|Criminal|| Up n' Down|
| Britney Spears|
|Released||September 30, 2011|
|Leaked||March 11, 2011|
|Format||Digital download • streaming|
|Genre||Folk-pop • soft rock • R&B|
|Writer||Max Martin • Shellback • Tiffany Amber|
|Producer||Max Martin • Shellback|
Background and ArtworkEdit
"Criminal" was written and produced by Max Martin and Shellback, with additional writing by Tiffany Amber. After Spears first listened to the song, she felt it was different and unlike anything she had heard before. She posted a snippet of it online on March 2, 2011, prior to the album's release. "Criminal" was chosen as a single by a poll on her Facebook page, as Spears explained it was a way to give back to her fans. The artwork for the single was released on September 14, 2011.
On August 5, 2011, she launched a poll on her Facebook page asking fans whether her next single should be "Criminal", "Inside Out" or "(Drop Dead) Beautiful." After the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards, she revealed to MTV News that "Criminal" was chosen as the fourth single. On the British talk show This Morning, Spears explained that the song "was chosen by the fans. It was just cool to give something back to them and see what they would appreciate." The "Criminal (Radio Mix)", which was included on her second remix album, B in the Mix: The Remixes Vol. 2, was released a single on September 30, 2011 and the song was added to the United States mainstream radio playlists on October 4, 2011. The artwork for the single was released on September 14, 2011. It features Spears looking out into the distance, with her wavy hair falling on her bare back. A mysterious hooded man is also featured on the cover. Robbie Daw of Idolator said that "it appears as if Camp Spears hired the best Photoshop expert $15 could buy when it came to designing the art. Oh, just kidding — we love red and blue! Makes us think of sex and, uh, ice-cold criminals. Or something."
"Criminal" is a guitar-driven midtempo song, which incorporates a folk-style flute melody. It is considered the only ballad in Femme Fatale, and is less agressive than the other songs of the album. "Criminal" is influenced by the works of ABBA and Madonna. In the song, Spears sings about being in love with a bad boy and outlaw, and pleads to her mother to not worry about their relationship. "Criminal" received positive critical appreciation, with reviewers praising its organic and refreshing feel in comparison with the rest of the album. After the release of Femme Fatale, the song charted on the South Korean International chart. "Criminal" has also charted in major markets such as Canada, France, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States.
The accompanying music video for the song was filmed in Stoke Newington London. It features Spears as a woman in upper society and follows her relationship with a criminal, played by her real-life boyfriend Jason Trawick. Prior to its release, London officials criticized Spears for shooting scenes with a replica gun and glamorizing violence. The video received positive appreciation from critics, with some calling it the best video from Femme Fatale. Reviewers also noted the parallels between the storyline and themes of him in the video with Spears' personal life.
At the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards, Spears said to MTV News that she had thought of a "really cool concept for the video, just to make it interesting. You'll have to see." She then contacted Chris Marrs Piliero, who directed the music video for her previous single "I Wanna Go", to work with her. She told him the basic story she had planned, which he described as a "fairy-tale, sweet, knight-in-shining-armor feel to it. I said let's take that and make the fairy tale badass." Spears also wanted her real-life boyfriend Jason Trawick to play the criminal. Marrs Piliero was initially hesitant to cast Trawick feeling that a professional actor would do a better job, but did not talk to Spears about it. He told USA Today, "When you're doing nudity, I don't think it was at the top of Britney's list to bring in some random guy while her boyfriend watches. [...] We definitely wanted to make some passionate, steamy scenes, but we also wanted it to be intensely beautiful. We didn't want to go for raunchy. We wanted it to be sensual and steamy." On September 6, 2011, Spears announced through her Twitter account that she had decided to shoot the video "in the streets of merry old England when I get there." In an interview with AOL, she explained, "I've never shot on location out of the country of America for a video. So, it should be very interesting. It was partly my idea ... to see if it could to happen, and they were like, 'Yeah, it's a great idea,' so we did it."
The video begins at a formal party in which Spears seems to be looking for someone. The opening shot of her was inspired by the scene of Jennifer Love Hewitt walking into the party in Can't Hardly Wait (1998). Her boyfriend (Bradshaw) talks with two people next to her. He persuades her to smile to avoid embarrassment from the guests then verbally abuses her and grabs her face, after which she leaves to the restroom, where she wipes away a tear and puts on her fragrance Radiance. She comes back to the party and catches her boyfriend flirting with another woman; Spears tells her "So you're not working the street corner tonight I see?", making her boyfriend angry. He apologizes to the other woman for his girlfriend's remark, then grabs Spears by the arm and carries her outside the building. After he slaps her, one of the waiters of the party (Trawick) wearing a leather jacket punches her boyfriend several times. The waiter asks Spears if she is okay, and after she kicks her boyfriend in the crotch goodbye, she replies "Now I'm okay." She and the waiter climb on his motorcycle and leave the scene. When they get to his house, it is revealed by a newspaper that he is a criminal. She opens one of the lockers in his house and finds a gun, after which the couple kisses. This is followed by scenes of them having sex.
The next morning, the criminal brings Spears breakfast to the bed and kisses her on the forehead. He has several tattoos in his body, including one on his chest that reads "R.I.P. Goose", a reference to the film Top Gun (1986). They go to a convenience store where she steals vanilla candles and points the gun to the employee; the criminal takes money out of the cash register and they escape by stealing a Citroën DS3. The robbery is caught by the security cameras, and pictures of the couple appear on the local news. There are scenes of them having sex in the shower. As they change clothes, several policemen then appear outside the criminal's house; they start shooting it with Heckler & Koch MP5's as Spears and the man embrace, kissing passionately. The policemen then enter the house, and one of them confirms that the couple escaped. The video ends with Spears and the criminal escaping on the motorcycle as the credits roll. One of them reads "No vanilla candles were harmed in the making of this music video." The video also includes intercut scenes of Spears performing dance moves similar to voguing.