Human Nature (Michael Jackson song)
"Human Nature" is a 1982 song performed by American singer Michael Jackson, and the fifth single from his landmark sixth solo album, Thriller. It was originally written by keyboardist Steve Porcaro, based on a conversation he had had with his young daughter Heather after a hard day at school. Porcaro, along with some of his bandmates from the band Toto, had been assisting with the production of Thriller, but he had not intended for "Human Nature" to be used by Jackson. However, Thriller producer Quincy Jones inadvertently heard a demo version of the track and thought it would be a great fit for the album. Jones then brought in songwriter John Bettis to rewrite the verses, whose lyrics are about a passerby in New York City. The track was produced by Jones and performed by members of Toto with Michael Jackson providing vocals.
|Single by Michael Jackson|
|from the album Thriller|
|B-side||"Baby Be Mine"|
|Released||July 3, 1983|
|Michael Jackson singles chronology|
"Human Nature" was released as a single on July 3, 1983. Like the four Thriller singles before it, the song became a top 10 hit in the US; it reached number two on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart and number seven on the Hot 100. In Canada and the Netherlands, the single reached number 11. The single was not released in the UK. The song garnered positive reviews from music critics. "Human Nature" has been sampled by numerous artists, including Nas with "It Ain't Hard to Tell" , and Teddy Riley who remixed SWV's single "Right Here (Human Nature Remix)", with a sample of "Human Nature", the remix reaching number two on the Billboard Hot 100.
The first version of "Human Nature" was written and composed by Steve Porcaro of Toto. He had written the song after his first-grade daughter came home crying because a boy pushed her off the slide. He blurted out three reasons for the incident to comfort her: one, the boy liked her, two, people can be strange and three, it's "human nature". He recorded a rough demo of the song in their studio while the Toto song "Africa" was being mixed.
Fellow Toto band member David Paich had prepared some demo tracks for producer Quincy Jones to listen to as possible songs for Thriller and asked Porcaro to make Jones a tape with the songs. Running low on cassette tapes, Porcaro used the tape on which he had already recorded his "Human Nature" demo, putting Paich's songs on the reverse side and marking that on the label as the side that Jones should listen to. Jones listened to Paich's songs but did not think they were right for Thriller. However, he did not stop the tape when the songs finished playing, and the cassette deck playing the tape had "auto-reverse" capability, meaning that it started playing the other side as soon as the first side was finished. As Jones described it, "All of a sudden, at the end, there was all this silence, there was: 'why, why, dah dah da-dum dah dah, why, why'. Just a dummy lyric and a very skeletal thing—I get goosebumps talking about it. I said, 'This is where we wanna go, because it's got such a wonderful flavor'". However, Jones was dissatisfied with the original lyrics for the verses and asked John Bettis, who had written lyrics for hits by The Carpenters and The Pointer Sisters, among others, to write new lyrics for the song. He completed the song in two days. Jones asked if the song could be included on Jackson's album, to which Porcaro and Bettis agreed. "Human Nature" was the last song selected for Thriller, ousting "Carousel" from the final track listing.
Release and receptionEdit
"Human Nature" was released on July 3, 1983, as the fifth single from Thriller. Although not released in the UK, the song achieved chart success in the US. Reaching number two on Billboard's Hot Adult Contemporary chart and number seven on the Hot 100, the song became Jackson's fifth Top 10 hit from Thriller. "Human Nature" charted at number 27 on the R&B singles chart. In the Netherlands the single reached number 11.
John Rockwell, of The New York Times, stated that "Human Nature" was a "haunting, brooding ballad" with an "irresistible" chorus. Allmusic noted that the "gentle and lovely" "Human Nature" coexisted comfortably with the "tough, scared" "Beat It". They later added that the song was a "soft rocker". Reflecting on Thriller, Slant expressed their fondness of the song, stating that it was "probably the best musical composition on the album and surely one of the only A/C ballads of its era worth remembering". The magazine added that the track's "buttery harmonies" were powerful. Stylus also praised the song, describing it as "the smoothest of ballads". However, they further added that the music "does little to embody the song’s message" and that it couches Jackson's "glazed voice" in "bubble synths and drum pillows".
About.com's Bill Lamb looked back on the track 25 years after its release. He felt that the song "set down a blueprint for what would become known as adult R&B". Kelefa Sanneh of Blender described the "soft-serve balladry" of the song as a "silk-sheets masterstroke". In a 2008 IGN review, Todd Gilchrist explained that the elements of "Human Nature" worked better today than they did before. He added that it may be because modern R&B "sucks". Tom Ewing, reviewer for Pitchfork Media, described the song as "meltingly tender", with MTV adding that it was an "airy ballad". Rolling Stone claimed that the "most beautifully fragile" "Human Nature" was so open and brave it made "She's Out of My Life" seem phony. The Los Angeles Times concluded that it was Jackson's delivery that made the "middling ballad" take off.
The song was first performed during the Jacksons' Victory Tour. Michael started to sing "Ben", but stopped and proceeded to sing "Human Nature". It was also performed during Michael's Bad World Tour and Dangerous World Tour. Jackson also performed the song live during his 1996 Royal Brunei concert. It was going to be performed for Jackson's This Is It concerts, which were canceled due to his death; however, it was included on the posthumous album to coincide with the concerts. Live versions of the song are available on the DVDs Live at Wembley July 16, 1988 and Live in Bucharest: The Dangerous Tour. Toto has performed the song in some of their shows with vocals by Joseph Williams.
|United States (RIAA)||Platinum||1,000,000|
*sales figures based on certification alone
- 45 RPM:
- "Human Nature" (7" remix) – 3:47 (Misprinted as 4:06)
- "Baby Be Mine" – 4:20
- Album version – 4:06
- 7" remix – 3:47 (This version features an alternate synth before the bridge and several bars are cut after the final verse. The only digital sources are the 3" CD single for "Thriller" released to coincide with the Japan tour in 1988, as well as the Qobuz 24/96 digital download of The Essential Michael Jackson.)
- Edit – 3:46 (This edit from the Essential Collection is an attempt at re-creating the original 7" version, however it does not match the instrumentation.)
- Live – 4:29 (This version is taken from Live at Wembley July 16, 1988 and included in the deluxe edition of Bad 25.)
- "Speechless"/"Human Nature" – 3:18 (Immortal version)
- Extended Remix - 7:13
Songs that have sampled "Human Nature" include:
- "Right Here (Human Nature Remix)", a 1993 Teddy Riley-produced remix of the 1992 SWV song "Right Here". The remix far exceeded the popularity of the original song, spending seven weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot R&B Singles chart. The music video for the remix included clips of Jackson performing on the Dangerous World Tour, including a hologram of the pop singer.
- "It Ain't Hard to Tell" (1994) by Nas. Nas has performed "It Ain't Hard to Tell" as a mashup with "Human Nature" using Jackson's original vocals at some concerts.
- "I’m in Heaven" (2003) by Jason Nevins featuring Holly James, used an interpolation of the hook from "Human Nature".
- Written and composed by Steve Porcaro and John Bettis
- Produced by Quincy Jones
- Michael Jackson: vocals
- David Paich: synthesizer
- Steve Porcaro: synthesizer, synthesizer programming
- Steve Lukather: guitar
- Jeff Porcaro: drums
- Paulinho Da Costa: percussion
- Michael Boddicker: E-mu Emulator
- Arrangement by David Paich, Steve Porcaro and Steve Lukather
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