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Top 5 George Michael Songs !
On Christmas 2016, the world lost yet another musical genius. Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, better known as George Michael, nonetheless will forever remain one of pop music's great voices. Despite the fact that his last studio album was released in 2004, his songs are still celebrated around the world and plenty of them hold a special place in my heart. Following Wham!'s split in 1986, he pursued an incredibly successful solo career, taking the world by storm as soon as 1987 with Faith. This seminal pop album marked only the beginning of his solo adventure and four incredible records followed ; Listen Without Prejudice (1990), Older (1996), the covers album Songs from the Last Century (1999) and Patience (2004). An impressive body of work such as his means that any fan will have personal favorites. Here are mine !
Honorable mentions (would have been in my Top 10) : Careless Whisper, Father Figure, Kissing A Fool, Too Funky, Crazyman Dance
5. Waiting For That Day (from Listen Without Prejudice, 1990)
What happens when you mix George Michael with The Rolling Stones ? What you get is the beautiful Waiting For That Day, which appeared on George's second solo album Listen Without Prejudice and was released as its second single, reaching #23 in the UK and #27 in the US. Mixing a part of the melody of the Stones' 1969 classic You Can't Always Get What You Want (with Mick Jagger & Keith Richards even receiving co-writing credits) and using a famous sample from James Brown's Funky Drummer, the track is a haunting midtempo song about regret and the difficulty of starting over following a break-up. The song never fails to get straight to my heart due to its universally appealing message and GM's impressive vocals. As usual, they are spot-on, with the instrumental part reduced to the afromentioned sample and a strumming guitar. There never was an official music video for the song but footage from the singer recording in the studio was thankfully assembled and you can watch it below. I think Waiting For That Day is an underrated gem in the singer's impressive body of work but it definitely deserves your ears !
4. Amazing (from Patience, 2004)
Almost 8 years went by between the release of Older (1996) and GM's latest album of new material, the well-titled Patience (2004). Fans had been eagerly waiting its release and while I consider the album a mixed bag, its first single did not disappoint. A very cheerful and radio-friendly track, Amazing deservedly reached #4 in the UK and rocketed to the top of the US Hot Dance Chart. Written as a love declaration to his then-partner Kenny Goss, the song is one of the singer's most cheerful tracks. The lyrics are as catchy as possible and I always thought it resembled the 1987 classic Faith (more on that one later). The music video seems GM perform the song as an hologram and through a crown in a hip London lounge. I think Amazing still sounds as fresh and joyful as it did upon release and never fails to make me want to dance, or at least it always puts a big smile on my face.
3. Faith (from Faith, 1987)
Perhaps GM's signature song, the Faith album took the world by storm in 1987, eventually selling over 25 million copies worldwide. Fans embraced the album and few missed the Wham! days as it is filled with pop classics that will no doubt endure. My favorite off the album (title track) became the US top selling single of 1988 and reached No. 1 on the Hot 100. Back then, no one was cooler than George Michael. A clever rock and roll pastiche featuring surprisingly simplistic production and an infectious Bo Didley beat, the song and it's video (in which he appears as sort of a leather-clad Elvis parody) helped establish GM as a sex symbol. Being the object of desire of so many would eventually become a burden for him and he would successfully shatter the Faith persona as soon as when the next record came out, 1990's Listen Without Prejudice. Despite that, the song remains one of his most enduring hits and remained a highlight of his live performances for the rest of his career. Clap your hands and sing along !
2. Fastlove (from Older, 1996)
Released a few years following his damaging lawsuit against Sony Music and the AIDS-related death of his lover, Older (1996) was mostly a somber affair, full of powerful ballads but with few uplifting numbers. Nonetheless, the album contains some of the singer's most meaningful work and was a huge commercial success, especially in Europe. The only dance track on the record is a groovy number known as Fastlove, which reached #8 in the US Hot 100 and #1 in the UK. A joyful ode to one night stands (a surprising subject matter considering the time it was released), it features a seductive bass line and powerful horns. The chorus to the Patrice Rushen hit Forget Me Nots was reused near then end of the track to great effect. Fastlove still sounds as fresh today as it did back in 1996 but the accompanying music video looks considerably dated in typical 90's fashion (you can witness it yourself down here). Also worth checking out is GM's impressive accoustic rendition for MTV Unplugged in 1999.
1. Freedom! '90 (from Listen Without Prejudice, 1990)
Freedom '90 is no doubt one of GM's most important songs and my personal favorite of his, released as the third single off my what I consider as his best album, 1990's Listen Without Prejudice. That album was a career-turning point for him as it successfully established him as a serious artist and not just a provocative heartthrob (which he never was but the public perceived him as such mostly due to the I Want Your Sex video). It failed to match the previous album's sales in the US but was a huge hit in the UK. Freedom '90 can be interpreted as a universally appealing message of freedom and self-esteem, as GM's powerful coming-out or simply as his way of distancing himself from the persona he created during the Faith era. A timeless masterpiece, GM notably performed the song during the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics. The music video was directed by David Fincher and it's one of GM's absolute best, despite him not being present in it. A treat for the eyes and ears, the concept is terrific as it features the most glamorous models of the era (including Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford) lipsynching to the song. It never fails to lift my spirits. Gotta have faith in the sound !
George Michael might have left us too soon at age 53, but his music will no doubt live on. He helped shape pop music as we know it today through his infectious compositions and always remained true to himself, handling the intense media attention and controversies with grace. As Janelle Monáe wrote following his untimely passing, he always chose freedom over fear, whether it's regarding his sexual orientation or during his highly published lawsuit against Sony Music. While there are plenty of questions surrounding the reclusive pop star will probably never be answered, there are two things I'm sure of : I'll never forget the man and Last Christmas will never sound the same again.
Thank you for the music !