Synopsis of Pop Music
"Well, it takes a strong man, baby,
But I'm showin' you the door,
'Cause I got to have faith..."
If anyone in the world of pop music can be called a one-man hit machine, it is George Michael. Whether grooving his way through a dance tune like “Monkey” or throwing out all the vocal stops on ballads like “One More Try,” few people could score hits as consistently George Michael. These hits became doubly impressive when it is noted that Michael wrote, produced and often played the majority of the instruments on these songs. These impressive abilities helped make George Michael both an international superstar and one of the world’s most respected pop musicians in the mid-1980’s.
Becoming a pop idol was easy for George Michael, given his perfect training as one half of Wham! This musical duo became famous in the early-to-mid 1980’s by combining modern dance grooves and old-fashioned pop hooks into their own stylish, catchy sound. Songs like “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” and “Careless Whisper” became #1 hits and made Wham! into international hitmakers overnight. In 1986, they decided to split up at the height of their fame to pursue solo careers. Michael immediately went into the studio to record his solo debut, Faith.
At the beginning of 1987, Michael scored a solo success as the duet partner to Aretha Franklin on her soulful hit, “I Knew You Were Waiting For Me.” However, his first true solo work arrived in the summer with “I Want Your Sex,” an oft-misunderstood song about the joys of monogamy that was built on a steady, electronic groove. It soon sailed up the charts to the #2 position, aided in part by a notoriously steamy video that became a favorite on MTV. Although this song would later appear on Faith, it got its first exposure on the soundtrack of the Eddie Murphy film Beverly Hills Cop II.
In November of 1987, George Michael released the long-awaited Faith album, an impressive collection of dance songs and ballads that were all written and produced by Michael. He also performed the majority of the musical backing by himself. It landed its first hit in December with “Faith,” a danceable pop song with a rockabilly sound. By early 1988, Faith was topping the charts around the world. The sultry ballad “Father Figure” became another #1 hit for this album as Michael began a wildly successful world tour. From Australia to the U.S. to Japan, it found success at every stop.
In early 1988, George Michael won his first Grammy for his performance on “I Knew You Were Waiting For Me.” By the summer, he had topped both the r&b and pop charts with his moody, soulful ballad “One More Try.” In the fall, the frenetic electro-dance track “Monkey” became Faith’s fourth #1 single. Michael also hit the Top-5 with one more ballad, “Kissing A Fool.” The next year, Faith won three awards at the American Music Awards as well as the Best Album honor at the 1989 Grammy Awards. It also became the first album by a white solo artist to top the r&b charts.
George Michael returned to the pop charts in 1990 with Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1. Like Faith, it was written and produced entirely by Michael and became a multi-platinum hit. The atmospheric ballad “Praying For Time” struck a chord with Gulf War-conscious listeners and soon became a #1 hit single. Michael also went Top-10 that year with “Freedom ‘90,” a funky dance tune that featured a variety of supermodels lip-synching to Michael’s vocal in its unique video. In 1991, “Waiting For That Day” went Top-30 and its B-side “Mother’s Pride” also became a radio favorite.
At the end of 1991, Michael scored another duet hit when he joined childhood hero Elton John for a live version of “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down Me.” In 1992, George Michael performed at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert organized by the surviving members of Queen. His set was recorded and and was released the next year as an extended-play single entitled Five Live. The EP did well and spawned a Top-30 hit with Michael’s cover of the Queen classic “Somebody To Love.” However, Michael did not release a new album during this time due to a lengthy lawsuit with Columbia Records.
George Michael settled his lawsuit in late 1995. The next year, he returned with his first new album in six years, Older. It quickly scored Top-10 hits with the lush ballad “Jesus To A Child” and the slow-grooving r&b of “Fastlove,” helping sell over six million album copies. In 1998, Michael released an impressive double-disc hits collection called Ladies and Gentlemen: The Best Of George Michael. The foreign version featured a cover of the Stevie Wonder classic “As,” performed as duet with Mary J. Blige. It became a hit overseas and was an in-demand import in the U.S.
The new century began with a new album for George Michael. Appropriately entitled Songs For A New Century, it consisted of cover songs from all different decades of 20th-century pop music. The album was another success, proving that whether he's singing classics or his own self-created hits, George Michael is a consummate pop performer.
Artist Release History1987 - Faith
1990 - Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1
1996 - Older
1998 - Older & Upper
1998 - Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George...
1999 - Songs from the Last Century
Pop Sub Categoriespop
Essential Music AlbumsFaith (Columbia)
Ladies and Gentlemen: The Best Of George Michael (Epic)