Tuesday, September 1, 2009

481 Faith- Another Ironic title.

Album: Faith

Artist: George Michael.

Year: 1987



1. Faith

2. Father Figure

3. I Want Your Sex (Parts 1 & 2)

4. One More Try

5. Hard Day

6. Hand To Mouth

7. Look At Your Hands

8. Monkey

9. Kissing A Fool

10. Hard Day (Shep Pettibone Remix)

11. A Last Request (I Want Your Sex) (Part 3)

George Michael is gay. He’s a gay man who likes nothing more than spending an afternoon doing gay things to other gay men and having them do gay things back. He has the gay interests of a gay man and if there was such a thing as an actual, electronic gaydar then he would show up as a huge pink blip. He’s just that gay.

This is probably not news for most of you but for some reason nobody had caught on back in 1987. When he released Faith everyone seemed to think he was just the sort of manly chap who fancied the women in his video clips. Nobody thought to examine his image and say- “hang on, this is all a bit gay isn’t it?” My question is: what the hell were you all thinking? Are you honestly trying to tell me that the eighties were that camp that Michael just blended in? I was 14 at the time and the only homosexuals I knew were firmly closeted PE teachers but the rest of you must have had an inkling surely? Are you seriously trying to convince me that you watched Michael cavort around in a camp way and thought his biggest secret was a greek-cypriot background?

I mention this because knowing about Micheal's true sexuality makes Faith a lot more interesting and also gives it some sort of explanation. It doesn't clear up why he's sniffing his own armpit on the cover but it does put a lot of the lyrics into context. When you realise that George was forced to live a lie the lyrics to Faith are a lot more poignant.

For the most part Faith is about sex. Basically it’s a lot of tunage dedicated to bonkage. But it takes a different approach from most albums with sex as its primary concern. Michael isn’t bragging about his ability or boasting about conquests. He’s not presenting himself as a sex god and demanding we hail him as the prince of lust. His concerns are primarily justifying sex as a natural thing and dealing with the implications of forbidden love. All his lyrics make a lot more sense if you take them as the work of an artist forced to repress his true sexuality for record sales. I want your sex lasts for 9 minutes and works as a kind of sexual manifesto with a dance beat and horns. Michael sings “Sex is natural, sex is good” which as a declaration about heterosexual lust didn’t really need to be said to a late 80’s pop audience, unlike a statement about homosexual activities which was a lot more taboo. At no time during I Want Your Sex does Michael identify the object of his desire as female (I’m choosing to take the term “baby” as sexually ambiguous.)

It’s not just the sexual songs that can be reviewed in a different light in the knowledge of their author’s true orientation. The song Monkey talks about drugs ruining a relationship. Michael takes the moral high ground which has been completely undermined by George’s recent drug charges. And while I'm on the subject why does he keep getting arrested in public toilets and in his car? When most people take drugs they get the munchies or an urge to listen to Jefferson Airplane. When Michael takes drugs he's struck by an uncontrollable urge to get behind the wheel and take himself to the nearest convenience where he quickly becomes an inconvenience. It's a sad state of affairs and full credit to the guy for sending himself up so well on an episode of Extras. You have to give him a lot of respect for being able to laugh at himself.

I spent more time with the lyrics to Faith than a lot of other albums and came to two conclusions, the first is that the album has a lot more depth when viewed as the work of a gay man forced to act straight. And the second conclusion was that it’s a bit of a shame that the pop world forced Michael into the closet. I want your sex was a smash hit single all around the world. Would it have sold as many units if it had been openly gay? If Michael had made a few very minor lyrical adjustments (changed the ambiguous “baby” to something unambiguously male for example) would the record companies have been prepared to release it? And if they did would the buying public have embraced it? How many girls brought the single because they were wishing Michael was singing it about them and would they have spent their cash elsewhere if they knew George was more interested in their brothers? Michael only came out of the closet when he was forcibly outed by an arrest in a Los Angeles public toilet. Since then his career hasn’t been nearly as robust, which I can’t help but think is a bit of a tragedy.

Enough about the lyrics. Musically Faith is a pop album and pop has never really been my bag but the album gave me more respect for Michael than I had before. I assumed he was a pretty face first, a nice voice second and a musician a distant third. I was surprised to learn he wrote and produced all of the songs and played a lot of the instruments. He can clearly write a pop tune and gave it a timeless kind of production that gave the album a longevity that his heterosexual facade never had. Vocally he’s quite talented although there is so much reverb on some of his songs that he’s reached the last line before the echo has finished on the first.

Faith covers a lot of styles and is clearly Michael’s audio CV for a solo career and as such it worked well. It’s possibly the most successful solo debut by an established band member and established him as a presence in the pop world for years to come.

Highlight: Playing spot the veiled gay reference.

Lowlight: The fact that society forced Michael to veil his sexuality.

Influenced by: The great soul singers.

Influenced: Most of today’s boy bands.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: “Reportedly the soundtrack for a double murder in Gainsville, Fla. Neighbors later said they thought banging sounds were pictures being hung.”

-That’s it. That’s the entire review. Baffling isn't it?

So do you have Faith in George or should his music be put back in the closet? Let me know below.

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