Sixth grade (1987-88) had a lot of great memories: Being at the top of the elementary school food chain, “Jeremy’s Jungle” where I sold heavily marked-up candy out of my locker, Catcher in the Rye, baseball cards, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego and of course TONS of great music. Titles like “Brass Monkey”, “Man in the Mirror”, “Living on a Prayer” and “With or Without You” all stick out in my mind. This was a time that music was really memorable. Prompt anyone who grew up during that time with just the titles and not only will they know who sang them, but they will most likely be able to give you a verse or two. But this 11-year-old had one song that really stood out. A track that I would comically sing in my most manly voice and yet I had no idea what it was really about.
“I Want Your Sex,” from George Michael’s 1987 “Faith” Album had this track, but over the years I would learn it had so much more. Michael was already a star in his own right before his solo debut, as one-half of the duo WHAM! Yes, the same WHAM! that created the almost inescapable, undeniably iconic, and saxophone-laden song, “Careless Whisper,” as well as the campy “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.” Having sold more than 30 million records worldwide in their five years as a group, Michael wanted to shift gears as an artist, aiming to create music that was for a more adult audience, rather than the teen audience that WHAM! heavily appealed to.
The scandalous nature of some of the material obscured how fantastic every single track on this album is. Taking influence from so many genres, the album perfectly blends together to create a unique sound for the time. While none of it on its own was considered original, as a whole it created this unique jambalaya of music, all contained in a wrapper of Michael’s strong voice. And although it wasn’t what R&B sounded like in the late ’80s, Faith in many ways feels like a precursor to the beloved sound of 90’s R&B.
Michael admittedly took much inspiration from Prince and Michael Jackson, as well as some borrowed shock value from Madonna. Desiring to make mature music as good as theirs and simultaneously showcase his vocal prowess. None of this was suitable for my “virgin” ears, but it still hooked me in, nonetheless. This album stands out to me as the first time I got to dip my toe into the waters of adult thoughts without even knowing what I was thinking about.
“Faith” went on to sell 25 million copies worldwide, supported by a slew of hit singles from “Faith” to “Monkey” to “One More Try.” 35 years later, I look back on it as the album that pushed Michael into the pop royalty and cemented George Michael as an icon of the 80s with this amazing body of work.
My cards are on your table
My dreams are in your bed
Oh, if I was able
I’d be there insteadLike the songs you hear on King’s Passage? Then check out the KP Jukebox playlist on Spotify!