Sampling Evolution: Madonna’s Human Nature

Truth be told, I’m not really much of a Madonna fan. Don’t get it twisted, she has put out some amazing songs during the course of her career, and has opened the doors for a greater discussion of women’s sexuality in pop music, but her work has always been hella inconsistent, especially lately. But it’s all good.

One of my favorite songs of all time is “Human Nature,” off of her 1994 Bedtime Stores album. The album, recorded during the phase of her life when she dated Tupac (yeah, Madonna gets around), featured production that leaned heavily on the back of Dallas Austin, Babyface, and Dave Hall. The resulting project sounded more like a Janet Jackson project than a Madonna one, naturally, with tracks like “Secret,” and the Babyface produced “Take a Bow,” crossing over into urban radio.

But the song “Human Nature,” stands out from the pack. Built off of a sample of “What You Need,” from Main Source’s 1994 album Fuck What You Think (the subject of the last Sampling Evolution, coincidentally), the song is a dark and brooding response to the flack that the pop star took from her last album, Erotica. Dave Hall speeds up the bassline and overlays some West Coast era keys over the cut. The beat provides a template for the unapologetic lyrics of “Human Nature,” which contained the lyric: “Did I say something wrong? Oops, I didn’t know we couldn’t talk about sex,” and the chorus line “I’m not your bitch, don’t hang your shit on me.”

The song, as well as the video showing a cornrowed Madonna in black latex simulating spanking and bondage, proved too dark for mainstream America. Even though it received heavy rotation on MTV, the song became her lowest charted Billboard single ever, peaking at number 46.

Creatively, however, the song is a masterpiece, pop charts be dammed.