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Single Review: Human Nature Michael Jackson

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Written by John Bettis (with background music by Toto) Michael Jackson’s Human Nature is the cornerstone of his career. It speaks clearly to the heart of celebrity and it also speaks on the general theme of desire; it’s also a damn good song.

The song itself is a cool combination of synthesizer with a nice quiet funky baseline underneath. The synth part lasts for about ten seconds, but I’m not even thinking about the instrument. Somehow, I get the image of a city covered in the just-arrived-night sky, with all the lights on and the cars racing through the streets.

Living under the glass bubble of his family, with an extra layer developed by his fame, Michael Jackson was an individual isolated from the rest of the world. When he decided to visit New York by himself, the very desire to leave his protective world started to come out. This surfaces in the first couple of verses of the song:

Looking out
Across the night-time
The city winks a sleepless eye
Hear her voice
Shake my window
Sweet seducing sighs

Get me out
Into the night-time
Four walls won’t hold me tonight
If this town
Is just an apple
Then let me take a bite

When asked in the chorus “Why?, Why?” he answers with “Human Nature”. “Why does he do me that way?” the lyric that follows, has been the cause of some speculation about his sexuality. I believe the line is more in reference to people surrounding him all the time voicing their frustrations with Michael’s growing independence.

In the middle of the song, Michael goes outside into the world. As he walks the streets with cameras flashing their lights to take photos of him, he eyes a girl eyeing him. He asks for her because he wants to know someone other than the people in his own circle; preferably a girl, of whom Jackson has never had much chance to be with due to his situation.

At this point after the chorus returns for a second time, the song interrupts itself with the following:

Why, why, does he do me that way
I like livin’ this way
I like lovin’ this way

What happens next in the song is an unusual interpretation, but I believe its right. Michael, finally in reach of something real, makes love to it and becomes his own person; that’s what I gathered at least when I listen to the instrumental after the second chorus. When the morning returns to New York, Michael speaks in a new confidence:

Looking out
Across the morning
The city’s heart begins to beat
Reaching out
I touch her shoulder
I’m dreaming of the street

The rest of the song, as with The Beatles’ Hey Jude, has a sing-along like feel to it. As opposed to speaking to one person, as Jude was intended for, Michael is speaking to everyone who ever asks why people do certain things. I’ve been asking that of late with my family as well as my own life.

I’ve never been as clear about a song as I have been with this one. Call it long nights of staying up late or a lack of a social life, but this song is very deep without being overly cryptic. If my analysis doesn’t answer your questions, go listen to it anyway; it’s Track 7 on the Thriller album.

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About Matthew Milam

  • Dee

    Wow.. Never thought about it that way. Very nice interpretation, thanks!

  • Sasha

    Thank you. This was a beautiful interpretation.

  • Aba, 14 Ireland

    I lovw this song………..but i still dont understand the full meaning just yet (maybe cos im young) but anyway a beautitful, sexy nd a sensitive song
    U r always in my heart Micheal Jackson-King of Pop-Brother-Friend-Hero-Dad

  • MegaHottie

    I agree with Jazmin #20. May his soul rest in peace!

  • jada

    why why man i like that song i listen to it everyday he sings it with such heartfelt emotion and i do like the way he stares lol

  • alexis

    human nature is the most wonderful sung but i think tit means its just man kind man staring at a women or mj just wanting a normal life reaching out touch a stranger electric eyes are everywhere see that girl she knows im watching she likes the way i stare its like flirtin

  • mihus

    its really a difficult song.but its one of my best songs of mj.

  • Natasha

    The line “why, why, does he do me that way” could be adressing the human race, or humanity. Why does humanity do me that way? Because it’s human nature. That would make sense if the song was more geared towards Michael’s real life, that everyone loved him and wanted a piece of him. Even though he was just a human and not a God as some people played him out to be, it’s human nature to love someone so much like that.

    The song could also be addressing a girl, and the “does he do me that way,” could be her inner thoughts. It could be his desire to get out into the city and be like everyone else and find girls and enjoy life, hence “human nature”.

    The lyrics are very vivid and I think that since it wasn’t written by him, but with him in mind, the writer of the song perhaps wanted the listener to interpret the song in his/her own way.

  • Sophie

    I absolutely love this song MJ was a legend and I can n makes not belive he had gone it and it makes me feel sad as such a great star has gone but his music will live on forever and continue to shine on just like a star. I feel that this song ‘Human Nature’ is all about peace and harmony but at the same time a real deep meaning thay nobody will ever understand only him the king of pop himself. I personally thing he was talking about his clouded life with his dad, and why he could not live a normal childhood. Maybe he realises that things just happend and theres no control over it. Therefore, he was probably thinking that things were the same ‘clouded’ still at the time of producing this song. He was just in a fantasy world trying to find his way out to live a normal life, but he then expalins ‘its human nature’. It’s not the answer but possibly the reason why he decided these words. I love you MJ R.I.P xx

  • Jazmin

    For some reason I think this song is very sexy. The tempo and the beat of this song are slow, and his voice is just arousing. I never really thought of he lyrics this way.

  • kat

    I love this song and Michael sang it beautifully. Sometimes I can’t believe he’s actually gone.

  • N.Miller

    This is one nf his greatest songs.When I first heard this sound I was like wow .But when I I read the words to it was even better.Even though he didn’t write the man that wrote thought about mj when he wrote it that he wrote for.I think that this song mean he just want people to know that he is human everyone else.He want to get into the world let people know that.

  • ebonydawn

    this is a very beautiful synopsis of a beautiful song….. thank you…

  • Dolph van Wy

    JM picked the perfect song to contribute to the memorial of MJ. The lyric wraps up his whole live, that is why this is his best song.

    Michael, thanks for sharing your talent with us, you truly are a good person.

  • DrJ

    I think it’s not so much a girl or one person being referred to, but more a city or a city full of people. The singer wants to connect with people and doesn’t want to stay home alone. Also, he obviously wants to have a good “wicked” time because not only is the city an Apple like NYC but like Adam who “knew” Eve through his famous bite.

  • J2theP

    I hadn’t heard this song since the 80’s, and then one day lately, heard it on the radio, and really paid attention to the words. What a beautifully written, and played(oh, and yes, sung) song!

  • Kewl Dood

    I always thought this song was about how it is human nature for men (MJ) to chase after women even when they don’t always want the attention. “She know I’m watching. She like the way I stare”

    But then the chorus I thought Michael was singing the girls inner thoughts:”Why, why, does he do me that way” Like sometimes men get too aggressive, staring and pursuing and such.

    And then Michael sings the men’s thoughts: “Tell em (girls) that it’s just Human Nature” — ie Natural for men to chase females

    And then Michael sings “I like living this way — I like loving this way” Men have fun pursuing and staring at women — it’s just Human Nature.

    Hmm, I always was so clear that was the meaning of the song — but looking at the comments, maybe it’s just what it meant to me.

  • Yea, I kinda think this has a two-dimensional meaning to it. Both what you and Snakke’s interpretation.

    Although, Not sure but I thought I heard Jackson comment it didn’t have much to do with his life.

    When my ears first heard this, I thought he couldn’t help but wonder around the night city. Looking in vain for the girl he let go.

  • Matthew you need to get your facts straight!

  • delmon

    Nice, relaxing song.

  • Matt S

    The words were written by John Bettis who also did “Bette Davis” eyes. The music was written by Toto’s Steve Porcaro. Hence why four members of Toto play on it.

  • snakke

    I’ve heard that David Paich from Toto co-wrote “Human Nature” together with Michael. And that David’s daugther walked home from school one day, and there were some kids that were really mean to her. And when she came home she cried and talked to her father who told her that it’s just “human nature”.

    // Daniel Engström, Sweden.

  • Fazeel Shah

    “He” in the line “Why, why, does he do me that way” has me believing that that line is spoken by a second speaker. It’s a woman, perhaps, asking why a guy would sleep with her and then leave the next day. In the last verse he says something like ” I touch her shoulder/ I’m dreaming of the street” which means that he wants to leave because of his desire for another girl.

  • Troy Baker, 17, London England

    This is my favorite song and has been since i was about 4. the song can put me in any mood really, i think this is one of Michael Jackson’s best songs even though it wasn’t written by him like Beat it or Billie Jean, Michael makes this song personall for him. In this song he is able to take the listener on a musical journey, I believe that John Bettis has written a beautiful song for Michael Jackson and Michael Jackson brings it to life with his vocals. Quincy Jones has produced a great song here and it shows just one of the reasons why Michael Jackson is One of the Biggest selling Solo Artist of all time and why together they have sold almost 150 millon albums world Wide. Troy Baker.

  • Venicio Nobel

    When he sings WHY DOES HE DO ME THAT WAY, he’s referring to God, that’s what I believe. But it’s not easy to find out what it really means.

  • Was this written specifically FOR Michael?

  • I know that Michael didn’t write the song. He did however I think influenced the writing a bit by grabbing from some of his own life. I will however make that correction.

  • Tanots

    Nice article. However, Michael Jackson didn’t write “Human Nature,” so there is no biographical interpretation that can be made.

    John Bettis wrote the hell out of the song; Toto played the hell out of the song; Quincy Jones produced the hell out of the song; and Michael Jackson sung the hell out of the song.

  • VN

    When I hear that song it relaxes me, it’s like magical. As for the meaning of it, is like when somedy asks you why, why do you love simples things with that kind of intensity, and the answer is, human nature in its pure state, without any kind of prejudice, just feeling you are alive.