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Rejected Titles for Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal"
A rare peek inside The King of Pop's writing process.
In 1986, pop superstar Michael Jackson began writing what would become one of his signature songs — “Smooth Criminal” from the album Bad.
Inspired by a CPR dummy*, Jackson built the song around the refrain “Annie are you okay?” He found it difficult, however, to describe what exactly caused harm to Annie.
In search of help, Jackson sent the following list to his producer and collaborator Quincy Jones.
These rough drafts are presented for the first time alongside Jones’s notes.
Annie are you okay?
Are you okay, Annie?
You’ve been hit by…
You’ve been struck by…
A cruel imbecile (Too mean)
A small bicycle (No)
Creatures mythical (Too Led Zeppelin)
A ghost invisible (We already did the Halloween thing with “Thriller”)
Ted Bundy (Let’s not)
Poisons mixable (Maybe?)
Something biblical (You gotta be specific with the Bible, Michael)
My dad, typical (This feels like an unaddressed trauma. I’ll refer you to someone.)
Lyrics lyrical (Underdeveloped)
Joan, who’s quizzical, studied pataphysical (You already bought the Beatles’ catalog, you don’t have to rip them off)
*This part is true.