Sunday, August 26, 2012

Blast from the Past: George Michael & Wham!

Image from Wikipedia

I got the idea for a George Michael edition of Blast from the Past as I get many of them: on my walk while listening to Pandora. George Michael is one of my favorite artists, and one of several who is an amazing talent but who has had a difficult time breaking out beyond his heyday. Like Pat Benatar, Cyndi Lauper and Olivia Newton-John, he has his big "hit period," and then dribs and drabs. You could probably even put Michael Jackson into that category. With George, some of the problem was him being his own worst enemy. And as with Jackson, sadly, his latter career has been known more for controversy than it is for his music.

But this is about his glory days, so here are some of my favorite George Michael songs, both as a solo artist, duet partner and with Wham!

1. Wake Me Up Before You Go Go - Undoubtedly the first song most Americans knew him for, this way gay video should have alerted fans to his sexuality years and years before he announced. Those short-shorts! It's a silly, but ridiculously catchy song.

2. Careless Whisper - This one solidified Wham! as more than a novelty act, though it's actually billed as a solo song.

3. Freedom - When the tunes kept flowing from the provocatively titled Make it Big, we thought Wham! was here to stay.

4. I'm Your Man - There were several hits I'm skipping over, but by the time Music from the Edge of Heaven came out, Wham! was almost finished, even it was only their second hit album in the US.We should have known Michael would strike out on his own, since A Different Corner from this same record was his second solo tune on his group's albums.

5. I Knew You Were Waiting - This duet with Aretha Franklin (who was then enjoying a pop music comeback) served as the transition between Wham! and Michael's solo career. And it was a huge hit.

6. Faith - Though we thought he was cute before, Faith was the album that launched Michael as a sex symbol. With this tune, and the one below, his sexiness was a strong selling point.

7. I Want Your Sex - This song actually preceded Faith, having been part of the Beverly Hills Cop II soundtrack. With jaw-dropping lyrics at the time, this left Michael's squeaky-clean image on the floor amongst the sweaty, soiled sheets. Watch the video, you'll see what I mean. But it also seemingly set Michael on a self-loathing jag, a few years later.

8. Monkey - This might have been the last "George Michael is sexy" video. I just wanted to be able to dance like him. The song is not as impressive on the album, but was remixed for the single, and that version is the one used in the video.

9. Kissing a Fool - I'm skipping over several more hits, but this one always hit a soft spot for me. Anyone with unrequited love could sing along with this one, and really feel it at the crescendo before the end. This was a real showcase for Michael's voice.

10. Freedom 90 - Using the title of one of the early songs, this was where Michael started hating his sex appeal--maybe because he was selling it as straight sex appeal?--and wouldn't even appear in his own videos. No matter, this is still a fantastic video, with supermodels and still lots o' sexy.

11. Too Funky - Still (mostly) shying from the camera, this one (from the AIDS charity album, Red, Hot & Blue) has always been one of my very favorites.

12. Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me - Michael's duet with Elton John seemed almost inevitable.

13. FastLove - This is the last song I remember dancing to on the dancefloor. Of course, that might be because I'm an elderly shut-in who doesn't go out any more (hah!). The dance remix was fun though, I remember that.

14. Outside - When Michael's scandals started to outshine his music, he still managed to be cheeky about it. This video--after his arrest for public lewdness--managed to laugh it off.

And at twelve tunes, I think we've got more than enough, even though I've left out some winners like One More Try, Father Figure, Praying for Time, and Everything She Wants. Any more, and this will take too long to load in your browser, and you'll just leave the page anyway! So, that will do it for this week. Happy Monday!

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