“Faith” by George Michael (1987)
You can say whatever you want about George Michael, but he probably won’t care. He is one of the top male vocalists of all time having sold over 100 million albums now. The pioneering album ‘Faith’ has now sold over 25 million copies world-wide, won the Grammy for ‘album of the year’, and spun off 5 top-5 singles. The other notable thing about this album is that he was the first caucasian artist to hit number one on the R&B chart – which I think is what George is most proud of. This really was a monumental album representing the best of the 80’s from a writing and technical perspective and a social commentary. It has stood the test of time and is still a very listenable album. I am not saying it is the best ‘80’s album, but it is pretty damn good.
Born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, in London, his father was a Greek restaurateur who had moved to England in the ‘50’s and changed his name to Jack Michael. George grew up in North London and met Andrew Ridgeley at Bushey Meads School, who later became the core members of ‘Wham!”.
George was tired of not being taken seriously in teenybopper group ‘Wham!’ with such songs as “Wake Me Up (Before You Go Go) and “Careless Whisper”, He decided to go solo. He was very serious – and spent most of 1987 writing and recording. Using the then revolutionary Synclavier 9600 Tapeless Studio, Michael successfully pioneered his nightclub sexual energy into his first digital recordings.
The first song off the album, the 3-part “I Want Your Sex” was banned in the U.K. and the U.S. until a ‘clean-up’ version propelled the album to the top of the charts quickly followed by “Faith”.
When George was laying down the tracks for this album, his publicist Dick Leahy said “George had just a bit of an intro, the intro to the track Faith. I told him, in the ‘50s all we did was you go into a guitar lick, you go back to the bridge, and then into the chorus. Two and a half minutes. So why not make a ‘50’s record? Next day I went to the studio and he played me ‘Faith’. He said, “You mean like that?” Cheeky sod!”
A lot of press and promotional appearances later and other singles followed including “Father Figure”, “One More Try”, ”Hard Day” and “Monkey”. If you want to blame someone for the whole ‘stubble’ look, George should definitely be at the top of your list with his hoodlum designer chic.
‘Faith’ is influenced largely by funk and the music of Prince, there are elements of R&B – old school stuff like Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye as well as blues, mostly with a strong beat like Bo Diddly on this album. The songs are thoughtful clever and much more mature than “Wham!” ever was.
1990’s “Listen Without Prejudice” paled in comparison to ‘Faith’, it kind of had nowhere to go. His“Songs from the Last Century” (1999) is a pretty thoughtful and well done snapshot of some of the best songs over the previous century.