Another original and unique voice has been silenced with the death of George Michael. Just in case you have forgotten, this dude was soulful as hell, and once he shook that Wham! teeny bopper image, GM crossed over to the urban world and our radio stations. Don’t believe me? Well, here are five times that George Michael was so soulful we had stop and take notice.
AS w/Mary J. Blige
Stevie Wonder’s “AS” is one of the most beautiful songs ever written and so it’s only fitting that one of the most beautiful voices of all time took a crack at this classic. Mary J Blige joins George for this version and their back and forth in the later part of the song soars. The song was recorded for Michael’s 2011 album Ladies and Gentleman: The Best of George Michaels. The biggest hit off the album is George’s duet with Aretha Franklin, “I Knew You Were Waiting,” but there is also a sweet samba duet with Astrud Gilberto, and I love what he did with Mary. The album is an overlooked gem, but give this song a listen first.
This was a grown man video — sexy models, gospel undertones — and this sultry song confused the hell out of me (because George was at his fake heterosexual height, and it worked). The video tells the story of an affair between a cab driver and a high-fashion model. Tania Coleridge, the model in the video, talked to a site about making the video and kissing George.
Getting to know him over those few days, he was clearly gay to me. I think he probably had to dig pretty deep to get through those love scenes. I remember it being quite tricky for him but we got through it. We had to kiss again and again…“take 37.” (laughs) We had to do the scene where he slaps me again and again. I had to say “George, just kiss me properly so we can get out of here!”
She also added this gem about the stress and strain of the video shoot.
It was very exhausting. It was the first time I’d met George. He was sweet, brilliant. For some reason, they asked me if I could use my own wardrobe. The Winnebago that I was using [as a trailer] got robbed one of those nights, during the shoot. That [distinctive] white coat was the only piece that didn’t get stolen, probably because I was wearing it at the time. I remember seeing the Winnebago smashed to bits.
If I Told You That w/Whitney Houston
This song was recorded for Whitney’s Greatest Hits Album in 2000 and is also included on the Michael’s video collection TWENTY FIVE. Here’s the takeaway from this: Whitney had one of the most incredible voices ever, and George more than holds his own!
Play the first few notes of this song in any setting, with any people, and watch every person over 30 in the building jump to their feet. The video is famous for its sexy overtones and the supermodels who replaced Michael in the video. He explained to the LA Times why he opted out of appearing:
“At some point in your career, the situation between yourself and the camera reverses. For a certain number of years, you court it and you need it, but ultimately, it needs you more and it’s a bit like a relationship. The minute that happens, it turns you off … and it does feel like it is taking something from you.”
Honestly, I think it’s George’s absence that makes this video so great. This was at the height of the supermodel craze and when Linda Evangelista pops up in the first frame, looking sexy AF, you can’t turn away. A little known fact is that she was up the night before until 3 a.m. dying her hair blonde for the shoot. All five of the ladies who appear are iconic names, yet it just might be this video that they will always be remembered for. Christy Turlington had this to say to Vanity Fair in 2015:
“Little did I know that to this day, when someone meets me for the first time, they bring up that video. That’s what they remember. So yeah, George was right.”
Cindy Crawford reprised her role in the video in one hell of a mashup with actor Zachary Quinto on Lip Sync Battle.
This was really the beginning of the George Michael that would become the No. 1 pop star in the world. Sure, he still had a Wham!, teeny bopper vibe in this video, but forget the hairdo, the baggy suit and bad shoes — this song changed the way we looked at Michael. The video is all about a man and his guilt over an affair and was shot in Miami in 1983. Here’s the crazy thing: Michael originally wrote this song when he was just 17 years old.
Model Lisa Stahl played George’s partner in the video and dropped these secrets about the shoot to Q Magazine in 2009.
“While filming, they lost footage of our kissing scene so we had to reshoot it, which I didn’t complain about. I know George has a boyfriend now, but that day, there were no boys on his mind. Then George decided he didn’t like his hair so he flew his sister over from England to cut it and we had to reshoot more scenes. I still have a lock that I kept!
I actually love this live version from 2008
Honorable Mention: Flawless
By 2004, George had apparently snapped out of his funk and began to appear in his videos again. I think his album Patience is one of his most overlooked. The video which takes place in a bedroom actually features Michael’s dancing, and it’s not that crazy jitter bug from his Wham! days. BTW, this video was done in one single 4-minute take. No cuts, no edits, just one continuous shot.
Now listen, this is just a snapshot of a great artist’s work. I suggest you use this as a jumping off point for your George Michael listening party. RIP to another great one.