GEORGE MICHAEL, the cool troubadour of pop and soul, has learned a thing or three about the fickle nature of love, corporate and otherwise.
“Older,” his first full-length recording since 1990, shows Michael very much at the top of his game: the voice that launched a thousand heartaches is still by turns plaintive and powerful. What’s changed is his outlook. The man who once told us “you gotta have faith, faith, faith” has had his own faith sorely tested.
AS A SOLO performer, Michael reflected the depth of Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder as vocal influences, with he and such singers as Lisa Stansfield and Paul Young giving the term “black music” some very flexible interpretations. “Faith,” Michael’s breakthrough 1987 solo album, elevated him to heartthrob status. The songs “Faith” and “Father Figure” topped the charts, and such brazen entreaties as “I Want Your Sex” upset various pillars of morality — all of which should have pleased the powers at Columbia, Michael’s former record label.
Perhaps the trouble started with “Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1″ (1990), the album that found Michael moving musically in a more reflective, arguably less commercial direction.
You'd think that, having achieved such a creative emancipation proclamation, any new release would be an upbeat, high-fiving affair. But it’s almost impossible to listen to any of the 11 “Older” songs — which he wrote and produced — without thinking of the complexities of his recent past. This year’s model of George Michael is chastened, hardened, sobered — a man in a minor key. ...
Read the full review from Salon, May 20, 1996
Image credit: Michael: Dave J Hogan/Getty Images. "Older" cover: © 1996 DreamWorks Records. Salon logo: © 2016 Salon Media Group.