Review Summary: An album for healing and artistic progression.
“Jesus To A Child” is a powerful opener, and it’s not just because of its deviated shift into dispirited and sombre presentations; the track holds deep emotional scarring and weight that, at the time, went over the music goers’ heads. George Michael is one of the greats – he’s up there with the likes of David Bowie and Michael Jackson for delivering a unique brand of revolutionary and innovative songwriting without hesitation. An omnipotent skill set that’s used to instantaneously pull the listener into any given mood George sees fit. The soul and solemn passion that seeps from every performance of his is simply unmatched, and it’s on Older
where we see this true potential fruitfully blossoming. In a nutshell, this album is a vast departure from previous successes: out with bright, synthesised production stylings in favour of a much more organic sound palate that continues to redefine Michael as an artist. There’s a much darker tone set here, an aesthetic that’s chiselled out of various string and horn arrangements, subtly and thematically nodding to the warm humanity Older
is offering here, and its jazz-y undertones become a perfect marriage with its production and dour vocal work.
Of course, this sonic endeavour isn’t a coincidence, there’s a reason Older
was made the way it was, and it explains more than simply scratching artistic narcissisms. A lot happened to George in between the release of Listen Without Prejudice Vol.1
, the most superficial, yet affecting nonetheless, was the hellish lawsuit he went through with his record label; a lawsuit he fervently fought tooth and nail to win because of, what he thought was, the label’s inability to support his artistic vision. Though he eventually got released from the label, he did actually lose the lawsuit. This will have had a detrimental effect on his outlook at the time, but the main reason for this album’s creation stems from a far more meaningful subject. Indeed, without beating around the bush, it’s a subtle commentary on his own sexuality; coming to terms with his sexual orientation in a nuanced fashion. The biggest factor for this theme most likely comes from the person this album is dedicated to: his unspoken lover and soulmate, Anselmo Felepp, who tragically died from an Aids related disease in 1993. “Jesus To A Child” is a poignant and heart-wrenchingly cryptic documentation of Felepp’s death and Michael’s coping with the events. And yet, even with the distressing tone coming from his pained voice, there’s a brave and positive message to be taken from it all which is that even though he’s had it taken away from him, at least he got to experience and cherish those precious moments with him – and that they’ll always be there for him when he’s feeling low.
“Fastlove” is indicative of the concepts pertained to “Jesus To A Child”, taking the “I thought I’d never feel the same about anyone or anything again”
line with reactionary consequences for “Fastlove”, asserting his feelings on the matter in search of disposable love without any strings attached. It also happens to be the most upbeat number here; a kind of cynical triumph that sees him moving on, albeit in a somewhat destructive fashion. Lyrically and stylistically the songs here are career defining achievements. It’s not hard to see why George regarded this album as his opus in music: it’s an extremely mature experience that masterfully builds on the misfortunes bestowed on those five years leading up to Older
, and there’s not a moment of let-up in the process. It’s slick, brooding and serves up some of the finest vocal performances of his career – ala the spine-tingling harmonies on “Spinning the Wheel” or the cradled lullabies of “The Strangest Thing”, it’s all top-tier stuff. It’s a style of album that walks along a tightrope of ethereal and lethargic qualities, creating a very distinct sound. It has a spiritual feeling to it, with weighty depression crushing these smooth numbers. Older
is the equivalent to someone with severe depression putting on a brave face – it’s a rare case in pop and something you seldom hear from the genre. But that’s what makes this album so essential; stylistically it’s a far cry from what he’d made previous, but it’s also an important statement – a remedy and healing process – for what had built up. George Michael was never one to sit on his laurels, and this album is technically just another day in moving forwards, but the content on here should definitely be recognised as being his bravest and finest hour.
SPECIAL EDITION: N/A
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