Human Nature

We welome this Michael Jackson retrospective by Langston Collin Wilkins (@LangstonVillain)

Monday, June 25, 2012, marks the three-year anniversary of the death of the King of Pop, Michael Joseph Jackson. I felt the need to write something in his honor and intended to write a general piece about his legacy, but couldn’t get my thoughts together. So, instead, here’s a few thoughts about my favorite MJ song, “Human Nature.”

Initially composed by Toto’s Steve Porcaro, with lyrics later added by legendary lyricist John Bettis, “Human Nature” was the final song added to Thriller (1982). ┬áThe song itself features an uncharacteristically down-tempo (at least for that album) Michael crooning against one of the most majestic backdrops I’ve ever heard.

Human Nature is one of those songs that beautifuly and perfectly encapsulates emotions that are often difficult to express. Michael steps into the role of conflicted dreamer, imagining scenes of the perpetually mysterious city-night. The “street” is a site where inhibitions disappear, where illicit thoughts transform into unashamed action. Embracing the street, however, requires the rejection of traditional romantic ties. Seeking understanding, but not forgiveness, Michael tells his lover that his desire for the street is part of humane nature, an innate urge that cannot be explained in any other terms. Human nature is less about the battle between good and evil, rather its the eternal struggle between the safe and the unknown.

Although written and composed, Michael’s dynamic vocals are an inextricable part of the song. His verses exude a mix of excitment and bewilderment while the chorus is somber and apologetic. When the intro returns during the middle of the track, Michael presents a careful wail, reflecting the state of being “lost” in the city. Because his life was full of similar internal conflict, Michael was the perfect fit for this song. I’ve yet to hear a vocal cover that comes close to resembling the emotional impact of this original.

Though known for his energetic pop hits, Michael was able penetrate the depths of the human spirt, creatively piecing together distorted, cryptic, and complex emotions. He was the essence of soul. Though no longer physically with us, he continues to live on the hearts of artists and audiences across the world.

We miss you.

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