The Crossover

Google Images: George Michael Faith Era

December 25 2016, Christmas Day Singer George Michael passed away. In his home in the United Kingdom. October 30th will mark the 30th anniversary of his debut solo album “Faith” in 1987 when his album arrived George was already a mega superstar. Coming off his success being a part of duo Wham!

He was a different kind of pop artist, he was one of the very few that crossed over  from Pop to the R&B music charts. That was my formal introduction to George Michael music. In Buffalo NY on the urban radio station 93.7 WBLK. Songs from George first solo album faith was played a lot on my hometown radio station.

Songs like “Father figure, One more try, Monkey, Hard day, Kissing a fool” (Quiet Storm Gem). All received airplay on urban radio in my hometown and other urban radio stations across the country. He received what they call the blue eyed soul treatment. Think pop artists Justin Timberlake and Sam Smith songs being apart of R&B and urban AC radio charts.

George even at one time won an American Music Award in best male Soul/R&B artist. In this day and age and even back then. To see a white male pop artist dominate and win in this category. Traditionally a genre dominated by African American artists.

To see George win in the category not once but twice. Ruffled some feathers back then and would right now if he won today in the same category. Looking back I thought then and still right now feel that George Michael just made some good music.

Even music from his early days in Wham! They produced some good songs “Careless Whisper, Everything She Wants” (Classic). Faith was a good album from top to bottom. Back then artists like George created bodies of work where pretty much every song on the album could be a single. Even though he was a white man from London. He had soul, can’t deny it.

Take the song “One More Try” soulful lyrics and soulful undertone. The biggest standout on the album. Throughout the album you could hear the influences of the soul music that George grew up on as a child.

Showtime Just recently aired a documentary called Freedom. Celebrating George Michael second album “Listen without Prejudice Vol 1” (also a great album). The documentary also detailed the trials and tribulations of his life and career.

In the doc, George summarized how he felt when we he kept winning in the traditional African American music categories. He totally understood the feedback and backlash he received from the critics.

Which is what led to his second album. Which as I mentioned is a great album and also ahead of it’s time. It still had it soulful moments “Freedom 90, They Won’t Go When I Go, Cowboys & Angels”

But you can tell a significant difference between Faith and LWOP. The reason for the album title is that George wanted people to listen to his music and enjoy it and not prejudge, just listen.

Also at the time fame and celebrity was becoming to much for George. And that is when his obscurity from celebrity started to manifest into him becoming a reclusive artist.

Then led him on to his battle with Sony records for being signed up a to a bogus contract. This is where George and the rest us learned that an artist does not have the freedom (Pardon the pun) To be the artist the way they wanted to be.

If George Michael was a new and up coming recording in 2017 he would thrive as a independent artist. Think Frank Ocean, not comparing their music. But their music personality is the same.

Like George, Frank solo debut was critically acclaimed and Frank is a reclusive artist. It was a four year stretch between his first and second album. And it didn’t hurt him in the long run. Fans waited patiently when Frank dropped his second album.

In 1990, fans didn’t understand the absence of George not being in his own videos or on his album cover. By industry standards that was a no-no. Now in 2017 an artist like Frank Ocean make the rules and release music when he wants and how he wants.

Can’t help but to think if it wasn’t for artists like George Michael going to battle with Sony records and Prince who also during the same time in the 1990s was going to war with Warner Brothers records. How much difference there were be today in music.

Now artists have the choice of independence, or being signed to a label. Because of streaming, artist have more control of when and where they release their music.

And most importantly artist of today has the artistic choice to make the music in any genre they please. Of course you will always have the critics. But at the end of day music is universal and for everyone to enjoy.

That is what George was trying to do. He wanted to make music for the world and on his own accord.

R.I.P George Michael 1963 - 2016


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