When talking about both the original Jackson and Alien Ant Farm versions of “Smooth Criminal”, a mention of the videos is necessary. The original “Smooth Criminal” video was a sort of futuristic/1930s gangster type of thing, characterized by Gestapo police, Jackson’s suit and fedora combo that became part of his image for a while (does anyone remember Moonwalker? or the video game by the same name?), and that weird leaning. The lean was what sold the video: while dancing Jackson and his two backup guys would stop and seemingly defy the laws of physics by leaning impossibly far forward to the left before beginning to dance again. Other than that, the video was kinda bland, so if you haven't seen it you're not missing much.

I just recently happened to catch the video for the Alien Ant Farm cover on a local music channel. This video is really giggle inducing, and contains many nods to Michael throughout. It starts with a kid of maybe seven dancing in Michael Jackson’s style while wearing a surgical mask. There is also a shot of screaming Asian girls holding a handmade sign reading “WE LOVE AAF!” While playing the band does the impossible lean themselves. There are also nods to “Billie Jean” with freeze-frame and split-screen shots, as well as a sidewalk and other objects that light up when members of the band touch them (the lead singer plays with this by touching a mailbox deliberately with his fingertip). Other references include a shot of the lead singer sitting in a chair that is shaped like a silver sequined glove with a chimp sitting on his lap, a brief shot of a woman in a bikini with a werewolf mask on, old guys doing a few moves from the “Thriller” video, a man sporting an Elizabeth Taylor tattoo on his back turning to show us his yellow "monster eyes", and one moment when the music stops completely so that the lead singer can climb onto the roof of a car (an orange Gremlin), grab his crotch, and scream Jackson-style as the windows explode out.

Over the past few years, I've seen at least four different Smooth Criminal videos. The first is a regular MTV version, about 3 or 4 minutes long, the next is a weird sped up version of the same length (where everything is blurred, and you can't make out the dance moves), included on the Number Ones DVD. The third video is the Alien Ant Farm one.

However, the most famous (and probably my favourite) is the aforementioned Moonwalker clip. The segment starts with the text Smooth Criminal carved in stone for some reason. Cut to an alleyway, with Jackson's shadow on the wall. The man himself walks round the corner, opens the door of the nightclub, dispelling a weird smoke effect. He enters the building, and appears to be in Prohibition Era America.

Inside the club, he flicks a coin across the room into the jukebox (cue horribly fake special effect), and the music starts. Jacko dances around the place for a while, sings at the microphone, crushes a cue ball with his bare hands, blows chalk in a mean dude's face, and shoots a bad guy, who flies backwards, leaving a perfect outline in the wall, and so forth. It’s as bad as it sounds.

But, just when the video is getting a little too-cartoony, the overhead glass breaks, and for the next few minutes, the music stops, while Jacko stamps his foot, and everyone moans out loud (no, I don't understand it either).

The music restarts, more dancing takes place, guys with guns show up, Jackson pulls a machine gun out of nowhere, shoots them, and runs off to save (who else but) the children.

The redeeming features of the video are the dance moves (notably the impossible lean), a really funny dancing kid, plus nearly every type of Moonwalk invented - the Regular move, the Moonwalk in a Circle, Moonwalk on the Spot, and maybe the Sidewalk. All in all it's a crazy video, a pretty good song, and an entertaining nine minutes, as the video takes longer than reading this write-up (go figure). Its main purpose is to show us that Michael Jackson was once pretty cool, before he became a white woman that is.

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