One of the best singers of all time and no such list available to guide music-lovers to get to know his best hits. George Michael, who died on Sunday (Dec. 25) at the far-too-young age of 53, was almost certainly the most under-appreciated pop star of MTV’s first decade. Not at the time, of course — with ten Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles in nine years between his solo career and his work with early co-conspirator Andrew Ridgeley in Wham!, along with one diamond-selling album in 1987’s Faith, at least we can say that the singer/songwriter/sex symbol was as contemporaneously beloved as a man of his peerless pop talents deserved.
Beginning back in 1981, George Michael, along with his partner Andrew Ridgeley, formed the group Wham! The UK group had its first hit in 1982 with “Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do)” a pop riff on the emerging rap music genre, following in the footsteps of Blondie’s 1980 his “Rapture.” That song, from Wham!’s debut album “Fantastic,” set the group up for one of its biggest hits, “Bad Boys,” which introduced the world to the group’s ’50s motorcycle gang leather jacket and pompadour look merged with a slick British pop sound.
But the true fame came with the release of the second album – Make it Big in 1984, which included such hits as “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” “Careless Whisper,” “Freedom,” “Last Christmas” and “Everything She Wants” which stay loved and recognized even until now.
However band success didn’t stop Michael’s goals, and he successfully started his solo career from 1987 with his first solo album – Faith. George Michael fully embraced his image as a sex symbol, using the rapidly expanding medium of music video to front his songs “Father Figure,” “Faith,” “I Want Your Sex,” “One More Try” (perhaps one of George Michael’s best recorded vocal performances).
With the death on Christmas Day of George Michael, pop music has lost a genius and a maverick. Having achieved fame as one half of the conventionally commercial Wham! Michael would across his career refuse to be defined by the expectations of the music industry.
He was equally comfortable baring his soul on aching ballads and delivering throwaway pop, though even his breeziest moment contained glimmerings of the melancholy that rippled through both his life and music.