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Human Nature (Michael Jackson song)

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"Human Nature"
Single by Michael Jackson
from the album Thriller
B-side "Baby Be Mine"
Released July 3, 1983
Recorded 1982
Genre Soft rock[1]
  • 4:07 (album version)
  • 3:47 (single version)
Producer(s) Quincy Jones
Michael Jackson singles chronology
"Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'"
"Human Nature"
"P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)"
"Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'"
"Human Nature"
"P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)"
Music video
"Human Nature (Live)" on YouTube
Audio sample

"Human Nature" is a song performed by American recording artist Michael Jackson. The lyrics describe a passer-by in New York City. It was written and composed by Steve Porcaro and John Bettis, and produced by Quincy Jones. It is the fifth single from Jackson's sixth solo album, Thriller (1982). Initially, Porcaro recorded a rough demo of the song on a cassette, which was then given to Jones, who brought in Bettis to finish the lyrics. The song was the last selected for the album, removing "Carousel" from the final track listing.

"Human Nature" was released on July 3, 1983, as the album's fifth single. Although not released in the UK, the song became Jackson's fifth top 10 hit from Thriller in the US, reaching number two on Billboard's Hot Adult Contemporary chart and number seven on the Hot 100. In Canada and the Netherlands the single reached number 11. The song garnered positive reviews from music critics. "Human Nature" has been covered and sampled by numerous artists, including Stevie Wonder, Vijay Iyer, John Mayer, Miles Davis, SWV, ELEW, Nas, 2Cellos, Bence Peter, Jason Nevins, Danny Swain, David Mead, and Chris Brown.


The first version of "Human Nature" was written and composed for Michael Jackson by Steve Porcaro of Toto. Porcaro recorded a rough demo of the song on a cassette.[2] 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.[3] Fellow Toto band member David Paich gave the demo tape, along with two of his own songs, to producer Quincy Jones, hoping they would be used by Jackson.[2] Jones did not think Paich's songs were right for Jackson's current work, but enjoyed the rough demo of "Human Nature" at the end of the cassette.[2] Jones explained, "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'".[4] However, Jones was dissatisfied with the original lyrics and so John Bettis, who had written lyrics for hits by the Carpenters and the Pointer Sisters, among others, was asked to add lyrics to the song. He completed the song in two days.[5] The producer asked if the song could be included on Jackson's album, to which Porcaro and Bettis agreed.[2] "Human Nature" was the last song selected for Thriller, ousting "Carousel" from the final track listing.

Release and reception[edit]

A template for new jack swing and hip-hop soul ballads, "Human Nature" is comparatively slower and more intimate than Thriller's other songs. "If this town is just an apple, let me take a bite," quivers Jackson's voice over a cascading synthesizer and percolating bass line. Though written by John Bettis and Steve Porcaro of Toto, the lyrics resonate with Jackson's yearning to break free from his tower of celebrity and mingle with young people in a "city that winks its sleepless eye."

Serena Kim, South Coast Today.[6]

"Human Nature" was released on July 3, 1983, as the fifth single from Thriller.[2] Although not released in the UK, the song achieved chart success in the US.[2] 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.[7][8] "Human Nature" charted at number 27 on the R&B singles chart.[7] In the Netherlands the single reached number 11.[9]

John Rockwell, of The New York Times, stated that "Human Nature" was a "haunting, brooding ballad" with an "irresistible" chorus.[10] Allmusic noted that the "gentle and lovely" "Human Nature" coexisted comfortably with the "tough, scared" "Beat It".[11] They later added that the song was a "soft rocker".[12] 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".[13] The magazine added that the track's "buttery harmonies" were powerful.[13] Stylus also praised the song, describing it as "the smoothest of ballads".[14] 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".[14]'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".[15] Kelefa Sanneh of Blender described the "soft-serve balladry" of the song as a "silk-sheets masterstroke".[16] 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".[17] Tom Ewing, reviewer for Pitchfork Media, described the song as "meltingly tender", with MTV adding that it was an "airy ballad".[18][19] 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.[20] The Los Angeles Times concluded that it was Jackson's delivery that made the "middling ballad" take off.[21]

Vogue cites the poster for starting one of the hottest trends in costume jewelry that year. “Several years back he borrowed three heraldic-style brooches -with crests, crowns, and Maltese crosses- for a poster he was shooting, and the minute that poster came out, everybody wanted brooches,” says Connie Parente in the Vogue interview. Connie Parente is the popular Los Angeles jewelry collector who gave the pieces for the shoot, close to the photographers and Michael Jackson's personal stylist at the time Jyl Klein.[22]

Live performances[edit]

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, but they were cancelled 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.


Track listing[edit]

  • 45 RPM:
  1. "Human Nature" (7" remix) – 3:47 (Misprinted as 4:06)
  2. "Baby Be Mine" – 4:20

Official remixes[edit]

  1. Album version – 4:06
  2. 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 source is the 3" CD single for "Thriller" released in Japan in 1987.)
  3. 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.)
  4. Live – 4:29 (This version is taken from Live at Wembley July 16, 1988 and included in the deluxe edition of Bad 25.)
  5. "Speechless"/"Human Nature" – 3:18 (Immortal version)



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External links[edit]