Saturday, April 23, 2016

Original Versus Cover - Smooth Criminal

I guarantee that Michael Jackson fans are not going to like the end result of this comparison, but I would encourage you to read through to the end to understand my point of view. Keep in mind that we are comparing songs and not videos. If we were comparing videos, then Alien Ant Farm wouldn't even be on the same planet as Michael Jackson. But as a cover, the Alien Ant Farm version of "Smooth Criminal" is probably one of the most famous covers ever made. There are some very good reasons for that.

To get this party started, let's check out the King of Pop's original version:

Like I said, the Alien Ant Farm video doesn't even come close to this, and Alien Ant Farm admits that in the way they tribute this video in their own. But as a song, this song is as funky as it is infectious. The criminal is smooth, and so is the beat. The only issue I have with Jackson's original recording of "Smooth Criminal" is that it is erratic in parts. It could be the edit done for the video, but the beat gets interrupted on several occasions and, in some parts, the beat is even cut off in mid-funk. But this is still a great song that gets plenty of personality from one of the best pop singers ever.

Now let's give a listen to the Alien Ant Farm video:

The video is overloaded with cheesy Michael Jackson references, which is why I prefer to listen to the song instead of watching the video. Alien Ant Farm actually made a nice little career for a while ripping off other people's ideas, but it didn't last long. This version of a great song, however, survives. 

Alien Ant Farm's version of "Smooth Criminal" is manic and altered to fit the tone of the generation that made this cover a hit. The vibe is just as smooth as the original, but this version flows a lot better than the original. If you can listen to this song without watching the video, then you would appreciate just how good of a cover it really is.

There have been plenty of covers of Michael Jackson songs, but it is the goofy ones that always seem to get attention. There was a long pause between Weird Al's "Eat It" and Alien Ant Farm's version of "Smooth Criminal" and in-between all we got was new music from the King of Pop himself. As a song, Alien Ant Farm's version of "Smooth Criminal" is entertaining. As a cover, it gives the original a run for its money.

Verdict: The original, but not by much.

George N Root III is a musician who has been in his fair share of cover bands. You can follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3 or send him a message at