When one thinks of highlights of 1980s pop, there are a few acts that immediately come to mind. Michael Jackson, Madonna, Duran Duran, and Wham! Like the former three acts, Wham! blended near-perfect pop compositions with style
. It wasn't just about the music. Their performances, videos, fashion and looks were just as important as anything. Fortunately, they also had the songs to back their image up.
Wham! was formed in London in 1979 by childhood friends Andrew Ridgley and George Michael (ne Georgios Kyrriacos Panayiotou). Andrew played guitar, but for all intents and purposes this was George Michael's show. As singer, composer and face of the group, he became one of the biggest stars of the 80s with his revivalist soul meets unabashed pop compositions.
Make it Big
is undoubtedly Wham!'s flagship record. While their debut Fantastic
(they were never one for modest titles) made a dot on the pop map for the duo (singles "Young Guns (Go For It)" and "Club Tropicana" showed definite promise), Michael's subsequent improvement as a songwriter was almost unimaginable after hearing this record. But with the release of Make it Big
- They made it big. During a brief period in 1984 and 1985 they were the biggest band in the world, mostly thanks to the lead single off Make it Big
, "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go". This track holds the honour of being one of the few songs that everyone
knows. In many senses it carried the 80s pop movement as much as "Smells Like Teen Spirit" or "Anarchy in the UK" did for their movements. And don't be fooled - 80s pop was most definitely a major movement. It was associated with a style, with a sound, and aided by the recent development of MTV in the United States, many groups were becoming famous not just for their songs, but for their look and performance capabilities. Still, Wham! managed to separate themselves from the pack in some ways. While most artists of the era were relying on synthesizers as a main instrument, George Michael reached into the past and focused on soul trumpets, slap bass lines and Motown harmonies.
Unfortunately, listening to Make it Big
it becomes obvious that Wham!'s main strength was as a singles band. "Wake Me Up", "Everything She Wants", "Freedom" and "Careless Whisper" - these are fantastic pop songs that are in some senses unrivaled if you consider their importance at the time and impact on the mid-80s music scene. Yet the two filler tracks on this album are terrible. "Like A Baby" and "Credit Card Baby" are next to unlistenable. It is also incredibly cheesy, but it works best if you don't take it seriously.
Despite the two low points, Make It Big
is an album which perfectly captures the sound of a movement. Its worth purchase if only for posterity - its more than worth it if you consider it has some fantastic songs to boot. I only gave it a 3.5/5 - an above average rating, instead of an excellent rating - because of the short track list. When there are only 8 tracks, almost every one should be class. The fact that there are two worthless songs brings it down heavily.