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GEORGE MICHAEL

THE PRE- EMINENT SONGWRI T ER O F H I S ERA, L ESS WAS D EFINI T ELY MORE DURING THE FORMER WHAM! S TAR’S SOLO CAREER
© Michael Putland/Getty Images

”AS A SHOWCASE FOR THE DIVERSITY OF GEORGE’S SONGWRITING, FAITH WAS IMPECCABLE”

Few, if any, artists have made the transition from teen idol to mature solo artist in the way George Michael managed with debut album, Faith.

As a showcase for the diversity of his songwriting, it was impeccable – Faith seamlessly moves through the gears of tough R&B, homage rock’n’roll, soulful balladry and sparkling electro-pop.

By the time George called time on Wham!, he’d already proved himself as a sophisticated balladeer with Careless Whisper and A Different Corner while a subsequent hook-up with Elton John and an emboldening duet with Aretha Franklin showed that Michael was now elevated to the heights of the music world’s biggest stars.

As a statement of intent about his new direction, the audacity of making I Want Your Sex the fi rst single from Faith remains impressive. While its plea for monogamy was lost in translation amid George’s sexualised grunting, the song still gave the star a No.3 hit in the UK singles chart and enough notoriety to make the biggest of media splashes. But Faith’s nine songs were far more than a buttonpressing exercise in baiting the Establishment; its opening title track is an irresistible slice of upbeat 50s-infl uenced rock’n’roll – intro’d by a church organ playing the refrain of Wham!’s Freedom – the death knell on his former life had been sounded.

Essentially a Bo Diddley homage with a wonderfully concise rockabilly-style twanging guitar solo, by the end of 1988 Faith was the biggest-selling single of the year in the US.

Similarly styled to stress the move away from his teen idol image, the hushed Father Figure details a man in turmoil; by now, Michael was beginning to write more personal lyrics. The song explains his confusion over his sexuality: “That’s all I wanted/ But sometimes love can be mistaken for a crime.” A tastefully arranged gospel choir adds nuance to one of George’s best ballads.

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About Classic Pop

In the latest issue, we have an exclusive interview with synth pioneers Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark as they celebrate 40 years of marrying art with pop. Elsewhere, we welcome back Simply Red – Mick Hucknall talks us through new album Blue Eyed Soul and Classic Pop speaks to Prince’s inner circle as the Purple One’s wonderful 1999 LP gets a revelatory boxset treatment. Our classic album this month is Peter Gabriel’s iconic So, the perfect union of pop and World music that made the former Genesis frontman a global star. There’s a dash of Acid Jazz funkiness as we meet Incognito and The Brand New Heavies plus we hear from Bruce Hornsby about how Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon has given him some latter-day hipster cachet. We take an in-depth look at the solo back catalogue of George Michael in our Album By Album feature and also hear from Midge Ure about his 1980 Tour and brand new career retrospective compilation. In our extensive reviews section, we put new albums from the likes of A-ha’s Magne Furuholmen, Anna Of The North, Alphabeat, The Wonder Stuff and David Hasselhoff under the microscope and there’s a bumper crop of reissues including that huge Prince boxset, Rick Astley, The Police, Sparks, David Bowie, Simple Minds, Factory Records and much more. Our books special includes reviews of Prince’s autobiography The Beautiful Ones, Andrew Ridgeley’s George & Me plus Debbie Harry’s Face It and more. For live reviews, we head to Hyde Park for Radio 2’s Festival In A Day – headlined by Pet Shop Boys – and elbow our way down the front for shows by xPropaganda/D:uel, Tanita Tikaram, The International Teachers Of Pop and Morten Harket.