ARTIST OF THE MONTH: GEORGE MICHAEL
October 2, 2017
One of the most groundbreaking, inventive and entertaining artists of the modern era, George Michael was also one of a handful of stars to successfully walk the line from Pop Sensation to Critically Acclaimed Artist.
For these and countless other reasons, George Michael is our Artist of the Month.
When we tragically lost George Michael on Christmas Day, 2016, we didn’t just mourn the passing of an exceptionally talented singer but also a songwriter, performer and producer of considerable merit and note. And, with record sales of 120m worldwide – 28m of those with Wham! – it’s no exaggeration to say that George Michael wasn’t simply a national treasure but a genuine international icon.
Pop can be an ephemeral business at the best of times. The songs and records – and the people who make and sing them – that we hold dear at certain points in our lives are frequently fleeting moments that are, more often than not, the soundtrack to the carefree days of innocence and youth.
And, as we get older and our focuses and responsibilities change to face the challenges that life inevitably throws our way, so many of those songs and artists fall by the wayside.
Not so with George Michael. One facet of George’s true genius was his ability to grow with us and document those changes and expanding obligations that we all face. While Wham! brilliantly captured the exuberance of youth, the forays of his solo work deftly displayed his talent for growth and maturity.
‘Careless Whisper’ showed a new side to his developing songwriting abilities while ‘A Different Corner’ confirmed his maturing talent. In the process, George Michael became the first solo act in the history of the UK singles charts to reach the top slot with his first two releases.
And your growth was his growth, too. It was evident with the release of his first solo album, ‘Faith’, and in the six Top Five singles that made their presence keenly felt on the cultural landscape of the late 1980s. Among them, ‘Faith’ was the sound of an uncertain future being firmly faced with determination. Elsewhere, ‘I Want Your Sex’ emphatically stated the adult status of his incredible talent.
But it was with ‘Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1’ that George Michael truly staked his justified claim that he was an artist of depth and perception. The early 90s proved to be a tough time for a lot of people and it was these fears that George addressed on the lead single, ‘Praying For Time’. This was a songwriter empathising with his audience, expressing just what they, what we, were all feeling.
Likewise, ‘Heal The Pain’ found George once again taking the side of those enduring hard times. Not that this should be viewed as a sombre meditation. As evidenced by ‘Freedom 90’, the record combined a sense of thoughtfulness with a liveliness that belied the contemporary influences of the day.
And, in keeping with Michael’s well honed pop culture instincts, he nodded to Peter Linbergh’s now iconic Vogue cover by surrounding centre stage in the video to supermodels Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Tartjana Patitz and Cindy Crawford.
Given this high standard of art, work, music – whatever you want to call it – it’s little surprise that ‘Listen Without Prejudice Vol 1’ is getting a long-overdue re-release.
Coupled with the much-loved, though long since unavailable, ‘MTV Unplugged’ show 1996 and heralded by the stunning single ‘Fantasy’ with Nile Rodgers, this 3CD + DVD boxset is completed with a 16-track bonus CD of mixes, b-sides and alternate versions and 32-page booklet. The DVD features the ‘Listen Without Prejudice South Bank Show Special’ documentary plus videos.
This is George Michael. An artist who was with you every step of the way.