Welcome back to TGJ Replay!
Designed much like our ‘Retro Rewind’ and ‘From the Vault’ features, ‘Replay’ is That Grape Juice‘s newest reflective segment and acts like a written quest, if you will, to re-spin the gems and jams of yesterday.
Unlike its retrospective predecessors, ‘Replay’ looks to dust off and showcase entire albums (and eras) from a library of pop and Urban pop music hits.
Now, as a fan of the gems lent to R&B by its blue eyed soul artisans, we’ll use this opportunity to spotlight George Michael‘s ‘Faith’ (which celebrated its 17th birthday just last month)! Get into it below:
Spring 1986 brought with it a surprising farewell to top-selling U.K. duo Wham! Comprised of British singer-songwriters George Michael and Andrew Ridgely, the twosome rose from mere obscurity to worldwide chart domination in just 3 years on the saddle of songs like ‘Bad Boys’ and ‘Club Tropicana.’ Garnering enough buzz to see their name in mention with the day’s top Brit hitmakers Culture Club & Duran Duran, by the time their tune ‘Wake Me Up (Before You Go Go)’ was released, America was finally waking up to embrace the boyish doublet and helped hoist the song right to the top of the Hot 100.
Showing themselves no one-hit wonders, the tune’s followup, ‘Careless Whisper,’ would make even more noise and follow in its footsteps and skyrocket right to the top of U.S. charts. The songs were such massive successes that by the end of 1985 ‘Whisper’ would be the year’s top song with ‘Wake’ following at #3. But, despite the singles’ impressive respective performances on charts, Michael found himself unimpressed with making music targeted to “teeny-boppers” and began to lean more toward adult-contemporary offerings akin to ‘Whisper.’ Ridgely disagreed.
The conflict would leave fans keen to see another Wham! album in their laps quite disappointed as the pair announced an amicable split the next year.
The reception of ‘Careless Whisper’ would prove itself a double edged sword for Michael. Yes, it gave him the platform to launch his solo career given that the song and its accompanying video were billed a “Wham! featuring George Michael” song, but its success would only intensify the pressure for him to match it on the solo front.
The confidence he needed may have come aboard his solo assistance on Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin‘s early 1987 hit ‘I Knew You Were Waiting.’ Greeted with open arms by worldwide consumers, it appears America was indeed waiting for more George as the venture landed his name atop Billboard tallies yet again.
From there, it was all systems go.
Spending the rest of 1987 writing and recording his first solo album, Michael’s hands were involved in every single aspect of the project’s production from vocals and lyrics to playing several instruments. Ensuring the set’s ingredients aligned with his vision, the collection of tunes – christened ‘Faith’ – would see him depart from the cookie-cutter content of his former group to address adult themes such as sex, love, infidelity, and subtly address some of his own demons – namely his repressed homosexuality. The album not only thematically abandoned much of the concepts that lined Wham! albums, but its recipe of R&B, soul, pop, funk, and rock would see it do so sonically as well.
Evidence of this was easily located via the album’s first single ‘I Want Your Sex’:
Intent on completely distancing himself from his boy band beginnings, ‘I Want Your Sex’ came as a parent and censor’s nightmare. Many argued it promoted promiscuity despite being littered with messages of safe sex practice and monogamy. Because the tune’s lyrical composition and accompanying video – while tame by today’s standard – sent shockwaves across the industry in the late 80s, it was heavily censored for television and banned by most radio stations.
The backlash proved no deterrent for fans who still helped the number shoot straight to #2, a true testament to their support of Michael’s solo ventures (given the absence of industry support). The aforementioned was cemented by the time the set’s title track was released:
Just two weeks before the release of his first solo album, Michael tapped its much safer title track as the follow-up to the ever-controversial ‘Sex.’
If ‘Sex’ secured the launching pad for a career by his lonesome (and even temporarily helped divert from those pesky gay rumors), ‘Faith’ (the song) would be the vehicle to send him into the stratosphere. Reaching #1 before 1987’s end, the number would act as the truest indicator of how well his inaugural full length solo venture would be received.
By the end of 1988, George was pop’s top troubador. On the hems of six top 5 singles (four of which were consecutive #1 hits), he entered history books as the first and only British act to have four #1 singles on the Hot 100 from one LP. Elsewhere on Billboard, the album ‘Faith’ showed seemingly unyielding staying power. With 51 non-consecutive weeks inside the Billboard 200 Top 10 to its name, including 12 weeks at #1, the project, like its title track, would see itself at the top spot on 1988’s year end chart. The feat made Michael the second act in history (behind the Beatles) to be #1 on a year end chart more than once (1985’s ‘Whisper’ & 1988’s ‘Faith’).
Later winning the 1988 ‘Album of the Year,’ Michael’s success rivaled that of Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, and Madonna. When the dust settled, ‘Faith’ was certified diamond in the U.S. and has been clocked at 25 million sold worldwide to date.
Let us tell it, George Michael is still pop’s top blue-eyedsoulster. Coming in as the first truly successful white R&B/soul singer of the video era, this man ushered in a cool unbeknownst to the 80s generation of black audiences from the Caucasian persuasion. This accomplishment was evidenced by ‘Faith’ becoming the first album by a white singer in history to top the Billboard’s R&B charts.
Interestingly blazing a path that the likes of Justin Timberlake and Nick Jonas would follow (leaving pop groups to traipse across unadulterated R&B terrains in their solo work), we’ll argue Justin Bieber, Robin Thicke, and many other crooners – both blue eyed soulsters and none – have taken a page from ‘Faith’….quite disappointingly in most cases.
It’s never a surprise to hear us bumping ‘Father Figure’ or ‘One More Try’ here at TGJ headquarters. But, you tell us: