I've been a bad bad girl
I've been careless with my delicate man
And its a sad sad world
When a girl will break a boy
Just because she can

Don't you tell me to deny it
I've done wrong and I want to
Suffer for my sins
I've come to you 'cause I need
Guidance to be true
And I just don't know where I can begin

What I need is a good defense
'Cause I'm feelin' like a criminal
And I need to redeemed
To the one I've sinned against
Because he's all I ever knew of love

Heaven help me for the way I am
Save me from these evil deeds before I get them done
I know tomorrow brings the consequence at hand
But I keep livin' this day like
The next will never come

Oh help me but don't tell me
To deny it
I've got to cleanse myself
Of all these lies till I'm good enough for him
I've got a lot to lose and I'm bettin' high
So I'm beggin' you before it ends
Just tell me where to begin

What I need is a good defense
'Cause I'm feelin' like a criminal
And I need to redeemed
To the one I've sinned against
Because he's all I ever knew of love

Let me know the way
Before there's hell to pay
Give me room to lay the law and let me go
I've got to make a play
To make my lover stay
So what would an angel say
The devil wants to know

What I need is a good defense
'Cause I'm feelin' like a criminal
And I need to redeemed
To the one I've sinned against
Because he's all I ever knew of love

What I need is a good defense
'Cause I'm feelin' like a criminal
And I need to redeemed
To the one I've sinned against
Because he's all I ever knew of love


Lyrics submitted by SNYder, edited by InfinitStar

Criminal song meanings
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59 Comments

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  • +7
    General Comment

    Hello? umm..i don't think this song is about molestation at all. I heard she was a troubled kid when she was young but never molested and i think this song is about her doin her man wrong...I've been a bad girl..ive been careless with my delicate man. How could this be about molestation? The whole song is self explanitory come on now.

    krazyybeautifullon August 31, 2002   Link
  • +6
    General Comment

    its not about child molestation on the mtv creepiest videos thing she said she didnt mean it to look like that she jsut looked like a kid because shes skinny and shit.... anyway the lyrics dont sound like its about child molestation- its sounds like she was mean to some guy just for kicks and now shes sad because hes the only guy she wants.

    granola brinkon April 08, 2003   Link
  • +4
    General Comment

    This is a REALLY long sort of essay-type thing I wrote on Blogger. The article I refer to is the one Missy Blue mentioned, the one on imagesjournal.com about voyuerism. If you go to Fiona Apple's page on Wikipedia.org, the link to it is there, I think, titled something like "Voyuerism for the 90's" or something like that, if you're curious.


    Something nice about this sort of song is that while the artist may have been thinking one thing while writing it, you can think something entirely different while listening, and not be entirely off. The problem with this is that people then begin to waste their time, arguing about what the song "really means," or what the songwriter meant it to say. There is no right answer to the question "what does this song mean?" in many, many cases. In the case of "Criminal," the song may seem to be terribly simple, but I think that the connotations and tone used in the video as compared to the words are simply too contradictory to accidentally send a deeper message, which only leaves room for interpretation and observation.

    When I first watched the "Criminal" video, I didn't notice anything. In fact, I watched it a few times before I even started to try piecing together a backstory for Fiona's character in the video. It wasn't until I stumbled across an article that I really started to analyze this deeper. It analyzed the video in addition to the words rather than the song alone. In short, the writer stated that Fiona's attitudes in the video were very contradictory, that she was addressing us, the viewers, through the entire thing.

    Those two theories, after I'd analyzed them a bit, began to imply two different possible stories behind the video, the first being that Fiona is actually looking back at this event and narrating to us--explaining her addressing us--and the contradictory attitudes are to show us the difference between her feelings during and after the event--enjoying herself at the time, feeling guilty afterwards--while the lyrics are presenting her feelings afterwards throughout. With this storyline, it can be assumed that she's connected with someone outside the party, this someone being the the person Fiona refers to as "the one I've sinned against" and the "delicate man."

    The second of the two, however, is the more interesting and overlooked possibility--that of irony and sarcasm, which almost reverses the order in which her feelings about the event took place.

    When Fiona sings the opening line to the bridge, which is the most emotional and revealing part of the song, she's sitting in the back of the car, looking absolutely terrified. "Let me know the way, before there's hell to pay." Next we see her over the television, this time unafraid and shameless as she sings "give me room to lay the law and let me go." She's back in the car for "I've got to make a play" and on TV again at "to make my lover stay." We see a strong mix of these two sides of Fiona's character when she sings "so what would an angel say? the devil wants to know." This part of the video along with the images of a hurt and innocent Fiona at the end of the video really break away from the normally assumed interpretation.

    I read one listener's opinion at songmeanings.net that said she believed this to be about gender roles; a man can go and do as he wants, and he's considered a stud. When a girl does what she wants, she's a slut. That would mean that this is merely Fiona telling us what society expects her to be saying. This is interesting, but if that's so true, why does Fiona look so goddamn scared? Why does she look so hurt if she's doing all these things of her own free will? I did read other posts, however, in which writers seemed to share my idea of interpretation.

    Fiona's the victim, not the attacker--the prey, not the predator, the innocent, not the criminal. But that's not what everyone else is saying to her. She's the victim of abuse, but the abuser and everyone else just hits her upside the head and calls her a slut. She's been blamed so often that she's almost beginning to believe that it really is her fault. The times in the video when she seems promiscuous are representing what she thinks she did--come on to the abuser--the times when she looks guilty represent how she feels about supposedly doing the abuser wrong, the times when she looks sad and scared show how she's feeling about all this, and those few, revealing times when she's looking hurt and innocent tell the truth. The expression on her face when she says "I've done wrong, and I wanna suffer for my sins," melodramatic and nearly mocking in nature, supports this theory. All the shots of her seemingly enjoying herself are overdramatatized, too.

    No, maybe Fiona Apple wasn't trying to send this message. Maybe it started out as a song that was merely about a girl doing someone wrong and regretting it; I'm not Fiona, so I wouldn't know. But I, for one, believe in unintentional symbolism. The subconscious, especially that of a writer, is capable of such things. It is the subconscious, after all, is the thing that makes you, as an adult, anxious in situations similar to one that you, as a two-year-old, were once in that scared thet shit out of you, an event you may not even remember at all. Fiona was a rape victim, so I imagine that her subconscious could've been writing a symbolic version of "Criminal" about abuse and guilt while Fiona herself was writing a song she believed to be about something entirely different. We can't be sure.

    Of course, it's just my opinion, and you can say that it's "just a freaking song about a girl doing shit and feeling sorry after, for God's sake!" if you want. But honestly--isn't she having just a little too much fun in the video to be taken seriously? Think about it, take it with a grain of salt if you must. You believe what you want, and I'll believe what I want.

    criminal_incognitoon December 28, 2006   Link
  • +3
    General Comment

    ummm yea, i agree. do u really think she'd be singing this midtempo, whisical song about being molested? the song is about having someone worthwhile and not realizing what u had until after uve ruined it by using them or taking them for granted ("ive been careless with a delicate man"). fiona writes metaphors; "ive done wrong and i want to suffer for my sins"--she doesnt mean that literally, she's comparing breaking this guy's heart to sinning--being a criminal--and now she feels bad and regrets screwing up a good thing so now she wants to play the martyr to get him back. some of u may be confused because the video was about the exploitation of young girls and she used the opportunity to try to get over her own insecurities about her body image (see mtv2's most shocking videos). but i guess it's interesting to see how others have interpreted this song.

    indigoboyon September 02, 2002   Link
  • +3
    General Comment

    If you were a true fan of Fiona's, you would probably know that almost all of her music is a bout bad relationships and her troubled mind, to think that this was about child molestation, god or anything religious is stupid and literal.

    ModernHereticon September 23, 2011   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    i dont think this song is about god, i hope it isnt cos that would just ruin it for me. i can see how its about her being cruel to her lover, wanting to redeem herself. and i can see how it could be about something darker. its like she wants a quick fix to bring her lover back hence ' iv'e got to make a play, to make my lover stay' 'what would an angle say, the devil wants to know'

    Niamon October 05, 2004   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    yet again i agree with you Niam, i think she does however care for her lover, and she has never had the feeling of remorse before so she doesnt know where to begin to repair things.

    dee the gypsyon October 08, 2004   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    this song is NOT about being raped. Yea she was raped, so the fuck what, that doesn't mean you have to look for it as a subject where it's not.

    This is what she said the song was about in a 1997 interview with Tracey Pepper:

    FA: When [video director] Mark Romanek showed me his treatment, I called Andy [Slater, Apple's manager] and said, "This is Fiona taking off her clothes in the kitchen; Fiona lying by the pool naked; Fiona in underwear, naked." Then I called Mark and we talked about his idea that the song is about guilty pleasures and sexual deviance - me being in this house full of people, going around and experimenting, feeling a little bad about it, but enjoying it all the same. It corresponded with my meaning of the song.

    JBIIIon February 05, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    Whoever sings appears so exaggeratedly guilty that I cannot help thinking that his vision comes from sarcasm. A sarcastic vision of a part of a toxic relationship, where the low self-esteem and insecurity lead to guiltyness for every little movement. Felling small and not good enough. Idealizing and endorsing the other party (possibly a selfish prick) playing god. Girl, run as fast as you can. This aint gonna change.

    capitanrepolloon February 21, 2020   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    I once know one "delicate " man. He was so sweet and kind to me, and said that he loved everything about me, that I am differant for him. But I rejected his love... Why? I do not know exatcly. I just felt that I don't love him that much. He was one of best friends of mine, I trusted him alot. But he started to make dirty games and said that I am just too lonely, ambitious and don't know anything about love and relationships. That I am just too broke and I need to open my soul for love. After a week he slept with his new girlfriend, he tell me everything about his feelings about this girl. You see, I felt like a criminal. Many girls could only dream about this guy. He was so sensitive, delicate, understanding. All of my friends were against me. All of collage rumored about me that I secretly adore him and that I'm just too shy. Everybody said that I love him but just don't understanding that. He kissed his girlfriend in front of me, and tell me how expensive gifts he bought her.

    And I was alone. I couldn't feel anything only disappointment about myself. I couldn't love him and couldn't love myself. I felt guilty about what I've done. I started to hate him, because of his two-faced behavior. He smiled in my eyes, but he told me that I will be unhappy and lonely un my life, that I cannot study medicine.

    After 5 months I have heard that he have called me crazy bit**, that I just need to be f***ed hardly because I just need a man, in front of other guys who loved me. Everything was a lie. He was just a A-hole.

    So I exactly understand what Fiona sang in this song - woman always will be guilty one. She can sleep with other guys or reject one delicate man- it doesn't matter. She is always the slut. She just wants to be herself, but society makes her think that it can't be correct. She have to kill these evil deeds because she is nothing without her man. Everyone will call her stupid slut, that she is heartless and without soul. Even when she's the victim.

    almazzaon October 23, 2015   Link

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