Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’

by Michael Jackson

Chorus
I said you wanna be startin’ somethin’
You got to be startin’ somethin’
I said you wanna be startin’ somethin’
You got to be startin’ somethin’
It’s too high to get over (yeah, yeah)
Too low to get under (yeah, yeah)
You’re stuck in the middle (yeah, yeah)
And the pain is thunder (yeah, yeah)
It’s too high to get over (yeah, yeah)
Too low to get under (yeah, yeah)
You’re stuck in the middle (yeah, yeah)
And the pain is thunder (yeah, yeah)

1st Verse
I took my baby to the doctor
With a fever, but nothing he found
By the time this hit the street
They said she had a breakdown
Someone’s always tryin’ to start my baby cryin’
Talkin’, squealin’, lyin’
Sayin’ you just wanna be startin’ somethin’

Chorus
I said you wanna be startin’ somethin’
You got to be startin’ somethin’
I said you wanna be startin’ somethin’
You got to be startin’ somethin’
It’s too high to get over (yeah, yeah)
Too low to get under (yeah, yeah)
You’re stuck in the middle (yeah, yeah)
And the pain is thunder (yeah, yeah)
It’s too high to get over (yeah, yeah)
Too low to get under (yeah, yeah)
You’re stuck in the middle (yeah, yeah)
And the pain is thunder (yeah, yeah)

2nd Verse
You love to pretend that you’re good
When you’re always up to no good
You really can’t make him hate her
So your tongue became a razor
Someone’s always tryin’ to keep my baby cryin’
Treacherous, cunnin’, declinin’
You got my baby cryin’

Chorus
I said you wanna be startin’ somethin’
You got to be startin’ somethin’
I said you wanna be startin’ somethin’
You got to be startin’ somethin’
It’s too high to get over (yeah, yeah)
Too low to get under (yeah, yeah)
You’re stuck in the middle (yeah, yeah)
And the pain is thunder (yeah, yeah)
It’s too high to get over (yeah, yeah)
Too low to get under (yeah, yeah)
You’re stuck in the middle (yeah, yeah)
And the pain is thunder (yeah, yeah)

You’re a vegetable, you’re a vegetable
Still they hate you, you’re a vegetable
You’re just a buffet, you’re a vegetable
They eat off of you, you’re a vegetable

3rd Verse
Billie Jean is always talkin’
When nobody else is talkin’
Tellin’ lies and rubbin’ shoulders
So they called her mouth a motor
Someone’s always tryin’ to start my baby cryin’
Talkin’, squealin’, spyin’,
Sayin’ you just wanna be startin’ somethin’

Chorus
I said you wanna be startin’ somethin’
You got to be startin’ somethin’
I said you wanna be startin’ somethin’
You got to be startin’ somethin’
It’s too high to get over (yeah, yeah)
Too low to get under (yeah, yeah)
You’re stuck in the middle (yeah, yeah)
And the pain is thunder (yeah, yeah)
It’s too high to get over (yeah, yeah)
Too low to get under (yeah, yeah)
You’re stuck in the middle (yeah, yeah)
And the pain is thunder (yeah, yeah)

You’re a vegetable, you’re a vegetable
Still they hate you, you’re a vegetable
You’re just a buffet, you’re a vegetable
They eat off of you, you’re a vegetable

Ad-lib
If you can’t feed your baby (yeah, yeah)
Then don’t have a baby (yeah, yeah)
And don’t think maybe (yeah, yeah)
If you can’t feed your baby (yeah, yeah)
You’ll be always tryin’
To stop that child from cryin’
Hustlin’, stealin’, lyin’
Now baby’s slowly dyin’

Chorus
I said you wanna be startin’ somethin’
You got to be startin’ somethin’
I said you wanna be startin’ somethin’
You got to be startin’ somethin’
It’s too high to get over (yeah, yeah)
Too low to get under (yeah, yeah)
You’re stuck in the middle (yeah, yeah)
And the pain is thunder (yeah, yeah)
It’s too high to get over (yeah, yeah)
Too low to get under (yeah, yeah)
You’re stuck in the middle (yeah, yeah)
And the pain is thunder (yeah, yeah)

Ad-lib
Lift your head up high
And scream out to the world
I know I am someone
And let the truth unfurl
No one can hurt you now
Because you know what’s true
Yes, I believe in me
So you believe in you
Help me sing it, ma ma se
Ma ma sa, ma ma coo sa
Ma ma se, ma ma sa,
Ma ma coo sa
(repeat to fade)

(c) 1982 Mijac Music (BMI)

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  1. You’re just a buffet, you’re a vegetable
    They eat off of you, you’re a vegetable

    Lift your head up high
    And scream out to the world
    I know I am someone
    And let the truth unfurl

    You love to pretend that you’re good
    When you’re always up to no good
    You really can’t make him hate her
    So your tongue became a razor

    I took my baby to the doctor
    With a fever, but nothing he found
    By the time this hit the street
    They said she had a breakdown

    Wow–I never knew all the lyrics–although I’ve heard the song many times. The part about you’re a vegetable I never heard. ‘You’re a buffet’–amazing! Reminds me of ‘and they eat your soul’ in Monster. So he knew he was being eaten, cannibal style, way back in time. Reading these lyrics, I have the feeling as I do with other MJ lyrics, that this is not singable–but somehow when he sings them, they are. They are certainly not typical rock lyrics at all–more like poetry.

    This song is prescient about his life–how he was treated by the media, the press, the law, America, the gossip mongers who ‘wanna be startin somethin.’ How they turn ‘nothing he found’ to ‘she had a breakdown.’ “And the pain is thunder.” I LOVE this lyric: ‘Lift your head up high, And scream out to the world, I know I am someone, And let the truth unfurl.” This is really a major declaration of independence!

    I recently saw the CBS program that was due to air in 2003 but b/c of the arrest, was not shown til 2004. It is called ‘The One’ and includes interviews with people in the music business about Michael’s career and impact/artistry. Q. Jones says something very interesting, and he specifically names this song, Billy Jean, and Dirty Diana– “You can’t mess with that [songs “as personal” as WBSS, BJ, DD] b/c you can feel it’s something coming from a very deep place in his life.” I agree. They seem to touch his core–a deep protest against lies, betrayal, exploitation, manipulation. A need to assert a strong resistance or counterattack to all that.

    Thanks for the Lyrics Library!

    • Hi Aldebaran. You know, that line in “Monster” continues – “And they eat your soul like a vegetable” – so I think it definitely connects with the lines you cited in “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'”:

      You’re just a buffet, you’re a vegetable
      They eat off of you, you’re a vegetable

      And it’s almost frightening that he was singing about that back in the late 1970s, long before the feeding frenzy really began. As you said, “This song is prescient about his life – how he was treated by the media, the press, the law, America, the gossip mongers who ‘wanna be startin somethin.’” I think he knew what had happened to superstars before him – stars like Charlie Chaplin and Elvis Presley and Barbra Streisand – and was fearful it could happen to him. I think that’s one reason he told Gerri Hirshey in the 1983 Rolling Stone article that he felt “like a hemophiliac who can’t afford to be scratched in any way.”

  2. Hi, Willa, yes, and he had known how the music industry and his own father exploited him from the word go, i.e. from the age of 5. I thought Quincy’s remark that this and the other 2 songs he mentions ‘come from a very deep place in his life’ was so interesting. Michael certainly screams out NO! with passion so many times in Dirty Diana. Thanks for the ‘vegetable link’ in Monster–I didn’t hear that part of the lyric. Yes, it really does come full circle to WBSS. I think Monster comes from a deep place too–the scream tells it all. It’s interesting too that in Ghosts we start to hear lyrics like “don’t understand it” and ‘it’s too much for me’ over and over–his inability to comprehend it all, meaning the ‘feeding frenzy.’

  3. aldebaranredstar

    Interesting info on the Makossa chant and the lyrics ‘I’m a vegetable’–check out the comments too. MJ was sued twice re copyright on the Makossa chant. Supposedly the original lyric was “I’ve been saved by the sound of Michael’s song” but got changed to the Makossa chant, and both versions can be heard on WBSS.

    http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=1542

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