Sex With George Michael
When I was a teenager I was obsessed with George Michael. I still am. But my obsession was so apparent that one afternoon as I was chatting with my mom on her bed after school; she asked me what I would do if George Michael were to want to have sex with me. On some level I thought that this was my mother’s round-about way of trying to figure out what my sexuality was. I said “Of course I would have sex with him. It’s George Michael, mom! I’d bend over and take it.” My family has never been great with boundaries. She laughed and said “Nakhane, noooo. Really?” I nodded my head. At that age he was the only queer artist I knew. Even though he didn’t represent me racially, culturally, geographically etc.; he made me feel less crazy. When he was out(ted), he was so unapologetic. I needed that. I needed a queer person to be brazen on television and speak about their sexuality openly.
George Michael has always been important to me. Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 was the first album of his that I bought. I was performing in a band, singing jazz standards at Grahamstown National Arts Festival, and I spent the last of the money I had at the market, on the album. I had a Walkman then. I went to my room, pressed play and my life was never the same again. Reading the reviews of Listen… that were published in 1990 when the album was released, one senses that as much as the press understood that he was a brilliant artist – one comparable to Prince (he played almost all the instruments, wrote and produced the entire damn thing) – they were not ready for him to be more than an ass-shaking capital ‘P’ pop musician. They wanted a Faith Pt.2 . In hindsight we see that Listen… is not in anyway the misstep that some journalists mistook it to be. Robert Christgau mocked George Michael by asking if he had been listening to Morrissey, going on to say that he’s nothing but “a good-looking, replaceable, teenybopper idol”. You only need to listen to the epic ‘Freedom 90’ to be reassured how wrong those detractors were. It’s a masterpiece. It’s his ‘Heroes’, his ‘Purple Rain’.
The album is insular, a quiet rumination on the state of world and Michael’s personal life Listening to the album today with a queer ear, one can’t ignore the clues about his grapple with his sexuality. George Michael had become too famous for his own good. He didn’t want to be a teenybopper idol anymore. He wanted to be an artist. And so he opened the curtain with ‘Praying For Time’. The song is flawlessly written, but suffers under the weight of the production. It’s too dense. It’s too effects-laden. Live versions of it, especially his MTV Unplugged 1996 version demonstrate its subtle power. It strips the effects away, pulls Michaels’s voice forward and exposes itself for the weepy, desperate ballad it always was.
“It’s hard to love/When there’s so much/Hanging on to hope/When there is no hope to speak of”
PS: I fucking hate the 2017 reissue cover. Awful.