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Human Nature (Michael Jackson song)


Human Nature (Michael Jackson song)

"Human Nature"
Single by Michael Jackson
from the album Thriller
B-side "Baby Be Mine"
Released July 3, 1983
Format 7" single
Recorded 1982
Genre Soft rock[1]
Length 3:47
Label Epic
Writer(s) Steve Porcaro, John Bettis
Producer(s) Quincy Jones
Michael Jackson singles chronology
"Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'"
"Human Nature"
"P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)"
Thriller track listing
"Billie Jean"
"Human Nature"
"P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)"

This Is It track listing
"They Don't Care About Us"
"Human Nature"
"Smooth Criminal"
Music video
"Human Nature" (Live) on YouTube

"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 sixth single from the singer's second solo album, "Thriller" (1982). Initially, Porcaro had recorded a rough demo of the song on a cassette, which was then given to Jones. Enjoying the demo, Jones brought in Bettis to finish the lyrics and had the ballad included on the "Thriller" album. 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 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". In New Zealand the single reached number 11. The ballad garnered many 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 and Chris Brown.


  • Production 1
  • Release and reception 2
  • Live performances 3
  • Charts 4
  • Track listing 5
  • Official remixes 6
  • Cover versions 7
    • Sampling 7.1
  • Personnel 8
  • Notes 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11


"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.[2] Fellow Toto band member David Paich then gave the demo, along with two songs written by Paich, to producer Quincy Jones, hoping they would be included on Thriller.[2] 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.[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'".[3] 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.[4] 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

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.[5]

"Human Nature" was released on July 3, 1983, as the fifth single from Thriller.[2] Although not released in the UK, the song achieved moderate chart success in the US.[2] Reaching number two on [6] In the Netherlands the single reached number 11.[8]

John Rockwell, of The New York Times, stated that "Human Nature" was a "haunting, brooding ballad" with an "irresistible" chorus.[9] Allmusic noted that the "gentle and lovely" "Human Nature" coexisted comfortably with the "tough, scared" "Beat It".[10] They later added that the song was a "soft rocker".[11] 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".[12] The magazine added that the track's "buttery harmonies" were powerful.[12] Stylus also praised the song, describing it as "the smoothest of ballads".[13] 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".[13]

"Human Nature" was described as "the smoothest of ballads" by Stylus.

Problems playing this file? See .'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".[14] Kelefa Sanneh of Blender described the "soft-serve balladry" of the song as a "silk-sheets masterstroke".[15] 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".[16] Tom Ewing, reviewer for Pitchfork Media, described the song as "meltingly tender", with MTV adding that it was an "airy ballad".[17][18] 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.[19] The Los Angeles Times concluded that it was Jackson's delivery that made the "middling ballad" take off.[20]

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.[21]

Live performances

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 performed the song live for the last time 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.


Chart (1983) Peak
Australian Kent Music Report[22] 63
U.S. [6] 7
U.S. Billboard [6] 3
U.S. Billboard Adult Contemporary chart[23] 2
Dutch Singles Chart[8] 6
Chart (2009) Peak
Danish Singles Chart 3
Swiss Singles Chart[24] 27
UK Singles Chart[25] 35
U.S. Billboard Hot Digital Songs[26] 21

Track listing

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

Official remixes

  1. Album version – 4:06
  2. 7" remix – 3:47 (This version features an alternate synth before the bridge. 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)

Cover versions

  • In 1984, the song was first covered by Steppin' Out
  • In 1985, American [30] 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.[31] 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.[32][33]
  • 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,[28] which featured Butterfly Boucher.
  • In 2008, jazz fusion/contemporary jazz pianist David Benoit covered the song from his renditions album Heroes.[34][35]
  • In 2009, on July 7 John Mayer performed an instrumental version of the song at Jackson's public memorial service.[36]
  • 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.[37]
  • 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.[38]
  • 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.[39]
  • Sampling



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    7. ^ Borza, Michael J. (September 7, 1984). "Jacksons captivated JFK Stadium".  
    8. ^ a b "Dutch Singles Chart Archives". Retrieved April 11, 2009. 
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    10. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Allmusic's 'Thriller' Review".  
    11. ^ review"Thriller 25"Allmusic's . Allmusic. Retrieved April 11, 2009. 
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    13. ^ a b "Thriller - The Diamond".  
    14. ^ Lamb, Bill. "'s Thriller 25 review".  
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    17. ^ Ewing, Tom (April 11, 2008). "Pitchfork Media's Thriller 25 review".  
    18. ^ "Michael Jackson biography". MTV. Retrieved April 11, 2009. 
    19. ^ Sheffield, Rob. "Rolling Stone's Thriller 25 review".  
    20. ^ Gamboa, Glenn (February 12, 2008). "Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' turns 25".  
    21. ^ Betts, Katherine (December 1, 1991). "Connie Parente's vintage pieces recall a more glamorous past - with a hint of whimsy". Vogue 181 (12): 110–114. Retrieved January 10, 2014. 
    22. ^ Kent, David (2003). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992.  
    23. ^ Hyatt, Wesley (1999). The Billboard Book of #1 Adult Contemporary Hits (Billboard Publications), page 269.
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    25. ^ "UK Singles Chart". The Official UK Charts Company. Archived from the original on July 30, 2008. Retrieved July 6, 2009. 
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    27. ^ "allmusic (( Steppin' Out > Overview )))".  
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    29. ^ Davis, Francis (July 4, 1985). "You're Under Arrest review". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 11, 2009. 
    30. ^ Hackett, Regina (September 5, 1987). "Miles Davis treats a forgiving crowd to his lean, hard-driving dance music".  
    31. ^ Carr, Ian (1998) Miles Davis: The Definitive Biography, rev.ed (paperback) HarperCollins, London p.510f.
    32. ^ Harris, Mike (February 11, 2005). Throwback' review"'".  
    33. ^ Spencer, Todd (August 23, 2004). "New CDs: R. Kelly, Earle". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 11, 2009. 
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    35. ^ "Heroes : David Benoit : Concord Music Group".  
    36. ^ Powers, Ann; Martens, Todd (July 7, 2009) "Michael Jackson memorial: John Mayer performs 'Human Nature'". LA Times (accessed July 8, 2009))
    37. ^ Gary Trust (February 10, 2012). "'"Weekly Chart Notes: Madonna, Michael Jackson, 'Godspell.  
    38. ^
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    40. ^ "SWV biography". MTV. Retrieved April 11, 2009. 
    41. ^ "Journey to the Past". Retrieved August 28, 2011. 
    42. ^ Farley, Christopher John (June 20, 1994). "Street stories".  
    43. ^ Rivaldo, Joey. "Jason Nevins featuring Holly - I'm in Heaven".  
    44. ^ Litman, Joseph (March 31, 2003). "Blackstreet - Blackstreet Level II".  
    45. ^ "Ne-Yo feat. LL Cool J's So Sick (Remix) sample of Michael Jackson's Human Nature". WhoSampled. Retrieved August 28, 2011. 
    46. ^ "Yung Berg ft Lil Wayne We Miss You (MJ Tribute) mp3 - Free Download from 4shared". June 23, 2010. Retrieved August 28, 2011. 
    47. ^ "Video Premiere: Chris Brown "She Ain’t You" Dedicated To Michael Jackson". May 3, 2011. Retrieved August 28, 2011. 
    48. ^ Human Nature" | Soul Sessions""". May 3, 2011. Retrieved August 28, 2011. 
    49. ^ a b c d e f g h i Jackson, Michael. Thriller booklet. Sony BMG.


    • Michael Jackson: The Ultimate Collection booklet. Sony BMG.
    • Halstead, Craig (2007). Michael Jackson: For the Record. Authors OnLine.  
    • Thriller 25: The Book (2008).  

    External links

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