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:
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:
Across the morning
The city’s heart begins to beat
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.