#88 … SPB’s Top 100 Records

“Faith”, George Michael

Who knew what to expect from the former Wham! pretty boy when the shiny British duo—which relied so heavily on a slick Euro take on the Motown sound and big 80s dance pop—split up and went their separate ways? Did we think he’d drop an album of such burnished crowd-pleasing beauty that he’d place 6 singles in the Top 40 and suddenly begin to be thought of as a versatile artist getting mentioned in the same breath as Elton John and Michael Jackson? Some might have but I certainly didn’t, and I was a big George Michael fan. Sure, Wham! had given us some ear-candy treats, none more notably great than the funky, blue-eyed soul of “Everything She Wants”, but I really didn’t think George Michael had more greatness in him. Then I heard “Faith”, and selfish pop fan that I am, I was convinced he’d made it just for me…It had all the things I love in a pop record mix: Acoustic guitar? Check. Hand claps? Check. Ultra harmonic background vocals? Check. Running time less than four minutes long? Check. This was pure pop polish with an edge raw enough to inch the man closer to real, honest-to-goodness, honestly-sincere singer-songwriter territory. Of course it helped that he ripped off the right sorta rock sound, wrapping his velvet vocals and radio-ready lyrics in a tight rockabilly-meets-Bo Diddleyesque swirl of guitar and drum. And, by golly, it didn’t sound like anything else on the radio at the time: This was 1987 remember, and the big radio hits were either big slabs of loud over-emoted pop-rock anthems like “Living on a Prayer” and “I Just Died in Your Arms Tonight” (both of which I love by the way) or slickly-produced crossover r&b like Whitney’s “So Emotional” and Club Nouveau’s “Lean on Me”. Other than maybe Suzanne Vega’s “Luka”, there wasn’t a lot of nuance in the air; bombast ruled the day. But George seemed to know that a little ditty that sounded slightly old-wave might make him seem slighty ahead of things and still catch the kids where their dancing hips met their romantic yearnings. “Faith” was just sign of things to come.

Listen to it here:

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