Human Nature (Madonna song)

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"Human Nature"
Single by Madonna
from the album Bedtime Stories
B-side "Sanctuary"
Released June 6, 1995
Format CD, 12", cassette
Recorded 1994
Genre
Length 4:54
Label
Writer(s)
Producer(s)
  • Madonna
  • Dave Hall
Madonna singles chronology
"Bedtime Story"
(1995)
"Human Nature"
(1995)
"You'll See"
(1995)
Audio sample
file info · help

"Human Nature" is a song by American singer-songwriter Madonna from her sixth studio album Bedtime Stories (1994). The album was released with the intention to tone down the image of Madonna, who was being heavily criticized at the time. The song was written and produced by Madonna and Dave Hall, and released on June 6, 1995 by Maverick Records. The R&B influenced pop song became a moderate hit in the United States, peaking at number 46 on the Billboard Hot 100 and at number two on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart. In the United Kingdom, the single entered the chart and peaked at number eight and it also charted within the top ten in Italy and Japan.

A bondage-inspired music video was released for the song, directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino, which features Madonna and her dancers dressed in PVC leather dancing highly choreographed routines. Unlike her previous music videos for "Justify My Love" and "Erotica", however, the video was meant to be more humorous than sexy. It was a satirical depiction of sex, meant to ridicule the taboos our society places on the subject. Madonna has performed "Human Nature" three times on tour; in her 2001 Drowned World Tour, Sticky & Sweet Tour in 2008-09 and during her 2012 MDNA Tour.

Background[edit]

During 1992 and 1993, Madonna released her Sex coffee table book and her fifth studio album Erotica and also starred in the erotic thriller Body of Evidence. The three were highly explicit, with Madonna using extremely sexual imagery. She promoted her album with the controversial The Girlie Show World Tour, where she rubbed the flag of Puerto Rico between her legs on stage. In March 1994, she appeared as a guest on the Late Show with David Letterman, using profanity that was required to be censored on television and handing Letterman a pair of her underwear and asking him to smell it.[1] The releases of her sexually explicit films, albums and book, and the aggressive appearance on Letterman all made critics question Madonna as a sexual renegade. She faced strong negative publicity from critics and fans, who commented that "she had gone too far" and that her career was over.[2] In response to the critics panning the sexual imagery used in her past efforts, Madonna wrote and recorded "Human Nature" for her sixth album Bedtime Stories which eventually became the fourth single. Madonna's record label wanted to release a more radio-friendly pop track for the fourth single from the album, "Don't Stop", but Madonna wanted to release "Human Nature" instead and ended up getting her wish.[citation needed]

Composition[edit]

Musically, "Human Nature" is a powerful R&B anthem over a heavily hip-hop flavored beat. The song also samples "What You Need" as performed by hip-hop group Main Source. Lyrically, the song is written in response to the public backlash involving Madonna's previous album, Erotica, and her coffee table book, Sex. The song's lyrics contain sarcastic backing vocals with Madonna asking rhetorical questions based on her real-life actions, such as "Did I say something wrong? Oops, I didn't know I couldn't talk about sex. I must have been crazy," as well as the line "What was I thinking?"[3] This is backed up by the repeated phrase "Express yourself, don't repress yourself," along with Madonna's affirmation of having no regrets over showing off her "fantasies" and exclaiming that she is not "the one with the problem" and her detractors should "deal with it", because it is "human nature".

Reception[edit]

Critical[edit]

A blond woman standing on a stage. She has curvy, flowing hair and is dressed in a black, translucent top with boots in her leg and a white hat. The woman is holding an electric guitar with her left hand and singing in to a microphone in her right. She is surrounded by audience members whose heads can be seen in the image. Behind the woman, tow back-up singers can be seen in the distance.
Madonna performing "Human Nature" on her Sticky & Sweet Tour in 2008

"Human Nature" received mixed reviews from music critics. Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine gave the song a positive review, stating that "for years, Madonna spoke in metaphors, fantasies and blatant shock tactics, but the performer indignantly struck back at her critics on "Human Nature." She didn't just hold up a mirror, she became the mirror."[4] Barbara O'Dair from Rolling Stone also gave a positive review of the song, commenting that "Madonna does a drive-by on her critics, complete with a keening synth line straight outta Dre" adding that "Madonna's message is still 'Express yourself, don't repress yourself.' This time, however, it comes not with a bang but a whisper."[5] For Moscow-Pullman Daily News, the song had the catchiest chorus from the album.[6] Jim Farber from Entertainment Weekly gave the song a negative review, noting that Madonna's "on far surer ground thrashing through such neurotic (if not uncommon) views of relationships than she is trashing the media. In striking back at her critics, Madonna simply sounds self-righteous and smug. I didn't know I couldn't talk about sex, she sneers in Human Nature. Did I say something true? Yes. But tooting your own horn about it just sounds petty."[7]

Commercial[edit]

"Human Nature" was a moderate hit in the United States, peaking at number 46 on the Billboard Hot 100. It became Madonna's second consecutive single not to enter the top 40 in the U.S., following her single Bedtime Story, which reached a peak of number 42 in the spring of 1995. However, it was a big hit on the dance and club charts, peaking at number two on Hot Dance Club Play. It also peaked at number 35 on Hot 100 Singles Sales, number 58 on Hot 100 Airplay, and number 57 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs.

It also entered the top ten on several charts around the world including the United Kingdom, Italy, and Japan. In the United Kingdom the single entered the chart and peaked at number eight and has sold a total of 80,685 copies as of August, 2008.[8] In Australia, the single peaked within the top 20, at number 17, on the ARIA chart. It also reached the top 20 in Finland and Switzerland, peaking at number 11 and number 17 respectively. On the Irish Singles Chart the song peaked just outside the top 20, at number 21. It was not as successful in New Zealand, peaking at number 37, making it Madonna's poorest performing single to stay on the chart for a sole week, and in Germany where it only managed to reached number 50.

Live performances[edit]

Madonna performing "Human Nature" on her MDNA Tour in 2012

Madonna has performed "Human Nature" three times on tour. In her 2001 Drowned World Tour, she performed the song while slow-riding on a mechanical bull, which was considered by MTV as "magical". During the performance, the singer was dressed as a cowgirl.[9] For John McAlley from Entertainment Weekly, Madonna "prompts the oddly natural sight of Madonna lap-dancing a mechanical bull".[10] Madonna performed the song again at her 2008 Sticky & Sweet Tour, with an electric guitar, also adding vocoder voice effects on the background harmonies, with a video backdrop of American singer Britney Spears trapped in an elevator and trying to get out. At the end of the performance, the doors opened to reveal Spears saying the phrase "It's Britney, bitch", from her song "Gimme More" (2007).[11] On November 6, 2008 in the Los Angeles show at Dodger Stadium, Spears joined Madonna onstage halfway through the performance.[12]

In 2012, Madonna performed the song on her MDNA Tour as part of the third segment of the show. She performed the song while her dancers moved mirrors around her, as she removed articles of clothing.[13] At her concert in Istanbul on June 7, 2012, Madonna briefly exposed her right breast to the audience, before covering it up again.[14] This prompted some criticism about her age, with one critic asking, "at 54, is she too old to be getting a boob out?"[15] The Sun noted that her actions may have been offensive to part of the public, as Turkey has predominantly Muslim people, although considered that her fans should not have been surprised, "as she did warn them, writing No Fear on her back".[16] On the other hand, Amy Odell from BuzzFeed said that criticizing the gesture based on her age send "a very archaic message", adding that "Women who are 53 still have breasts and... sex drives!".[17]

Music video[edit]

Madonna in the bondage inspired video for "Human Nature".

The video, directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino (who had previously directed Madonna's videos for "Open Your Heart" and "Justify My Love") features Madonna, her dancers (including the first collaboration with Jamie King, that later would become the choreographer and director for her Drowned World, Re-invention, Confessions and Sticky & Sweet concert tours), and her chihuahua, Chiquita, in black leather outfits. Madonna's look and outfit for this video is "latex and leather" to symbolize the "constrictions of our society." Her hair, which appears brown in the video was actually blonde at the time. She had leather strips painstakingly braided into her hair to blend with her dark roots. The frizzy afro she sports halfway through the video was actually a hairpiece. The costume was sent to be displayed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame shortly after the video was filmed.

It was shot over two days, May 6 and 7, 1995 at Raleigh Studios in Hollywood, California. The video was heavily inspired by comic artist, Eric Stanton. This was stated by Madonna in a behind the scenes interview during the filming of the video in which she said, "Mondino found this book by this illustrator named Stanton who did kinda S&M drawings and stuff, but we didn't want to go with the straight S&M; we wanted to have it be more about making fun of it". As the video concludes there is a shot of Madonna sitting in a chair, looking straight into the camera as she says the line "Absolutely no regrets!" Then there is a brief shot of her standing next to the chair as she boxes into the air.

Track listings and formats[edit]

Official versions and remixes[edit]

Remixes of "Human Nature" include mixes by Howie Tee, Danny Tenaglia and an unreleased remix by Junior Vasquez.

Release history[edit]

Country Date
United States June 6, 1995
Europe August 20, 1995

Charts[edit]

Chart (1995) Peak
position
Australian ARIA Singles Chart[18] 15
Canadian Singles Chart[19] 9
Finnish Singles Chart[18] 10
German Singles Chart[20] 50
Irish Singles Chart 21
Italian FIMI Singles Chart[21] 10
Japanese Oricon Weekly Singles Chart 511
Japanese Oricon International Singles Chart 101
New Zealand RIANZ Singles Chart[18] 37
Swiss Singles Chart[18] 17
UK Singles Chart[22] 8
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[23] 46
U.S. Billboard Pop Songs[23] 30
U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play[23] 1
U.S. Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs[23] 57

1 Released as "La Isla Bonita"/"Human Nature"

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Tetzlaff 1993, p. 143
  2. ^ Taraborrelli 2002, pp. 232–235
  3. ^ http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1994-10-25/features/1994298132_1_madonna-bedtime-stories-album
  4. ^ "Album Review:Madonna "Bedtime Stories"". 
  5. ^ "Rolling Stone Reviews-"Bedtime Stories"". 
  6. ^ http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2026&dat=19941027&id=UIokAAAAIBAJ&sjid=1NAFAAAAIBAJ&pg=2092,3202261
  7. ^ "Album Review: 'Bedtime Stories' (1994)". Entertainment Weekly. October 28, 1994. 
  8. ^ "The Immaculate Guide to 50 Years of Madonna". 
  9. ^ http://www.mtv.com/news/1445328/madonna-all-five-of-her-invades-philadelphia-with-tour/
  10. ^ http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,256076,00.html
  11. ^ Kreps, Daniel (2008-07-10). "Britney Spears’ Madonna Tour Video Revealed". Rolling Stone (Jann Wenner). ISSN 0035-791X. 
  12. ^ Carter, Kelley L. (2008-11-09). "Britney, Justin back up Madonna at L.A. concert". USA Today (Gannett Company, Inc.). Retrieved 2010-02-24. 
  13. ^ "Britney appears on stage with Madonna". RTÉ News. November 8, 2008. 
  14. ^ Hostal Malure,Madonna Flashes Boob On Tour, Hostal Malure, 09 Jun 2012
  15. ^ Sophie Wilkinson,Madonna Flashes During Instanbul Gig, Heat World, 09 Jun 2012
  16. ^ The Sun,Madonna Shows She's Queen of Pop-ping Out, The Sun, 10 Jun 2012
  17. ^ Leave Madonna's 53-Year-Old Breast Alone
  18. ^ a b c d Hit Parade (1995). "Madonna — Human Nature (European Charts)". hitparade.ch. Retrieved 2008-07-16. 
  19. ^ Top Singles - Volume 62, No. 1, August 14 1995
  20. ^ Charts-Surfer (1995). "German Singles Chart (Search)". charts-surfer.de. Retrieved 2008-07-16. 
  21. ^ "Madonna: Discografia Italiana" (in Italian). Federation of the Italian Music Industry. 1984–1999. Retrieved 2010-01-08. 
  22. ^ Every Hit (1995). "UK Singles Chart (Search)". everyhit.com. Retrieved 2008-07-16. 
  23. ^ a b c d Allmusic (1995). "Billboard Charts". allmusic.com. Retrieved 2008-07-16. 

External links[edit]