New York City can be tantalizing. The twinkling lights, the sheer cavalcade of steel structures rising around your feet and the hustle ‘n bustle of everyday living have been immortalized in such silver screen motion pictures as The Godfather, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Taxi Driver. Its dreamy idealisms are also toasted in song, from Billie Holiday’s “Autumn in New York” to Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind” and Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind.” Michael Jackson, one of the most influential pop storytellers of all time, paid tribute to the City That Never Sleeps, as well, with his smoldering ballad “Human Nature,” lifted from his landmark, blockbuster-selling 1982 studio album Thriller. The song, in which he muses on the beauty of the concrete jungle and wanting to take a bite (because it is just human nature), became the fifth single from the disc and a Top 10 Billboard hit.
The track has been covered or sampled by nearly everyone, including John Mayer, Chris Brown, Miles Davis and Stevie Wonder. Now, Netflix Lost & Found actor Levi Randall (who goes by VACAY for his musical endeavors) offers up his own rendering, stripping away the polished shell of the original for a raw, guitar and violin-based performance. “As a kid, I remember the first time hearing ‘Human Nature.’ What struck me was its beautiful melody and Michael’s delivery of the song,” reflects Randall about the song–his version premieres exclusively today (below).
He continues, “His quivering vibrato perfectly captured the pleading question ‘why?’ The answer to the question ‘why?’ in the song is ‘tell them that it’s human nature.’ It seems so simplistic, but it has truth to it. Every interaction between people reveals both the potential for love but also the potential to destroy what we love. The song captures the relatable feeling of being anxious, in your own head and just needing to get out and go somewhere. It paints the picture of you taking a journey across the city to cope with some of life’s toughest questions.”
When Randall sings “if this town is just an apple, let me take a bite,” there is a weighty sorrow, somehow, in his voice as he unravels the narrative in a starkly lit backdrop. His ringing “why”s, too, seem to carry the brunt of the world’s tragedy, in only a straight-forward but powerful way. “Electric eyes are everywhere,” he later surmises. There is profound beauty in simplicity, and Randall truly excels here.
Take a spin: