Human Nature (Michael Jackson song)
|Single by Michael Jackson|
|from the album Thriller|
|B-side||"Baby Be Mine"|
|Released||July 3, 1983|
|Recorded||April – November 1982|
|Writer(s)||Steve Porcaro, John Bettis|
|Michael Jackson singles chronology|
"Human Nature" is a song performed by American recording artist Michael Jackson released on his solo album, Thriller (1982). 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, Jason Nevins, Danny Chan, David Mead and Chris Brown.
"Human Nature" was written and composed by Steve Porcaro of Toto and John Bettis for Michael Jackson's Thriller album. Initially, Porcaro recorded a rough demo of the song on a cassette. 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. Fellow Toto band member David Paich gave the demo, along with two songs written by Paich, to producer Quincy Jones, hoping they would be included on Thriller. Jones did not think Paich's songs were right for the album, but enjoyed the rough demo of "Human Nature" at the end of the cassette. 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'". However, Jones was dissatisfied with the original lyrics and so 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. The producer 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 reception
"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". 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".
"Human Nature" was described as "the smoothest of ballads" by Stylus.
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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.
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.
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.
- 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 source is the 3" CD single for "Thriller" released in Japan in 1987.)
- 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)
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- In 1984, the song was first covered by Philadelphia saxophonist George Howard in his album Steppin' Out.
- In 1985, American jazz artist Miles Davis included a cover version of the song on his album You're Under Arrest. At the time, Rolling Stone described the track's inclusion on the album as "glorified filler". The Seattle Post-Intelligencer disagreed, stating it was "particularly good". In extended and reworked versions, the song would soon become a staple of Davis' concerts during his last years, with Kenny Garrett soloing on saxophone. There are several recorded live takes, notably an impassioned version on the Miles in Paris video and album, recorded in 1989.
- In 1991, Hong Kong singer Danny Chan covered this song in Cantonese
- In 2003, Brass band Youngblood Brass Band (from Oregon, Wisconsin, U.S.) recorded a Riot Jazz version of the song under the name "Human Nature Pt. 2" on their album Center:Level:Roar.
- In 2004, Boyz II Men included a Latin-style cover of the song on their Throwback, Vol. 1 album.
- In 2004, Filipina pop singer Kyla covered the song from her album, Not Your Ordinary Girl.
- In 2004, Nashville singer-songwriter David Mead also recorded a version of "Human Nature" for his release, Indiana, which featured Butterfly Boucher.
- In 2008, jazz fusion/contemporary jazz pianist David Benoit covered the song from his renditions album Heroes.
- In 2009, on July 7 John Mayer performed an instrumental version of the song at Jackson's public memorial service.
- In 2009, Mario covered the song in memory of Michael Jackson.
- In 2010, Jazz pianist Vijay Iyer included a solo piano version of the song in his album Solo; in 2012, he included a trio version of it in his album Accelerando.
- In 2010, Brazilian star Ivete Sangalo recorded the song for their DVD live at Madison Square Garden.
- In 2010, Heather Peace covered the song on her acoustic album This Is Me.
- In 2010, singer Craig David sang an acoustic cover of the song.
- In 2011, Toto (whose band members wrote the song and performed the background music on Michael Jackson's original version) performed the song in memory of Jackson and a dedication to Mike Porcaro during their 2011 tour. Joseph Williams was the lead vocalist. Toto continued to perform this as a cover on their 2012 tour.
- In 2011, at the induction of John Bettis into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame, Skylar Grey performed the song using a lap dulcimer.
- In 2011, Marcus Miller covered the song on his album Tutu Revisited – Live 2010.
- In 2012, Amber Riley and Chord Overstreet (respectively as their characters Mercedes Jones and Sam Evans) covered this song in Glee's episode "Michael" (aired on January 31). This cover debuted and peaked at number 56 at Billboard Hot 100, number 31 at Billboard Hot Digital Songs, and number 62 at Billboard Canadian Hot 100 chart at the week of February 18, 2012.
- In 2013, Australian singer Taylor Henderson recorded a version for his album Taylor Henderson.
- In 2014, Tori Amos performed a cover, in a live mash-up with "Torn" by Ednaswap/covered by Natalie Imbruglia, at the Britt Festival in Jacksonville, OR.
- In 2014, Justin Timberlake covered this song during his The 20/20 Experience World Tour, almost every concert of the tour.
- In 2015, the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra performed an instrumental version during their "Unforgettable: An Evening with Natalie Cole" concert at Music Hall in Cincinnati, Ohio.
- In 2016, trumpeter Herb Alpert covered the song on his album of the same name.
- In 1992, "Human Nature" was sampled by R&B group SWV. Titled "Right Here/Human Nature", the song was a remix of the group's "Right Here". The song was later included on the soundtrack album of Free Willy, alongside Jackson's "Will You Be There".
- In 1997, "Human Nature" was sampled by R&B singer Aaliyah for the pop/R&B version of the song titled "Journey to the Past" for the 1997 animated film Anastasia soundtrack.
- SWV's remix was sampled by the late American rapper Tupac Shakur on "Thug Nature", from the 2001 posthumous album Too Gangsta for Radio.
- In 1994, New York-based rapper Nas sampled the song for his track "It Ain't Hard to Tell" from his debut album Illmatic.
- Jason Nevins, a DJ from New York City, sampled Jackson's track on "I'm in Heaven", which also featured vocals by Holly James.
- In 2003, American R&B group BLACKstreet's "Why, Why" also sampled "Human Nature". The song appeared on the album Level II.
- In 2006, R&B/pop artist Ne-Yo used a sample of "Human Nature" for his remix version of "So Sick", which also featured rapper LL Cool J. The remix released later on LL Cool J's album Todd Smith.
- In 2006, "Human Nature" was remixed by Japanese drum and bass producer Makoto together with The Specialist.
- In 2007, singer Tyra B (Tyra Bolling) sampled and did a remix version including parts of Jackson's "Human Nature" with her song "Givin' Me a Rush" as well as Paula Abdul's "Rush Rush".
- In 2009, following Jackson's death on June 25, the American rappers Yung Berg and Lil Wayne sampled "Human Nature" on their tribute song "We Miss You".
- In 2011, English singer and musician, Floetry's Marsha Ambrosius briefly sampled the song on the track "I Want You to Stay" from her debut album Late Nights & Early Mornings.
- In 2011, American pop singer Chris Brown sampled "Human Nature" and SWV's remix version for the fourth single "She Ain't You" from his album F.A.M.E..
- In 2013, Eurovision 2011 winners Ell & Nikki sampled "Human Nature" on their tribute song "Music Still Alive"
- In 2015, "Human Nature" was sampled by American rapper Ludacris on "This Has Been My World", from the album Ludaversal.
- In 2015, Vaporwave artist Eco Virtual sampled "Human Nature" in his song "Clear Skies"
- 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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