Everyone, apart from Andy Kershaw it seems, misses George Michael. Someone who could write and sing heart-wrenching ballads and uptown party bangers was someone who will always be loved. As the last song on this list suggests.
Wham! Rap (Enjoy What You Do)
“Hey everybody, take a look at me/I’ve got street credibility.” With the announcement of those words, everybody decided 1) He had the opposite 2) He had written a hymn to selfishness, shallowness and materialism. It would take a while for George to prove them wrong on all counts, often doing it covertly in terms of his donations. But as far as capturing the blue-eyed funk which only a select few ‘80s bands managed, alongside Spandau’s Chant No 1, Haircut 100’s Favourite Shirts, Level 42’s The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up), it’s a pretty good calling card for George and Andrew.
Freedom ’90 gets all the love because the video had a eating disorder (is that the collective noun?) full of supermodels and it was covered by Robbie Williams but the first Freedom had the same joyous swing that the other singles in Wham!’s imperial phases did – Edge of Heaven, I’m Your Man and Wake Me Up, Before You Go Go.
Boogie Box High – Jive Talkin’
George was a huge Bee Gees fan and released this under a pseudonym which was a very ‘80s/Prince thing to do. The original has a wonderful New York train track style inspired by the commute the Gibb brothers took to work with Arif Mardin. This one though has a vocal from George.
There’s something about the Arabic keyboard, chorus build and the switches in styles – it’s a smouldering R’n’B ballad, it’s a gospel epic, it’s a torch song. It could be to a man or a woman. To clarify: just because GM sings: “Put your tiny hand in mine”, that does not make it about Donald Trump.
Heaven Help Me
From the same era as Faith, this is not a George Michael track but one by his bassist Deon Estus, who also worked with Marvin Gaye. But listen to it. The backing vocals. The pleading sensitivity. The fact it was a hit. (US Top Five US). George Michael fingerprints.
Something to Save
There isn’t really a duff track on Listen Without Prejudice (Vol 1) although the further away it gets from Statement Pop, like Praying for Time, the better it is. This again has GM’s hallmark sound – simple, direct and beautifully sung. And a cello. Wham! Rap doesn’t have a cello.
I Can’t Make You Love Me
Second cover on the list and it takes certain cojones to take on a Bonnie Raitt song. It was this version that convinced countless X Factor and Idol wannabes to think they could do the song justice. The Singing Greek could but the rest of them…
What do you do when you’ve been tarred and feathered by the world’s press with the help of the Los Angeles Police Department? You do a comeback with a disco stormer which doesn’t ignore the whole thing but tackles it head on complete with revolving urinals on to the dancefloor.
The idea of losing love and finding it again when you have written the prospect off is quite inspiring. When you turn it into a song catchier than a February cold, that’s a beautiful gift. Wasn’t just Kenny Goss who was amazing. The person singing it was all right.
You Have Been Loved
The song, version here from 2014’s Symphonica, is tremendously moving in the way that only true simplicity can be. It was about his lost love Anselmo when written. Then it was about Diana when she died. And now it could be about the loss of anyone. Like George Michael.