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
Recorded 1994
Length 4:54
  • Madonna
  • Dave Hall
Madonna singles chronology
"Bedtime Story"
"Human Nature"
"You'll See"
Audio sample
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"Human Nature" is a song by American singer 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, with Shawn McKenzie, Kevin McKenzie and Milo Deering also receiving songwriting credits for sampling Main Source's 1994 song "What You Need". "Human Nature" was released on June 6, 1995 by Maverick Records.

The R&B influenced song received mixed reviews from music critics. It became a moderate hit in the United States, peaking at number 46 on the Billboard Hot 100 and at number two on the 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.

The accompanying music video was directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino, and features Madonna and her dancers dressed in latex and 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 that several societies place on the subject. Madonna has performed "Human Nature" on three of her concert tours, most recently on her 2012 MDNA Tour.


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]


Musically, "Human Nature" is a R&B song 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".

Critical response[edit]

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]

Chart performance[edit]

"Human Nature" debuted at number 86 on the US Billboard Hot 100, for the week ending June 24, 1995, with 7,400 units sold.[8][9] It reached its peak position three weeks later, at number 46.[10] It became Madonna's second consecutive single not to enter the top 40 in the United States, following her previous single "Bedtime Story", which had reached a peak of number 42.[11] However, it was a success on the dance and club charts, peaking at number two on Hot Dance Club Play.[12] It also peaked at number 35 on Hot 100 Singles Sales,[13] number 58 on Hot 100 Airplay,[14] and number 57 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs.[15] In Canada, however, the song reached number nine on the RPM Singles Chart.[16]

In the United Kingdom, "Human Nature" entered the chart and peaked at number eight and has sold a total of 80,685 copies as of August 2008.[17] In Australia, the single peaked within the top 20, at number 17, on the ARIA Charts.[18] 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.[18] It entered the top ten on several charts around the world including Italy, and Japan. It also reached the top 20 in Finland and Switzerland, peaking at number 11 and number 17 respectively, while in Germany it reached number 50.

Music video[edit]

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

The accompanying music video for "Human Nature" was directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino, who had previously directed Madonna's videos for "Open Your Heart" and "Justify My Love", was shot over two days, May 6-7, 1995 at Raleigh Studios in Hollywood, California.[19] The video was supposedly going to be directed by Alek Keshishian, who had directed Madonna's documentary Madonna: Truth or Dare, but production was shut down with no reasons.[20] It was choreographed by Jamie King, who later directed Madonna's concert tours. "She wanted me to dance in her 'Human Nature' video. I didn't want to do it, but she begged", he stated.[21][22] Her dancer Luca Tommassini was the choreography assistant.[23] The music video was heavily inspired by comic artist, Eric Stanton. As stated by Madonna, "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".[24]

The music video premiered on May 19, 1995 through MTV. It features Madonna, her dancers, and her chihuahua, Chiquita, in black leather and latex outfits. Madonna's look and outfit for this video is "latex and leather" to symbolize the "breaking out of the restraints".[24] 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.[25] 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.

Louis Virtel from The Backlot ranked the video at number 22 on a list for "Madonna's 22 Best Videos, In Honor of Her 55th Birthday", and called the video "tongue-in-cheek, pleather-heavy". He went on to say that "It's rare that Madonna gets a chance to be both harsh and hilarious in a music video", and in this one, "Madonna basically does whatever the hell she wants. Brandish a chihuahua? Mock and celebrate kinkiness? Sneer at the camera like a bored third-grader? She does it all, and even in black cornrows, she's a vision of coolness and sexual superiority".[26] Carol Vernallis from Experiencing Music Video: Aesthetics and Cultural Context noted that the concept of black outfit against a white background "works well, but she snare drum, which corresponds to nothing in the imagery, seems to float above the soundtrack".[27] In 2011, Rihanna's controversial "S&M" was compared to "Human Nature"'s music video, as blogger Perez Hilton said, "It reminded me of Madonna during the 'Erotica' phase and the 'Hollywood'/ 'American Life' phase, both of which were controversial".[28]

Live performances[edit]

Madonna performing "Human Nature" on The 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.[29] For John McAlley from Entertainment Weekly, Madonna "prompts the oddly natural sight of Madonna lap-dancing a mechanical bull".[30] 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).[31] On November 6, 2008 in the Los Angeles show at Dodger Stadium, Spears joined Madonna onstage halfway through the performance.[32]

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.[33] At her concert in Istanbul on June 7, 2012, Madonna briefly exposed her right breast to the audience, before covering it up again.[34] This prompted some criticism about her age, with one critic asking, "at 54, is she too old to be getting a boob out?"[35] 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".[36] 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!".[37] In April 2015, Madonna performed "Human Nature" along with her 2005 song "Hung Up" as a medley at the Coachella Festival during Drake's act, sporting thigh-high boots and a tank top that read "Big as Madonna". She then went on to kiss Drake; the kiss went viral on the Internet.[38][39]

Track listings and formats[edit]


Chart (1995) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[18] 15
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[16] 9
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[40] 10
Germany (Official German Charts)[41] 50
Ireland (IRMA)[42] 21
Italy (FIMI)[43] 10
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[44] 37
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[45] 18
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[46] 17
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[47] 8
US Billboard Hot 100[48] 46
US Mainstream Top 40 (Billboard)[49] 30
US Dance Club Songs (Billboard)[50] 2
US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard)[51] 57
US Rhythmic (Billboard)[52] 19


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  2. ^ Taraborrelli 2002, pp. 232–235
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  30. ^ McAlley, John (June 22, 2001). "Madonna lauches her "World" tour". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved November 1, 2015. 
  31. ^ Kreps, Daniel (June 10, 2008). "Britney Spears’ Madonna Tour Video Revealed". Rolling Stone. ISSN 0035-791X. 
  32. ^ Carter, Kelley L. (November 9, 2008). "Britney, Justin back up Madonna at L.A. concert". USA Today (Gannett Company). Retrieved February 24, 2010. 
  33. ^ "Britney appears on stage with Madonna". RTÉ News. November 8, 2008. 
  34. ^ "Madonna Nipple: Singer Flashes Nipple At Istanbul Concert (NSFW VIDEO)". The Huffington Post. June 10, 2012. Retrieved November 1, 2015. 
  35. ^ Wilkinson, Sophie (June 9, 2012). "Madonna Flashes During Instanbul Gig". Heat World. Retrieved November 1, 2015. 
  36. ^ "Madonna Shows She's Queen of Pop-ping Out". The Sun. June 10, 2012. Retrieved November 1, 2015. 
  37. ^ "Leave Madonna's 53-Year-Old Breast Alone". BuzzFeed. June 12, 2012. Retrieved November 1, 2015. 
  38. ^ Horowitz, Steven J. (April 13, 2015). "Drake Sucks Face with Madonna During Hit-and-Miss Coachella Set". Billboard. Retrieved May 14, 2015. 
  39. ^ Andriakos, Jacqueline (April 13, 2015). "Madonna Makes Out with Drake at Coachella: See His Shocked Reaction". People. Retrieved May 14, 2015. 
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  41. ^ " – Madonna Single-Chartverfolgung" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH. Retrieved April 3, 2013.
  42. ^ "Human Nature by Madonna in Irish Chart". IRMA. Retrieved 5 April 2015. 
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  51. ^ "Madonna – Chart history" Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs for Madonna. Retrieved July 18, 2015.
  52. ^ "Madonna – Chart history" Billboard Rhythmic Songs for Madonna. Retrieved July 18, 2015.

External links[edit]