“Smooth Criminal” is the seventh single from Michael Jackson‘s 1987 Bad album. The song contains a fast-paced beat intertwined with Jackson’s lyrics about a woman named Annie, who has been attacked in her apartment by a “smooth” assailant. It was released as a single on October 24, 1988 and peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was re-released on April 10, 2006 as a part of the Visionary: The Video Singles box-set. The re-released Visionary single charted at No. 19 in the UK. The piece is one of Jackson’s signature songs, and has appeared on numerous greatest hits albums, including Number Ones, The Essential Michael Jackson, Michael Jackson: The Ultimate Collection, King of Pop and This Is It (for the New version of song).
“Smooth Criminal” was a song that almost didn’t make it into the Bad album, with Jackson having to convince producer Quincy Jones that it was worthy of inclusion. With the final decision to include the song, Jackson originally decided to make the short film a western-styled short film. However, he later decided to change the style into a 1930s nightclub style.
The song was performed live during the second leg of Jackson’s 1988–89 Bad World Tour. The performance featured a dance routine modeled after the scene from Moonwalker. By the time the 1992 Dangerous World Tour came around, this performance became a regular on Jackson tours, including his HIStory Tour. A spoken word and synth recording preceded the song on the second leg of the Bad tour and on the subsequent Dangerous World Tour, the same recording having been used as an intro for the song “This Place Hotel” on the first leg of the Bad Tour. By the time of the Dangerous Tour, Jackson had devised a way to perform the patented anti-gravity lean, which was featured in the Moonwalker video, on stage. Much like the robot move from “Dancing Machine” and the Moonwalk from “Billie Jean“, this showcased Jackson’s talent for creating unique moves to enhance stage performances. This performance can be seen on the Bucharest Dangerous Tour performance which is included as a DVD in The Ultimate Collection boxed set.
Part of the song was also briefly used in the middle of the live version of the song “Dangerous” since Jackson’s performance at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards. In the HIStory Tour, he used a small snippet of this song during his performance of “Dangerous“. Jackson was also going to use it again in his “Dangerous” performance in his This Is It concerts, along with the full track, had the concert series not been canceled due to his sudden death.
Spin, Lean and Moon Walk : Smooth Criminal Style