+
michael jackson smooth criminal alien ant farm

Alien Ant Farm's "Smooth Criminal" cover still rocks.

When Micheal Jackson released "Smooth Criminal" in 1988, I was a 13-year-old named Annie. As you can imagine, the "Annie, are you okay?" jokes came fast and furious, and they haven't let up much in the three and a half decades since.

It's all good. Those jokes gave me a respite from the "Annie get your gun" and "little orphan Annie" ones, and besides, it's a great song. It wasn't Jackson's biggest hit, but it was always my favorite, and not just because it bore my name. The music video—a nine-minute, dance-heavy mini-movie set in the 1930s gangster era—made it even better.

But apparently, mentioning "Smooth Criminal" or "Annie, are you okay?" to the younger folks doesn't conjure up the zoot suits and dimly lit speakeasy images it does for me. For them, it brings up images of an alternative rock punk band playing in a … boxing ring?


In 2001, a band called Alien Ant Farm did an alternative/punk cover of "Smooth Criminal" that has repeatedly gone viral since then. In fact, it went viral in June 2022 and then again this week, when Lindz McLeod on Twitter asked if anyone would recognize the lyrics, "Annie are you okay, are you okay, Annie?" without looking them up. (Ahem.) Some people, seriously or jokingly, pointed to the Alien Ant Farm cover as the source.

The Alien Ant Farm "Smooth Criminal" video is actually an homage to Michael Jackson, though the folks that didn't grow up in the MJ era may miss many of the small details that point to him. Watch and see how many Michael Jackson references you can find:

The kid dancing while wearing a mask has a whole different feel now than it did when the video came out, for sure. Seems downright prescient, in hindsight.

The masked kid was the one part of the Alien Ant Farm video that Michael Jackson himself took issue with at first. (Michael Jackson would often wear a face mask in public, long before it became a pandemic habit.) The band shared that story in an interview with Los Angeles Times:

"When you asked if we had any reservations of how it would be received, the only person we were mindful of was Michael Jackson himself. We were kind of worried. We sent the video to MJ to get his nod of approval. And he commented back that he didn’t really dig the kid with the mask. I think MJ wore that mask because of all of his failed surgeries. We were like, 'Oh s—, maybe we should remove it.' We were already on tour. But a few weeks later, the director of the video [Marc Klasfeld] went to the same street, got a bunch of the extras together and reshot the dancing kid without the mask. We went through quite a bit of money and bulls— to make sure that we were appeasing Michael Jackson. We sent it back to him a few weeks later with the kid with no mask and he said, 'You know what? I like it better with the mask!'"

The Alien Ant Farm "Smooth Criminal" video has racked up a whopping 257 million views on YouTube alone since it was shared in 2009. People say it's a perfect representation of the early 2000s, both the sound and the visuals.

Some people have also said they prefer the Alien Ant Farm version to the original, which feels a bit blasphemous, but whatever. It's a great cover—the band did an admirable job of keeping the overall elements of the original while adding their own sound to it—but there's just nothing like Michael Jackson's original. Enjoy:

Joy

The best and brightest come together to tackle society’s toughest challenges

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is working to eradicate disease, improve education, and address the needs of their local community.

True

Have you ever wished you could solve some of society’s toughest challenges? That’s exactly why the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) was founded.

Established in 2015 by Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, the organization’s mission is to build a better future for everyone. CZI is working to eradicate disease, improve education, and address the needs of their local community.

Since its launch, CZI has awarded around $4.8 billion in grants to organizations whose work aligns with these values.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

Pink shares a proud mama video of her daughter's first singing recital

'This 11 year old (11,000 year old soul) blows me away.'

Pink's daughter is following in her mom's footsteps with her own unique voice.

One of the best things social media offers is the ability for parents to share some of their kids' big moments. Proud parents are going to proud parent, and modern technology gives us ample opportunity to publicly gush about our offspring without forcing anyone to bear witness to their burgeoning talents.

Celebrity parents are in a bit of a different boat, however. When you're a household name with millions of followers, you might think twice about sharing your proud parent videos. But iconic pop star Pink has shared a video of her daughter's first singing recital just like any other proud mama would, and it's totally sweet.

Pink posted the video to an Instagram reel with the caption "This 11 year old (11,000 year old soul) blows me away."

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

Rehearsal footage from 'We Are the World' shows how incredibly talented everyone was in the '80s

Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Diana Ross, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen, man oh man.

Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie wrote "We Are the World."

From 1983 to 1985, more than 1 million people in Ethiopia died from extreme famine. A few months after a BBC report on the famine that triggered the U.K. Band Aid charity single "Do They Know It's Christmas?," the biggest stars in the American music industry came together in 1985 to record a charity single to help those suffering in Ethiopia, Sudan and other impoverished African countries.

The collection of entertainers called themselves USA for Africa, and their single, “We Are the World,” sold more than 7 million records worldwide and has generated $60 million over the past 37 years.

The song was written by Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson and produced by Quincy Jones. The vocals were recorded after the American Music Awards in Los Angeles on January 28, 1985, in a single 8 p.m. to 8 a.m session at Hollywood's A&M Recording Studios.

Keep ReadingShow less

The car DJ is a sacred job.

Let’s hear it for the lost generation—the slackers and middle children who brought us apathy personified and grunge music. Sure, Gen Xers might not be as loud as the boomers, millennials or even the Gen Zers of this world, but that’s only because, if we’re honest, they’re too busy taking care of things themselves to have time to complain.

And you know, for being the forgotten generation, the world can’t seem to stop talking about it. From Gen X pop culture classics re-emerging into the mainstream, to making headline-worthy spikes in wealth over the past couple of years, this group is (finally) in the spotlight.

Recently u/Ruffffian asked the Reddit community to share what they consider to be “THE most Gen X” thing. As a certified millennial, I have absolutely no idea what half of them are (seriously, what is a “Garbage Pail Kid” and why are they terrifying?). But I guess that’s why only you latchkey kids can proudly claim them.

Keep ReadingShow less

Ads, ads, ads, ads.

You might not know the name James Vicary, but odds are you know about his experiment, at least indirectly.

In 1957, the market researcher claimed to have exposed thousands of unsuspecting moviegoers in a New Jersey theater to a series of phrases like “Hungry? Eat Popcorn” and “Drink Coca-Cola” that flashed across the screen in the fraction of a second as they watched a film. These images allegedly increased the sale of popcorn by 57.5% and Coca-Cola by 18.1%, despite passing far too quickly for viewers to consciously notice them.

Vicary’s findings soon became publicized and induced a widespread, decades-long dystopian fear that secret messages lurked beneath the surfaces of our favorite songs, movies and TV shows, insidiously coercing us to do things without conscious consent. Primarily, to buy things we probably don’t actually want.

Keep ReadingShow less