The Importance of Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature”
Avid KISS-FM listeners are well aware of my love for Michael Jackson's music. There's absolutely no question that his 1982 masterpiece Thriller changed music, and its effects are still being felt in contemporary music... Here, I'll prove it!
It's more than simply hearing the title track "Thriller" more times than you can count every Halloween. It’s more than being able to moonwalk like Michael would performing “Billie Jean.” It's more than hearing Akon's collaboration with a close-to-death Michael on an updated version of "Wanna Be Startin' Something." More than trying to impress your friends into thinking you're a musical know-it-all because you know, even though he's not credited on the album, Eddie Van Halen's playing guitar on "Beat it." (It’s true!) And while all of those songs are incredible and very important to the history of music, one Thriller song stands out as being more important than the rest to me.
"Human Nature" is my favorite song from the Thriller album, the most successful album of all-time. Many people may not be too familiar with this song. It's not one of the most easily-recalled, most-talked about, or most-played songs from the album. It didn’t even have a music video. However, it’s impact on pop music has been amazing! If you’re not familiar with Michael’s track, check it out here:
Did you know Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature” has been sampled over 22 times by major artists?! Over 40 times if you include cover versions! And a handful of these have gone on to be very successful singles for other artists. Here are three of what I consider to be the best samples of “Human Nature” in pop/rap/r&b music:
A little over a decade after “Human Nature’s” original release, SWV put out a version of their song “Right Here,” which teamed up with the movie “Free Willy” in 1993, a project in which Michael Jackson was heavily involved with. This version went on to be far more successful than the original, and is the one people usually think about when referencing the SWV hit. Many people probably don’t even know any other version, but obviously, the entire background music is “Human Nature.”
Nearly two years after that, New York rapper Nas was trying to make a name for himself and working on what many consider to be one of hip-hop’s greatest albums ever Illmatic. While no track on the album lit up the charts, to me one track stands out on Illmatic as being BEST. The last track on the album, “Ain’t Hard to Tell,” credits its sample to the King of Pop’s “Human Nature.”
Last but not least, one of my favorite songs to impact pop radio last year was quite easily Chris Brown’s “She Ain’t You.” The entire F.A.M.E. album to me is nearly flawless. Chris used the track to pay tribute to Michael, mimicking some of the King’s dance-moves in the video, and even dedicating the video to Michael. You’ll certainly recognize this song, and if you don’t you’ll definitely recognize the familiar beat in the background:
So the next time people are talking about their favorite Michael Jackson songs, or their favorite hits from the Thriller album, tell “Billie Jean” to “Beat it.” “Human Nature” is underrated as one of the most important songs in pop music.