an assault on a woman?

    • Tam says:

      Exactly, Is he talking about giving CPR on someone to save their life?

      or something else? Why is he using A CPR doll named Annie …..???? This is the most confusing song I have ever tried to understand. I know a real Annie… I worry about her alot .. as her son is a violent man. She is meek and shy about admitting this.

    • Anonymous says:

      First of all I don’t really think the song is that upbeat in the first place, especially considering the dark lighting of the music video. Also, the song is about the singer expressing concern for a victim of assault, it doesn’t glorify assault.

  4. MJJ's dance steps follower says:

    MJ was my mentor knowing more about him brings n more love
    He had passion 4 things he intend doing
    Same thing as “Billie Jean,beat it Nd Bad”
    He’s truly a multi talented man

  5. MJ's#1fan says:

    I don’t really understand the lyrics but I love the song anyway.

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