“Human Nature” by Michael Jackson
Of all the tracks featured on Michael Jackson’s (1958-2009) classic “Thriller” album, we think the song “Human Nature” has the most-philosophical and introspective sound. But whereas it may come off as being exceptionally-deep, it is not centered on exploring the depths of “human nature” in all of its complexity.
Rather it is partially based on the singer’s interactions with New York City. And what he is basically saying is that the metropolis appeals to him. Michael is strongly compelled to explore the city, meaning that he cannot idly be indoors but rather prefers to be out In the town. So the aspect of human nature he is speaking to specifically in that regard is how a place like New York can mesmerize someone who visits the locality.
Romantic Attraction in “Human Nature”
In addition to the above, there is a romantic undertone to the song also. And we discover this in the second verse where MJ is “watching” a certain “girl” whom he apparently comes across while traversing the metropolis. And this lady actually “likes” the way he is ‘staring’ at her. So this reality – of a man liking a woman and vice versa – is also featured as another facet of “human nature”.
Tumultuous Relationships are part of the “Human Nature”
Moreover the chorus seems to be at least partially based on the story of a couple in a tumultuous romantic relationship. There appears to be no explainable reason why the man involved mistreats the lady or why the lady won’t dump him in response. But the general implication is that such experiences are more or less unavoidable, as they too are the results of “human nature”.
So lyrically this song may not be as complex as it appears on the surface. But still Michael Jackson tackles two diverse aspects of human nature, which are our tendency to be seduced by prominent urban areas and the power of romantic attraction.
Did Michael Jackson write “Human Nature”?
No. It was penned by songwriters John Bettis and Steve Porcaro. And the track was produced by Quincy Jones.
Steve Porcaro, who actually originated the tune, was a member of the band called Toto at the time. And his inspiration for penning “Human Nature” stemmed from a conversation in which he set out to console his small daughter, the victim of a school bully, as well as rationalize the actions of the bully himself. And amongst the explanations he gave was that said boy probably liked her.
How Michael Jackson ended up recording this Classic
How this song eventually wound up in Jackson’s hands is that another member of Toto, David Paich, was presenting demos to Quincy Jones in hopes that he would choose some to be used on “Thriller”. He never even intended for Mr. Jones to hear “Human Nature”. And the only reason it was part of the tape which he gave to Quincy was because due to time constraints he was compelled to use one which had already been partially utilized by Steve Porcaro.
In other words “Human Nature” was on the side of the tape opposite of the one which David Paich especially labeled for Quincy Jones to listen to. So Quincy actually heard the song by accident. But when all was said and done it was the only one he chose to be recorded by Michael. Then upon making this decision, he enlisted independent artist John Bettis to rewrite the lyrics.
Toto’s role in “Human Nature”
Overall four members of Toto worked on certain songs featured on “Thriller”, which included them assisting in laying down the instrumental to “Human Nature”.
And that instrumental is arguably one of the most recognizable in music history. Moreover it is very popular amongst hip-hop artists especially, being sampled by the likes of SWV (1992) and Nas (1994).
And amongst the artists who have covered this song are Miles Davis (1985), Boyz II Men (2004) and Britney Spears alongside Madonna (2008).
When was “Human Nature” released?
Epic Records released “Human Nature” as the fifth single from “Thriller” on 2 July 1983.
Performance on the Global Charts
And upon its initial release, it peaked at number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 and also charted in a handful of nations outside of the United States. In doing so, it also topped the RPM Adult Contemporary listing in Canada. And the logical reason as to why it did not appear on the UK Singles Chart at the time is because the song was not released as such in the United Kingdom.
The world was caught by surprise when Michael Jackson, at the age of 50, passed away in 2009. When this did occur many of his songs, including “Human Nature”, recharted. And this time around it charted in 10 countries, including finally making an appearance on the UK Singles Chart.