Review Summary: RIP.Not everybody does it, but everybody should!
George Michael may have been talking about sex, I prefer to misquote him, take his lyric out of context and use it as a rallying cry enticing people to listen to his music.
Though his role as the better half of Wham! earned him fame, stardom, and plenty of money to accompany it (oh and a wee bit of intercourse), George Michael was frustrated with the lack of respect he and guitarist Andrew Ridgley received. Yes, it was bubblegum pop in many ways. Yes, many fans liked them more for their looks than their talent. Still, beneath the vacuous reasons for the mainstream dominance of Wham!, there lied notable justifications for Wham!'s success. George Michael was a formidable vocalist - even his detractors grudgingly admitted this. He also possessed composition and arrangement skills which were on par with some of the best arrangers of the time - he had nothing on Brian Wilson, granted, but there were justifications for his success that expanded far beyond the realm of looks or dance moves. Michael knew that he possessed these talents, and he was frustrated with not being taken seriously - he was frustrated with being shrugged off as a second rate bubblegum duo who only appealed to the audience for superficial reasons.
In 1986 he managed to break away from Wham! (at their peak) to begin a "serious" solo career. Though the validity of the reasons for the breakup are shady at best (if someone truly wants to know the "reason" that Michael cited I can explain it in detail though it has no bearing on this review), it can safely be said that George had been prepared to move on for quite some time and took a management change as the perfect opportunity.
Wham! released a posthumous album in 1986 which still managed to top the charts. After performing Wham!'s farewell concert at London's legendary Wembley stadium, Michael holed up in the studio at the peak of his career and began to record what would come to be recognized as his best album, which still holds to date. The knowledgeable among us would also explain that this still holds a distinguished place as one of the landmark pop albums ever recorded. The knowledgeable are sadly few and far between.
Michael is commonly recognised as one of the stronger vocalists to come out of the 80s pop movement. What is too often dismissed are his writing skills. One of the greatest divisions between 80s and 90s pop icons is that the former group cumulatively possessed the utmost compositional skills of any movement. Michael Jackson and Madonna are traditionally recognised for their talents - George Michael is rarely seen mentioned in conjunction with them. This would be acceptable if he was acknowledged separately, however he is often overlooked. Setting aside his compositional achievements in Wham!, one must look next at Faith
, the blockbuster solo debut that catapulted Michael to levels of superstardom known only to Andrew Ridgley and that one guy who played that role in the movie about the thing.
moves beyond the reputed "teenage" sound of his works with Wham!, into more mature territory musically and more scandalous areas lyrically. Michael wanted to separate himself from the short short days of yore, so he tried to touch on more adult subject matters. He also wants to touch your body. Gone were the frivolous days of rapping about having fun on the dole, and giving your heart away for Christmas - this was a serious artist: "I Want Your Sex Sex with me Sex with me Have sex with me
Right. At least we've hit on the biggest weakness of the album. The lyrics. They are, honest to goodness, no holds barred, God awful. Really, really bad. There are some overlying themes he tries to use to connect the songs, namely parenthood, religion and education. Oh and sex. The two don't mix well together without boding for a case of condoning child diddling. There are no bathroom mentions.
Lyrics aside, the first half of Faith
is one of the strongest A-sides put to record. The alliterated doubleheader of "Faith" and "Father Figure" are enough to make any elocutionist swoon. The rest of the record doesn't fall too far behind. Musically Michael manages to jump from pop coated in R&B to R&B, soul, soft jazz and adult contemporary coated in pop - without jumping the shark. He had always been an artist who could blend genres seamlessly and lucratively - the only other act who could make Isley brother covers fly off the shelf like him were the Beatles. Michael steps this skill up on Faith
. He doesn't leave the pop behind - far from it. But he manages to balance music that sells with music that aurally stimulates. It isn't a unique talent, but Michael managed to do it at a level where no one else could compete.
The "big three" singles of "Faith", "Father Figure" and "I Want Your Sex" are often considered the only ones worth mentioning on this album, but some of the best songs on this album are nestled deep. They don't have the immediate pop appeal of the former three, but "Hand to Mouth", "Look at Your Hands" and "Kissing a Fool" are triumphs. The latter is a notable foray into light vocal jazz, and particularly highlights Michael's versatile voice. The only songs I would consider lacking are the lackluster "One More Try" and the unnecessary "I Want Your Sex Part III". We get it, sex is natural, sex is fun. Sex is good for everyone! We don't need 13 minutes of an album dedicated to it.
accurately displays Michael's versatility in performance, songwriting and arranging. As with any pop album the listener needs to recognise the emphasis is not always placed on creativity or originality, but instead on catchiness and image. When an artist can blend the two extremes and create a unique and inspiring album that still shifts units and brings them the ching ching they must be lauded. Faith
isn't a flawless album, but I've yet to hear a pop album that is. Pop music is built around singles, not coherent flowing albums. The lyrical content is embarrassing, almost to the point where it cannot be overlooked. Still, the melodies and music are interesting and fun to listen to. If you don't take this album seriously, you can have great fun with it.