With the death of pop icon George Michael, many in our community felt a loss akin to Bowie or Prince. But with only a smattering of singles over the past 15 years, there are many of us who only recognize random singles from pop culture or ( gasp! ) their parents. It's with great sadness and reverence that we break down GM's eight most important recorded moments for the lovers and the newbies.
1982, "Wham! Rap!" It made no impact as their debut single, but was groundbreaking when 19-year-old George Michael pushed forward with a still-underground black genre into the UK market. Only Blondie's "Rapture" pre-dated him in a white audience's exposure to hip-hop. It wouldn't be until the following year, when it was reissued, that it would finally chart in the UK, and then again with a new version in 1986.
1984, "Careless Whisper/Last Christmas" By now Wham! was a phenomenon on both sides of the pond with "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go," but "Careless Whisper" and "Last Christmas" helped the band cross over from teenie-bopper girl favorite to a crossgender contender. Both singles represented something more mature, even thought Michael wrote "Careless Whisper" in high school. It would go on to be the anthem for every school dance, and "Last Christmas" is a modern holiday classic that rivals Mariah Carey's crown any day.
1986, "A Different Corner" Released on Wham's last album, "A Different Corner" was really Michael's coming out as a solo artist. When the single came out, it was listed as George Michael, not Wham!, and he never looked back. It was not only written solo, but performed and produced solo, something only Stevie Wonder and Prince were doing at the time.
1987, "I Want Your Sex" After the mournful, delicate "Corner" was turned, Michael turned us all out with a song so brazenly sexual, it was banned by the BBC and some US stations, which, of course, pushed it to the top of the charts and helped set the table for the diamond-selling Faith LP, which blew away any of his past group achievements with ease. At this point, the gay icon was still pushing his heterosexuality onto us with his nude girlfriend in the video, but we all knew …
1990, "Freedom '90" Three years, ten million albums, and seven Top Ten hits later, George was ready to put his music in the spotlight ( instead of his tight bum ) by shunning the peak of the music video craze. After refusing a video for the previous single, "Praying For Time," "Freedom '90" rounded up the hottest collection of the queens of supermodelry to stand in for George, lip-synching his cut and burning his iconic jacket. The video was bigger because of his exclusion. However, with less avenues of promotion, the superior second solo album didn't live up to Faith's success, but remains to this day the fan favorite.
1991, "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" with Elton John. Recorded at Live Aid, this was the third charting version of this classic. It would go on to dominate the singles chart that year, but would be known as George's final number one US hit, as well as his return MTV.
1996, "Fastlove" Six years had passed since Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1, and Vol. 2 was a mystery. Since then, George had battled his record company and showed how it aged him with the obviously mature album, Older. But despite the title, the second single was decidedly youthful. Rick Astley may have kept the disco flame alive, but George Michael set it on fire by making it relevant and new ( along with Jamiroquai ) for a permanent comeback. Pop and dance owe so much to the style and production of "Fastlove" and we owe George for slowly coming out with his first two very gay singles. Unbelievably, this was George's last charting US single, period.
1998, "Outside" As gay as some of Older was, it wasn't until "Outside" and getting caught having public sex that George Michael really did come out. While we all knewand he should have come out fully a decade or so beforewe loved that he not only made a video addressing it, but also embraced his "outdoor" activity and made light of it. The video, with its disco urinals, is a thing of cheapness and beauty! After that cork had been pulled, he had no issue speaking his mind and releasing the music he wanted to on his terms, though with decreasing frequency and consistency.
Recently, rumors of new material with Naughty Boy gave us all new hope, and with that hope maybe we can get our iconic George Michael back on the charts for "One More Try."