2016 pulled a fast one on us; after suffering a heart attack on a plane, I thought that Carrie Fisher was going to be the next victim of the year’s relentless assault on beloved celebrities. I was fully prepared for the sad Christmas news that Fisher had passed; the news about her condition was conflicted and part of me kind of respected 2016 for going big – taking Princess Leia from us during the holidays is not an amateur move. That’s kind of baller.
So when my sister-in-law broke the news last night that George Michael had died, I was doubly hit. On the one hand, this was not the news that I was expecting to hear and with all due respect to Ms. Fischer, the news of George Michael’s death was much more painful for me. While I am not much of a Star Wars fan, George Michael was an integral part of the soundtrack of my childhood and early adulthood.
George Michael had an amazing voice; that often gets forgotten due to the attention that his personal life often received, but that man could SING. He was one of the few artists who could make the transition from basically a boy band (Wham!) to a successful adult solo career. He matured as an artist and his sound was always evolving. His album Songs From The Last Century reinterpreted some classic songs; his cover of “Roxanne” transforms into a completely different song in his capable hands. His early stuff may have been the most popular, but I was particularly fond of his dance singles in the mid to late 90s. He was as comfortable singing ballads and he was performing bangers. He was never not good; when I was having a bad day, I would put on Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael and dance it out like Meredith and Christina on Grey’s Anatomy.
It’s sad to think that this talented voice has been silenced.
George Michael also did a lot to influence my early thoughts about homosexuality; he was unabashedly himself and was proud to be an openly gay man at a time when such honestly about your sexuality was no guarantee that you would continue to have commercial success. He was still sexy and masculine even when I realized that he was gay; that seems so obvious now, but at the time this was an important message for people to learn. For young LGBT kids in the 80s and 90s, I imagine this was essential. For me, George Michael helped educate me on the spectrum of sexuality beyond my own experience. Michael was flawed, but that doesn’t diminish his impact.
I’m very sad that we lost George Michael at such a young age. His passing has made me reflect on how important his songs were to me. I’ve spent the last few days since I heard the news going through his catalog and not only listening to my favorite songs but reminding myself of some of his lesser hits that I also really enjoy, even if I haven’t heard them in a while. I probably didn’t appreciate George Michael as much as I should have when he was alive. To celebrate him and his legacy, I’ve compiled the songs that I love the most. Feel free to share your favorites in the comments. Rest in peace, Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou.
- “Fast Love”:
I have friends that cannot hear this song without thinking of me, apparently because I played it so damn much. This is probably my favorite George Michael song of all time. If you hear this song and you don’t want to dance a little, I’m not sure what is wrong with you.
This is probably the closest challenger to “Fast Love” as my favorite George Michael song. Between this video and the video for “Born in the U.S.A.”, I’m pretty sure this solidified my appreciation of a man in a nice pair of jeans.
- “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”:
This is the song that introduced George Michael (and to a lesser degree Andrew Ridgeley) to the world. My god, this video is so quintessentially 80s. I’ve heard this song probably thousands of times and it still makes me smile. That’s a good pop song.
- “I’m Your Man”:
I hadn’t heard this Wham! song in probably two decades, but as soon as I heard the first few notes I was transported back to my childhood.
- “One More Try”:
George Michael just straight up kills this ballad.
- “Freedom ‘90”:
Though George Michael wasn’t publicly out yet, this song solidified my suspicion that he may be more interested in men than women. Between the blowing up of his outfit from “Faith” and the lyrics “Sometimes the clothes do not make the man,” I was only 13 when this song was released, but I just knew.