Human Nature

Album: Thriller (1982)
Charted: 62 7
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  • "Human Nature" was written by Steve Porcaro, keyboardist with the band Toto. "I had written the song for my daughter Heather. Something had happened at school and it just inspired me. I wrote the song while we were mixing "Africa" and was just tinkering on the piano and wrote 'Human Nature.' It was one of a batch of three songs I had written in a certain time period. I had written the lyrics, which were the same verse I was singing over and over again. I had the 'why, why' chorus with the slap echo. Like most of my songs it was an unfinished song."
  • Steve Porcaro and fellow Toto member David Paich worked with producer Quincy Jones on the Thriller album, doing some synthesizer programming and playing. Said Porcaro: "Quincy had been asking David for songs and he was sending a messenger almost every day to David's house - where I was living at the time - to pick up anything David was working on. And so David was sending him stuff. One time, he had gotten a call that the messenger was on his way and he called down to me and told me to throw something we'd been working on onto a cassette. I didn't have any blank cassettes, so I took a cassette that had 'Human Nature' on one side and turned the B-side over, rewound it and put on these two songs of David's. and then gave them to the messenger."

    Jones played both sides of the cassette and was excited about "Human Nature." Quincy called David the next day and was raving about this tune that went 'why, why.' It took David half an hour to tell Quincy that it wasn't his song! But the song was incomplete lyric-wise and Jones asked Porcaro to finish them. Porcaro recalls: "I forced myself to write the lyrics and Quincy was less than thrilled with them and he asked me if I would mind if he brought in John Bettis to finish them. I was completely thrilled with what John did with the lyrics."
  • Quincy Jones assembled an impressive array of talent to work on the Thriller album, including four members of the band Toto. These guys knew the ropes because they were session musicians before they formed the band, and in 1982 they were red hot, scoring hits with "Rosanna" and "Africa" from their album Toto IV, which would win the Grammy for Album of the Year at the 1983 ceremony (Thriller would win the next year).

    Four members of the band played on this track:

    David Paich: synthesizer
    Steve Porcaro: synthesizer
    Steve Lukather: guitar
    Jeff Porcaro: drums

    Paich, Steve Porcaro and Lukather also did the arrangement.

    In our interview with David Paich, he explained that Jackson gave them lot of support and creative freedom. "Michael was very involved in it, and he's a perfectionist," said Paich. "He was always in the room with us, privately, saying, 'I just want you to have total freedom to do whatever you want. Just think of Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel - do whatever you need to do here. Sky's the limit.'"
  • The Jazz legend Miles Davis recorded this song in 1985. Steve Porcaro was thrilled when he first heard Miles' version of his tune. "My father was a jazz musician and when I was growing up, most of the music we heard in our household was classical music and jazz - Miles Davis. He was my father's hero. My brother Jeff learnt to play drums listening to 'Bag's Groove.' Miles Davis was ingrained in all of us, so I was completely thrilled. I was so honored. I remember doing a session with the bassist Neil Stubenhaus about six months after Miles did You're Under Arrest. He just cornered me and said 'do you realize how great it is to have Miles do one of your tunes? Do you have any idea what it means?' I certainly did. It's one of the things I'm most proud of out of everything I've done."
  • In 1985, Miles moved to Warner Brothers records and teamed with Porcaro to record new material for his first Warner album. They went to Toto drummer Jeff Porcaro's studio (The Villa) and tried recording "Exist" and "Walk of Life," but the sessions were unsuccessful. While at The Villa, Miles ended up playing on the Toto tune "Don't Stop Me Now." (Thanks to George Cole, author of The Last Miles: The Music of Miles Davis, 1980-1991. Cole interviewed Steve Porcaro for the book.)
  • This was the fifth of seven singles released from the Thriller album. All of them made the Top 10 in the US.
  • In 1993, SWV (Sisters With Voices) hit #2 in the US with a medley of this song combined with their own release "Right Here."
  • Sheryl Crow performed with Michael Jackson on his Bad tour, joining him on stage for "The Way You Make Me Feel" and "I Just Can't Stop Loving You." In 2010, she told Rolling Stone, "My favorite memory of Michael was watching him do 'Human Nature' every night. he'd cry, and those tears were so directly linked to the wounds that drove him to anesthetize himself."
  • On November 7, 2008, Britney Spears and Madonna performed this at Madonna's Dodger Stadium concert in Los Angeles. Justin Timberlake also performed at the show, joining Madonna on stage for "4 Minutes." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • John Mayer played guitar on a mostly instrumental version at Jackson's memorial service on July 7, 2009.

Comments: 60

  • Daphne from Memphis,tnThis song is so relaxing.
  • Brandon from Los Angeles Hello! I just wanted to clear up the mystery of the background vocals lol I see some people attempted to solve it but were slightly off track. The correct background vocals during that 2nd course is “She’s keeping him by, keeping him ay-around”....without the comma the phrase is simply “She’s keeping him by keeping him around”. 100% guaranteed those are the lyrics! Happy MJing
  • Bella from North Carolina I feel like him and Whitney could’ve did this together because if you hear you give good love, it can kinda give you that same feeling.
  • AnonymousWow! I like that song. I’d simply fall asleep to that song. I heard another song just like that, “She ain’t you.” Yes. That is in my head now.
  • Siahara Shyne Carter from United StatesI love the Song. Woow! I have school problems before but Now I'm GRADUATED. This song just smooth like me <3 MJ voice is perfect! I love The song Tittle " Human Nature ".
  • Michael from Vienna (austria)It is interesting that the only two Michael Jackson songs that I really like were not written by him. The first is Ben and the second is Human Nature. And strangely enough these two songs seem to me his most personal songs. "Ben" is about a boy who befriends a rat, which reminds of his rather friendships with boys. And with regard to "Human Nature" for me it always had a hidden gay message. OK, the lyrics talk about a girl and "her", but after all they were written by a straight man. But when somebody like Michael Jackson sings about nightlife in New York and sings that he likes "loving that way" and that is human nature, it sounds completely different.
    To put it right: I am convinced that Michael Jackson was a closeted gay. His friendship with boys was a bit bizarre, but I don't believe the alleged child abuse. The only ones who accused him of that are completely untrustworthy and were only after his money. Other witnesses who had not financial interest have always defended MJ.
  • Dani from IndianaOk I think I have solved the mystery of the background lyrics in the 2nd chorus. I have found that there are 3 parts.
    Part 1: "Does he do me that.."
    Part 2: "Why" higher pitch than 1st chorus.
    Part 3: "Keep ah--around".
    All vocals are Michael's sung seperately to mimic the "Why's" x6, during the 1st chorus..GENIUS!!
    The cue is when he sings the word "say.." then, "Does he do me that, Why, Does he do me, Keep ah-around, Tell them that it's human nature..."
    Try're welcome.
  • Laila from San Diego, CaI also didn't know or simply forgot the song is Toto related. If you listen closely, Toto's influence is clearly there. I recognize the same chords from their song "Africa".
  • Laila from San Diego, CaLike another commenter, for weeks after MJs death I could not listen to this song without bursting into tears. Human Nature is one of my all time favorite songs and I really FEEL this song every single time I hear it. It can still bring me to tears after all these years. It is beautiful.
  • Tricia from Rockville Centre, NyI love this reminds me of a time when I was in NYC after a Yankee game, walking the streets till 2am....just frolicing and kissing someone I truly care about....the song fit the night perfectly..... :-)
  • Kaz from C, OhMJ resung the why oh why part found in SWV's Right here; Also heard this song is about a utilizing a prostitute. I forgot where i heard it from. basically hes going out in the streets finding some company, then back out to do it again. why does he do me that way? its human nature. celeb men are known to play around. This sample was also sample my Nas "It ain't hard to tell"
  • Angus from Hartford, CtDuring Michael Jackson's funeral tribute that aired on TV, John Mayer and a cast of other performers that included Erik Clapton performed this.
  • Xiomara from Brooklyn, NyI have always loved this song, but just recently took the time to analyze its meaning (for a songwriting class, actually). My husband and I realized that when Michael refers to "SHE" in the song, he is actually talking about the city. "ELECTRIC EYES" being the street lights and stoplights. Just thought I'd point that out. :-)
  • Natasha from Richmond, VaNikki from Georgia - After listening to that part a bunch of times, and also slowing the song down to hear it better, I think you're definitely right. "She's giving in by keeping him around" definitely fits into the song better, and it really does sound like that's what he's saying. Thanks for officially clearing it up! When I sing along to the song now, I'm gonna sing that :P
  • Nikki from Evans, GaAFTER SO MANY YEARS of trying to figure out what the hidden part to that melody is... I think it finally came to me at 6am. I went off of a suggestion made earlier, and I decided that it made no sense in the context of the song, plus it just did not sound like he said what someone suggested. So... I have decided after much failed googling that he is saying "she's giving in by keeping him ay-round" (around). Anyone else getting that?
  • Natasha from Richmond, VaAlso, I'd like to share my interpretation of the meaning of the song.

    Although he didn't write the song, I think it's about Michael's desire to be in the city (New York City, I'm pretty sure)amongst the nightlife and do what people do, hence "human nature", like pick up women and hang out with him and have fun and enjoy his life as a young man.

    I also think that the "why does he do me that way" part could be referring to the media and press, and he's questioning them. Why do you idolize me and treat me different than any one else just because I am famous? Because it's human nature to love and adore someone like that.
    But in some live performances of this song, he changes the lyrics to "why does she do me that way", so it could again be referring to the women he finds in the city that he hangs out with, and the things they do together and why does he do her that way, possibly referring to ahem certain things ahem haha, then his desire to get back out there in the morning and do it all over again.

    Hopefully that made sense!
  • Natasha from Richmond, VaHey peeps. Let me start off by saying that this is my most favorite song in the world.

    In the second chorus, in the background of "why,why", he actually says, "she's keepin' it, why, keepin' it around" (pronouncing it like "ay-round") That is legit what he sings in the background. I have a program on my computer that lets me slow down songs, and what he says there is so much clearer once you slow it down and really listen. Also, in This Is It, one of the backup singers asks him what he sings there and what Michael tells him is similar to what he says in the song, so I'm pretty sure that's what he says. Just letting you guys know!

  • Lori-ann from Nj, Njalso want to say it's great to hear you all speak so highly of him and his talents... and yes this song is haunting. if you youtube it live during his bad tour 88 omg!!!! The opening to the song? priceless, go watch!
  • Lori-ann from Nj, NjThe meaning of the song has recently changed for me since his passing... I feel that the "Why does he do me that way?" means for me, as a huge fan, Why does Michael affect me the way he has, how and why has he impacted my life so deeply and I've never met him... "Tell em that it's HUman Nature" is Michael saying, "it's just me, I can't help it that I captivate you /my fans like this" but that my personal and miss you sooo much MJ

    Lori-Ann nj
  • Nandini from Bangalore, IndiaCould someone tell me what the songmeans ? it works at so manly levels.
    There is one level where its about a girl, then its about the city pulling and bcekoning, or is the girl ametaphor for the city? and is it about MJ being gay?

    Or is it something else all together. I have always wondered?
  • Nandini from Bangalore, Indial heard MJ's version first and found it haunting. I forgot all about it and then John Mayer played it as a tribute. It was beautiful. But can someone explain the song to me. It's working at so many levels. Is it about the girl, is it about a city that is beckoning, is the reference to the city a metaphor? Is it about the Big Apple New York? Is it about being gay?
  • Kevin from Mobile, AlI was in the 9th grade when I heard this song in the Jacksons-American Dream biopic. The opening keyboards coupled with image of Mike with his Aviator glasses and Magnum P.I. Hawaiian shirt instantly took me back to the first grade and being a five year old. I was 13 or 14 years old at the time and I am 31 years old now. I have loved Michael ever since. I was from the hood and this was during the West Coast gangsta rap era- I caught a lot of flack, but everbody liked Mike. I was just brave enough to admit it.
  • Rich from La, CaCHRIS, CALIFORNIA......
    In regards to the backup vocals during the "Why, Why..." chorus, I'm curious to know if that is based on true knowledge or if you are guessing on that. This has been driving me crazy trying to obtain this info. On John Mayer's tribute to MJ, the background vocals use the same exact wording. Can you please expound on that? I really appreciate it.........
  • Chris from California, CaI accidently hit post.... Anyway, PS, London, United Kingdom, it's good to hear from someone that can relate. I can listen to the whole song now, whereas for the 3 weeks after he passed I couldn't. Regarding - Christopher L., fort worth, TX comment: That really pisses me off too, though I really believe in a sense that the media has made an amends of sorts (all except Fox News). Think about the fact that CNN aired the ENTIRE memorial COMMERCIAL FREE!!!! That is friggin' huge! There was a sense of respect paid to Michael by the media and a sense of understanding for what he went through personally and regret for how they treated him throughout it all. This was most apparent in Anderson Coopers coverage. I was really impressed by him. It was like the media was all of a sudden hit with an idiot stick and finally realized that he was actually human. I hate seeing the pictures of him during his vulnerable times. It pisses me off that anyone would take advantage of peoples sick sense of amusement at his expense. Given how it was the media that brought him so much pain, it was fitting to see them honor his legacy in the end.
  • Chris from California, CaListening to Quincy at the end of the re-releases, he talks about Divinity being responsible for Thrillers success. The fact that so many varied and seemingly dissimilar people came together to write Human Nature so emphatically reinforces the truth in that statement. I feel you PS. It still amazes me how many people on the PLANET were enfluenced and affected in Michaels life and passing.
  • Christopher L. from Fort Worth, TxThis is my favorite song by MJ as a solo artist and I get very defensive when it comes to the media portraying him in a negative light. I hope that they along with the participating contributer to his passing each get what they deserve.
  • Ps from London, United KingdomIn response to Chris: I could have written your post myself, verbatim. I couldn't agree more. This was the song I found most difficult to listen to in recent times for that very reason.
  • Rashaunda from Spiro, United Kingdomthat song i really really like so bad
  • Chris from California, CaIN RESPONSE TO ASHKRISKORI, LA PLACE, LA POST "hey does any know what mike says in the background during the chorus after "why why" sounds like a scat but i think he says words. someone help me with this one"? It is a recording of part of the chorus "Tell Them". They added a pitch/bend effect on top of a synth effect. It's similar to when you choose the human voice sound on a keyboard and then hit a key and hear the voice in the key of what note or chord you're playing. It sounds like the vocals are mainly Michael's with some background singers adding different octaves and notes. It's amazing how much thought went into just that 1 part!! It was well worth it. This is one of the most appealing sounds of the song.
  • Chris from California, CaThis is definately one of Michael's top 5 songs. It just blows my mind the interspersed melodies that weave in and out of each other throughout this song. There has never been a song that sounds anything like this. It evokes such a deep feeling in my gut everytime I listen to it. I used to enjoy this feeling, but now there is a deep and overwhelming sadness that instantly arrests me at the first note. I love this song. It is my favorite song.
  • Arnaud from Beau Bassin, MauritiusThis is a nice song with a good cocktail of Artists Toto Rock band, Q.Jones And the ONE & ONLY MICHAEL JACKSON
  • Ashley from Hampton, Vaomg, lala it do sound like he say "why why tell them that its you and me Joe." instead of "why, why, tell them thats its human nature" but anyway LOVE THIS SONG! ALWAYS HAVE! :)
  • Maggie from Buffalo, NyBrillant song.I think this song is about him basically hitting the streets of New York and sleeping around with women. The four walls holding him was him stuck in the hotel and needed to get out and meet a stranger. He meets a girl, takes her back to his spot, the next morning wakes up with her next to him and he's already thinking about hitting the streets again. This sounds nothing like him talking about Joe and himself.
  • Joe from San Diego, CaTo me, this song will always be about Michael and the critics who didn't understand him in his life. The "why, why" are his fans asking him why people say these things about him and "tell them that it's human nature" is Michael responding that being afraid of things you don't understand is only human nature, and that it was ok. Michael was full of love.
  • Amber from Clarksville, InIt can relate to MJ in the way that he had to sneak around to be normal do normal activities like go to the store without being bothered....and he is explaining to fans its human nature
  • Ashkriskori from La Place, Lahey does any know what mike says in the background during the chorus after "why why" sounds like a scat but i think he says words. someone help me with this one
  • Erin from Boston, Massachusetts, MaMagic... absolutely magic. RIP MJ 7/3/09
  • Bailey from Charlotte, NcI just wanted to correct Nora who thought Janet was singing the falsetto on this song. It was purely Michael. You should look up footage of him doing this song live. It is amazing!!!! His voice was simply gorgeous. This song is my favorite song that he did.
  • James from Fla, Fl"used to think that when he said "why, why, tell them thats its human nature" that it was was "why why tell them that its you and me Joe." - Lala, MT

    I think you´re right girl. In fact I´d bet that this line (actually,the whole song) is a reference to his strange behaviour as a result of his relationship to Joe Jackson(dad). If people should ask his father "why does Michael behave this way" ? "Tell ´em that its you and me Joe"
    Song has acquired a whole new level of meaning for me.

    The King is gone but not forgotten :(
  • Angelica from Boynton, Fltoward the end of the song it sounds like he is saying... GRADUATE! then whyyyy o yyy graduate lol
    just saying
  • Nora from Martinez, CaActually, I believe the falsetto background vocals were done by his sister, Janet. It's beautiful. One of my all-time favorite songs.
  • Nick from Boston, Mathis is by far one of my favorite mj songs
    also- i didn't see anyone else here mention this, but this song was sampled by nas in his song "it ain't hard to tell" from the classic album illmatic. If you listen to the beginning of that song and then listen to human nature at about 0:53 or 54 seconds, you will see exactly what i'm talking about
  • Linc from Beaumont, TxThis is probably my favorite Jackson song.
  • Kevin from Syracuse, UtI liked this gentle and wistful song when it first came out, but I never REALLY listened to it until about 10 years ago. Now it is among my favorite songs of all time. I think the lyrics are silly, but Jackson's vocals are beyond exquisite; I don't know any vocal performance more perfectly suited to the music it was sung to. In fact, I don't know any musical moment more heart-achingly, heart-breakingly soulful and soaring than Jackson's "why, oh why" at 2:05-2:15. Smokey Robinson's Oooo, baby, baby" comes close. I get chills.
  • Autumn from West Covina, CaMy fave song of all time. Reminds me of my mother and the last time I saw her alive. We sang it that whole last weekend together as we listened to it over and over. Changes my mood everytime I hear it. Makes me feel good. Good memories of this song and one of the few good memories of my childhood.
  • Phil from Sydney, AustraliaOh man! I love Jacko's falsetto here!
  • Jason from Dublin, Irelandsuch a beautiful song with rich haunting melodys. i just wish i could have wrote it.
  • Sierra from Oakland, CaA great song by Paytc called "Human Nature" can be heard at

    It was inspired by Michael Jackson's song and rumor is Paytc wants to remake the song with Michael Jackson.That would be a hot song sombody
    pass the message on to Michael Jackson!
  • Molly from Niagara Falls, NyTranslating German's comment, rather roughly, into English.

    I don't know why, but when I listen to this theme I seem to feel that it takes me to a large place, like a big amusement parts, or a space with large buildings, always in the beginning of the 80s, 1982, 1983, maybe 1984, when I was still young, imagining me also crossing Manhattan (the WTC, the Financial District, etc.) This tune makes me feel very calm. I wanted to share what I always felt."
  • German from Villa De Merlo, ArgentinaNo se por que, pero cuando escucho este tema me parece sentir que me transporto a un lugar amplio, como un gran parque de diversiones, o un espacio con grandes construcciones, siempre en los comienzos de la decada del 80, 1982 o 1983 o quizas 1984, siendo yo todavia niño, me imagino tambien recorriendo Manhattan (el WTC, el Financial District, etc...)
    Me da mucha tranquilidad este tema.
    Lo queria compartir porque siempre lo senti
  • Ann from Fairway, KsThis song was recently covered by David Mead on his album Indiana. Very interesting version that is worth checking out.
  • Dennis from Anchorage, AkThis is basically a Toto song with Michael Jackson singing. Porcaro wrote it, and the band playing it on the recording is essentially Toto. It's a bit of a stylistic departure for Michael, but he was a smart guy and knew it was a good song. Before he went so crazy he was both a brilliant creator and a good judge of material from other people.
  • Shonda from Los Angeles, CaThis is my favorite song of all time. I thought the song was a response to the media "if they say why, why tell them that it Human Nature."
  • Sarah Floyd from Bloomingdale, Ilwhat i mean by other soloists. i mean the other soloists that i like.
  • Sarah Floyd from Bloomingdale, Ilwell this song is so touching to me. but i feel like i am talking to one of my crushes and trying to find a way to talk to them. and i think michael jackson and other soloists made me be brave talking to my crush.
  • Lala from Anywhere, Mti used to think that when he said "why, why, tell them thats its human nature" that it was was "why why tell them that its you and me Joe." go ahead listen to it, i think you'll agree
  • Aj from Cleveland, GaThis song seems to describe Michael Jackson's personality
  • Tony from Naples, ItalyA good cover by Boyz II Men (throwback vol.1 2004)
    and by Akilibaka in Italian Language....
  • Eddie from Lachine, MiMiles Davis covered this song, too.
  • Krie from Ft. Drum, NyThis song was sampled/covered in 1993 by girl-group SWV (Sisters With Voices).
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