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Who Is It (Michael Jackson song)

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"Who Is It"
Single by Michael Jackson
from the album Dangerous
  • August 31, 1992 (UK)
  • March 29, 1993 (US)
Recorded 1990
Genre R&B
  • 6:35 (album version)
  • 3:59 (single/7" edit)
  • 4:05 (7" edit w/intro)
Label Epic
Writer(s) Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson singles chronology
"Who Is It"
"Heal the World"
Dangerous track listing
"Black or White"
"Who Is It"
"Give In to Me"
Music video
"Who Is It" on YouTube

"Who Is It" is a song by American recording artist Michael Jackson. It was released by Epic Records on August 31, 1992, as the fifth single from Jackson's eighth studio album, Dangerous (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. An instrumental portion of the song was supposed to be used during the This Is It comeback concerts in London, 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. Jackson wrote and composed the track, and produced it with Bill Bottrell.[1] 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.


Several music critics compared "Who Is It" to Jackson's 1983 single "Billie Jean". Jon Pareles, a writer for The New York Times, described "Who Is It" as an "imitation" of "Billie Jean".[2] Chris Willman of the Los Angeles Times claimed that the track "recaptures some of the slinky, insinuating feel of 'Billie Jean.'"[3] Jonathan Bernstein, a writer for Spin, wrote that "Who Is It" was "close skin to "Billie Jean".[4] Alan Light of Rolling Stone noted that unlike his previous efforts, it is about betrayal.[5]

"Who Is It" was commercially successful worldwide, generally peaking within the top thirty positions on national music charts. 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.[6] Internationally, "Who Is It" reached the top twenty in several countries. The song debuted on the United Kingdom music chart at number twelve on July 25, 1992,[7] and the following week reached its peak position, number ten.[8] It remained within the top one hundred positions for seven consecutive weeks from July to September 1992.[9] In France, the track peaked at number eight on August 29.[10] "Who Is It" reached its lowest peak position at number thirty-four in Australia.[11]

In Austria, the track debuted at its peak position, number five; the song remained within the top thirty chart positions from August to October.[12] "Who Is It" debuted in Switzerland on August 2, at number forty, and peaked at number fourteen two weeks later.[13] The song debuted at number ninety-four in the Netherlands, and the following week moved up sixty positions, eventually peaking at number thirteen.[14] 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.[15] 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.[16] The song also peaked at number sixteen in New Zealand.[17] After Jackson's death in June 2009, his music experienced a surge in popularity.[18] "Who Is It" re-entered the Switzerland music charts for the first time in over seventeen years, hitting number forty nine on July 12, 2009.[13]

Music video[edit]

Directed by David Fincher, the music video for "Who Is It" was released in 1993.[19]

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]

Credits and personnel[edit]

Chart performance[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

Preceded by
"Fever" by Madonna
Billboard Hot Dance Club Play number-one single
May 22, 1993 (1 week)
Succeeded by
"I Can't Get No Sleep" by Masters at Work featuring India


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  2. ^ Pareles, Jon (November 24, 1991). "RECORDINGS VIEW; Michael Jackson in the Electronic Wilderness". The New York Times. p. 2. Retrieved October 23, 2014. 
  3. ^ Willman, Chris (November 24, 1991). "Michael Jackson's 'Dangerous'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 23, 2014. 
  4. ^ "Michael Jackson – Dangerous – Epic" Check |url= value (help). Spin 7 (11): 66. February 1992. ISSN 0006-2510. 
  5. ^ Light, Alan (January 1, 1992). Michael Jackson – Dangerous at the Wayback Machine (archived May 8, 2013). Retrieved October 23, 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "Dangerous – Awards". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved October 23, 2014. 
  7. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 75: 19 July 1992 – 25 July 1992". Official Charts Company. Retrieved October 23, 2014. 
  8. ^ a b "Archive Chart: 1992-08-01" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved October 23, 2014.
  9. ^ "Michael Jackson". Official Charts Company. Retrieved October 23, 2014. 
  10. ^ a b " – Michael Jackson – Who Is It" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved October 23, 2014.
  11. ^ a b " – Michael Jackson – Who Is It". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved October 23, 2014.
  12. ^ a b " – Michael Jackson – Who Is It" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved October 23, 2014.
  13. ^ a b c " – Michael Jackson – Who Is It". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved October 23, 2014.
  14. ^ a b " – Michael Jackson – Who Is It" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved October 23, 2014.
  15. ^ a b " – Michael Jackson – Who Is It". Singles Top 100. Retrieved October 23, 2014.
  16. ^ a b " – Michael Jackson – Who Is It". VG-lista. Retrieved October 23, 2014.
  17. ^ a b " – Michael Jackson – Who Is It". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved October 23, 2014.
  18. ^ Bruno, Antony (July 2, 2009). "Michael Jackson Music Sales Surge Could Last For Months". Billboard. Retrieved February 27, 2010. 
  19. ^ Halstead 2007, p. 358.
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h " – Michael Jackson – Who Is It" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved October 23, 2014.
  21. ^ "Radio 2 Top 30 : 8 augustus 1992" (in Dutch). Top 30. Retrieved October 23, 2014. 
  22. ^ "Dance/Urban – Volume 57, No. 23, June 19 1993". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved October 23, 2014. 
  23. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 1713." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved October 23, 2014.
  24. ^ " – Michael Jackson – Who Is It". GfK Entertainment. Retrieved October 23, 2014.
  25. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Who Is It". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved October 23, 2014.
  26. ^ a b "I singoli più venduti del 1992" (in Italian). Hit Parade Italia. Creative Commons. Retrieved October 23, 2014. 
  27. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Michael Jackson - Who Is It search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40. Retrieved October 23, 2014.
  28. ^ "WHO IS IT? – Michael Jackson" (in Polish). LP3. Retrieved October 23, 2014. 
  29. ^ CASH BOX Top 100 Singles – Week ending MAY 22, 1993 at the Wayback Machine (archived October 10, 2012). Cash Box magazine. Retrieved October 23, 2014.
  30. ^ " – Michael Jackson – Who Is It". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved October 23, 2014.
  31. ^ "Jaaroverzichten 1992" (in Dutch). Ultratop. Hung Medien. Retrieved October 23, 2014. 
  32. ^ "Podsumowanie Roku 1992" (in Polish). LP3. Retrieved October 23, 2014. 
  33. ^ "Top Singles - Volume 58, No. 23, December 18 1993". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved October 23, 2014.