Who Is It (Michael Jackson song)

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"Who Is It"
Single by Michael Jackson
from the album Dangerous
Released August 31, 1992 (UK)
March 29, 1993 (US)
Format CD single, 7", 12", Video promo
Recorded 1990
Genre R&B
Length 6:35 (album version)
3:59 (single/7" edit)
4:05 (7" edit w/intro)
Label Epic
Writer(s) Michael Jackson
Producer(s) Michael Jackson
Bill Bottrell
Michael Jackson singles chronology
"Who Is It"
"Heal the World"
Dangerous track listing
"Black Or White"
"Who Is It"
"Give In To Me"

"Who Is It" is a song by American recording artist Michael Jackson. "Who Is It" was released by Epic Records on August 31, 1992, as the fifth single from Jackson's eighth studio album, Dangerous in 1991. The song was written and composed by Jackson, and produced by Jackson and Bill Bottrell. The song's lyrics pertain to despair over being left by someone you love; some critics noted a comparison to the lyrics of the song to Jackson's single, "Billie Jean", from the album Thriller. As part of the promotion for the song, two music videos were released in 1992. The song was not performed by Jackson on any of his world concert tours. He did, however, perform a small segment of the song in his interview with Oprah Winfrey in early 1993. The instrumental version of the song was supposed to be used during the "This Is It concerts," which were canceled due to Jackson's death.

Background and composition[edit]

A seventeen second sample from Jackson's "Who Is It".

Problems playing this file? See media help.

"Who Is It" was recorded by Michael Jackson in 1990 for his eighth studio album, Dangerous, which was released the following year.[1] Jackson wrote and composed the track, and produced it with Bill Bottrell.[1] "Who is It" was released as the fifth single from Dangerous on August 31, 1992, by Jackson's record label, Epic Records. The lyrics of the song tell of a man who is left in despair when his lover suddenly leaves him. He learns that she was unfaithful to him and wants to know with whom the person was that she cheated.


"Who Is It" was commercially successful worldwide, generally peaking within the top thirty positions on national music charts. Adam Gilham of Sputnikmusic praised the song in his review for Dangerous, describing it as a "real fan favourite and a criminally underrated song" and rated the album a "5/5".[2] added that it was "a very dark, introspective song about wondering who his girl cheated on with 'Is it my brother?' etc." and praised that "Who Is It" is "really superb, particularly the chorus".[2] Rolling Stone noted that unlike his previous efforts, we get betrayal.[3]

The song peaked at number fourteen on the United States' Billboard Hot 100 chart, while peaking at number six on Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, as well as topping the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play. Internationally, "Who Is It" peaked at number two on New Zealand charts, as well as peaking at number five in Austria, number eight in France and number ten in the United Kingdom. The song also peaked within the top twenty positions on Swiss and Dutch charts. The song debuted on the United Kingdom music chart at number twelve on July 25, 1992, and the following week reached its peak position, number ten.[4] The track remained within the top one hundred positions for seven consecutive weeks from July to September 1992.[4] In France, the track peaked at number eight on August 29.[5] "Who Is It" reached its highest position at number thirty-four in Australia.[6]

In Austria, the track debuted at its peak position, number five; the song remained within the top thirty chart positions from August to October.[7] "Who Is It" debuted in Switzerland on August 2, at number forty, and peaked at number fourteen two weeks later.[8] The song debuted at number ninety-four in the Netherlands, and the following week moved up sixty positions, eventually peaking at number thirteen.[9] In Sweden, the track entered the country's music chart at its peak position, number twenty-four and, after four weeks, fell out of the top fifty.[10] In Norway, the track debuted at its peak position, number ten on the thirtieth week of 1992; the song charted at its peak position for two weeks before falling off the chart.[11] The song peaked at number sixteen in New Zealand.[12] After Jackson's death in June 2009, his music experienced a surge in popularity. "Who Is It" re-entered Switzerland music charts for the first time in over seventeen years, hitting number forty nine on July 12, 2009.[7]

Music video[edit]

Released in 1992, the music video, or as Jackson called "short film", was directed by David Fincher.

It begins with Jackson in what seems to be a hotel, singing about his girlfriend. He is distressed because he found a silver card in with the name "Alex" on it. To him, it implies that "Alex" is another man who his girlfriend is with; thus, she is cheating on Jackson. However, as the story in the video unfolds, this is not true, because the girl takes on different identities (I.e. Eve, Diana, etc.) for her job as a high class call girl. "Alex" (which is also a girl's name), just happens to be one of them. The video alternates scenes from where Jackson is singing about his pain, to where the girl is being changed into her different identities and taking care of her jobs (mostly meeting with other men and even some women and sleeping with them). Towards the end of the video, Jackson has packed up his bags to leave town, because of his distress. A helicopter comes to pick him up from his house. The girl comes to Jackson's house, and she asks his assistant (who knows the situation and aided Jackson in his departure) to let her in. The assistant shakes his head, implying that he left. When she asks why, he drops a flutter of silver nameplates (including the one that said "Alex") from a slot in the door. After that scene, Jackson is seen sleeping and smoke floats out the side of the screen. The girl regrets and takes off her makeup to quit what she was doing.

This version did not initially air in the USA but was included on the video albums: Dangerous: The Short Films and Michael Jackson's Vision.

Another version of the video features footage from past music videos and live performances. This is the version that first aired in the USA.

Track listing[edit]

UK VHS promo single[5]
  1. "Who Is It" (Music Video) - 6:35
  2. "Who Is It" (Performance Video) - 3:57

Credits and personnel[edit]


Chart (1992/2009) Peak
Australian Singles Chart[5] 34
Austrian Singles Chart[5] 5
Dutch Singles Chart[5] 12
French Singles Chart[5] 8
New Zealand Singles Chart[5] 2
Norwegian Singles Chart[5] 10
Swedish Singles Chart[5] 24
Swiss Singles Chart[5] 14
UK Singles Chart[4] 10
US Billboard Hot 100[13] 14
US Billboard Pop Songs[13] 6
US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs[13] 6
US Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs[13] 1
Preceded by
"Fever" by Madonna
Billboard Hot Dance Club Play number-one single
May 22, 1993
Succeeded by
"I Can't Get No Sleep" by Masters at Work featuring India


  1. ^ a b c d Dangerous liner notes Epic Records (1991).
  2. ^ a b Gilham, Adam (2006-04-16). "Michael Jackson Dangerous". Sputnikmusic. Sputnikmusic.com. Retrieved 2010-04-21. 
  3. ^ http://www.rollingstone.com/music/albumreviews/dangerous-19920101
  4. ^ a b c "Michael Jackson - Who Is It". ChartStats.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved 2010-03-14. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s "Michael Jackson - Who is it (song)". LesCharts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved 2010-03-14. 
  6. ^ "Michael Jackson - Who Is It (song)". Australian-Charts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved 2010-04-21. 
  7. ^ a b "Michael Jackson - Who Is It (song)". AustrianCharts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved 2010-04-20. 
  8. ^ "Michael Jackson - Who Is It (song)". HitParade.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved 2010-04-21. 
  9. ^ "Michael Jackson - Who Is It (nummer)". DutchCharts.nl. Hung Medien. Retrieved 2010-04-21. 
  10. ^ "Michael Jackson - Who Is It (song)". SwedishCharts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved 2010-04-21. 
  11. ^ "Michael Jackson - Who Is It (song)". NorwegianCharts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved 2010-04-21. 
  12. ^ "Michael Jackson - Who Is It (song)". Charts.org.nz. Hung Medien. Retrieved 2010-04-21. 
  13. ^ a b c d "allmusic (( Dangerous > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles )))". Allmusic.com. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2010-03-14.