Pandemic Playlist: George Michael's songs on sexuality will keep you pumped through Pride Month 2020
We're 10 days into Pride Month 2020, and surrounded by positive stories of supporters and members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Decade after decade, the world has seen substantial changes in accepting people with different sexual preferences, but what about celebrities who were open about their sexuality and beliefs at a time when the world was not so accepting?
On today's Pandemic Playlist, we honor English singer, songwriter, record producer and philanthropist, George Michael, who rose to fame as a member of the music duo, Wham! but embarked on a solo career soon after. Michael sold over 80 million records worldwide making him one of the greatest musicians of all time. But the success didn't ensure that he was safeguarded against community backlash, legal trouble and political pressure. At the age of 19, Michael revealed to Wham! bandmate Andrew Ridgeley that he was bisexual, and faced his fair share of challenges, but continued to let his music be an ambassador of his beliefs.
Check out our top five George Michael songs here:
Co-written with his Wham! bandmate, Ridgeley, 'Careless Whisper' has remained one of Michael's greatest love songs of all time. The pair had written it together in the early stages of their musical career in 1981 at Watford, when they were just 17.
An artiste whose thinly veiled gay resonances ran across the majority of his tracks, Michael spoke of its success to People, which he claimed later, had even surprised him. “I don’t know why it made such an impression… But it’s ironic that I wrote it when I was 17, and didn’t know much about anything. Certainly nothing much about relationships,” he said. In the song, Michael's ambiguous expression about his choice in gender for romance allowed listeners across the sexuality spectrum to relate to his story of a love lost carelessly.
'Everything She Wants'
In his 20s, Michael publicly identified as bisexual, but his lyrics with the Wham! track 'Everything She Wants' made his preferences confusing to audiences. Explicitly singing about a woman, with lyrics such as, "Boy, everything she wants is everything she sees / I guess I must have loved you / Because I said you were the perfect girl for me" and “I don’t even think that I love you”, Michael let many straight listeners identify with not loving a particular woman. But for him, the personal conflict was more than that. It wasn't until 1991 that Michael realized that men stirred deeper feelings in him than women. 'Everything She Wants' captured that evolutionary point in Michael's discovery of his own sexual identity – from what is expected to what he wanted.
Reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 , number 11 on the UK Singles Chart, as well the Top 5 Hit List in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, Ireland, the Netherlands and Spain, Michael's solo track 'Father Figure' (released in 1987) touched on a subject rarely spoken about. The song played on the way a man in love can take on a paternal role, encouraging and inspiring his partner. Taking on the sensitive subject of "daddy issues", which many could relate to, the song saw Michael placing himself in the role of the father figure as he eased the pains of his male lover's said issues. Alienation and rejection is a hurt that not only gay men are isolated to feel. Michael understood this, and through his song, elevated the role of a father to a place of comfort.
'I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)'
While music kept evolving with time, Michael's way with words still carried a certain optimism, which could also apply to the chaotic year 2020.
Featuring Aretha Franklin, 'I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)', released in 1987, may not be your proverbial gay anthem or explore LGBTQIA+ topics, but it certainly rings catchy. It's not even one of his most spoken of hits, but there is something about its snappy '80s synths, over transcending vocals that just has us lit up. Michael and collaborator Franklin sing lyrics like, "So we were drawn together through destiny, ooh boy, ooh / I know this love we share was meant to be, oh" and "When the river was deep, I didn't falter / When the mountain was high, I still believed / When the valley was low, it didn't stop me, no no / I knew you were waiting, I knew you were waiting for me", in this hopeful track.
Michael's video for 'Outside' (1998) mocks the way queer men are held to different standards about sex. Straight rock stars reportedly have sex with groupies in bathrooms "all the time" without police interference, and 'Outside' courageously defends the concept of cruising – the act of searching a public place in pursuit of a partner for sex.
But the song has a deep personal history and legal battle behind it. In 1998, Michael was arrested for "engaging in a lewd act" in a public restroom in Beverly Hills, California. Michael was caught by an undercover policeman, Marcelo Rodríguez, in a sting operation using the "pretty police". In an MTV interview, Michael had later revealed, "I got followed into the restroom and then this cop – I didn't know it was a cop, obviously – he started playing this game, which I think is called, I'll show you mine, you show me yours, and then when you show me yours, I'm going to nick you!"
After pleading "no contest" to the charge, Michael was fined $810, and sentenced to 80 hours of community service. Soon afterwards, Michael made a video for his single "Outside", which satirised this public toilet incident and featured men dressed as policemen kissing.
Pandemic Playlist is a daily list of songs to keep you entertained instead of feeling drained while you're isolated at home. Look out for a fresh selection of great tunes from MEAWW to refresh your mood every day!