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The Thriller videos – “Beat It,” “Billie Jean,” and “Thriller” – get the glory, but to my mind “Smooth Criminal” rivals them all. Watching the clip taken from his Moonwalker film, Michael Jackson never looked slicker than he did in that white fedora. Apparently his urban gangster alter ego has worked his way up the ladder. The knife-fighting street tough of “Beat It” is now a cool and collected mob boss. If you need more convincing of this video’s greatness, witness the pool ball jump, the underling flip, and, of course, the legendary antigravity lean here.

A video can only go so far without a great song, though, and “Smooth Criminal” was that too. Then and now, the bass-synth riff makes the listener feel funky, seductive, and a little dangerous (though that album was still three years off). In today’s cover, Long Beach quintet Delmos Wade slow jams it without losing an ounce of sexy. Gritty guitar and mournful clapping express more concern for Annie’s actual well-being than the original.

MP3: Delmos Wade – Smooth Criminal (Michael Jackson cover)

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Check out more Delmos Wade at their website or MySpace.

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