George’s Michael’s Underrated Masterpiece
I listen to this album several times a year, at least. Throughout the decades, I have learned to appreciate the breadth and depth of what the Artist had to say, as I too, grew Older.
George Michael’s genius as a writer, composer, musician, singer, performer, et al., got blasted to smithereens due to a time when the forced openness about his sexuality destroyed his career, and ultimately, the man himself.
It was a fate he never deserved, and one that, in hindsight of the way he handled it, explicitly demonstrates how far ahead of the curve he was. As someone who witnessed that moment, I can state without hesitation, how desperately sad it was to be trapped in a time that would not welcome ones such as ourselves, in any way, through no fault of our own. We felt we were destined to remain lower than second-class citizens and outcasts, forever.
Great pain and suffering often yields the most brilliantly bittersweet works, and that is precisely what this album is: decades of suffering, distilled into equal parts of sadness, despair, rage against the machine, god, death, afterlife (?), Love, and standing up for yourself. It’s the whole thing, wrapped in this masterwork.
Ironically, for anyone who was really listening, he came out not with a bang, but with elegant music beyond compare; times with the first man with whom he ever fell in Love, and who died tragically not a few years later. He is named and described as such in the liner notes, years before his issues in America. Why no one ever made a fuss until America got involved, I still don’t fully understand.
“Jesus to a Child” is considered by many to be among the finest pop ballads ever written and performed. It is, in fact, a song written about the gentle qualities of the man he loved and lost. It is about how growing Older allowed him to absorb both the pain and the loss, and yet recognize what a glorious and blessed thing it is to find someone, to Love them, and be Loved in return. It’s a sad truth that cannot be taught, only experienced, if one is so un/lucky.
This is an album that declares the arrival of a mature artist, and a more fully realized human being, burnished by decades of: exploitation, abuse, self-inflicted pain (alcohol, drugs, risky encounters), the shallowness of those who sought his company and money (he gave away nearly all his millions to charities, and his royalties/residuals), and the endless loneliness he endured until his dying day: Christmas of 2016, the year we lost so many other legends of our time.
Most of all, this album was ultimately about being saved by the loving grace of another. Someone who, despite their own equally tragic shortcomings as a human, pushed one another into vicious cycles of more abuse, drugs and power struggles.
The album ends in a perfect loop. From the lovingly restrained despair of losing someone who meant so much, and gave so much, to moving on, as an Older person does, as Time draws ever closer to the end. The penultimate song, “You Have Been Loved,” is about appreciating everything a lost loved one gave you, and realizing how they helped you to grow, arguing with god and learning to forgive whatever that mystery is, and like a song before it, to literally, “Move On.”
Lastly, it ends with a lush, noir-ish saxophone solo, with only a single lyric uttered at the very end, “Feels Good to Be...Free.”
Appropriately Titled Mature Album
By Beaux Luis
"Older" is my most favorite George Michael album. With its relevatory lyrics set among engaging Brazilian bossa nova rhythms.
The first single and opening track, "Jesus to a Child" is a beautiful and complicated ode to the transitioning of his Brazilian lover to that big devastating disease, with a small name, that defined a lot of the 80s. Its drone-like beauty was a worldwide smash while the now defunct Dreamworks Records struggled to get American radio even slightly interested in playing it. Once an MTV staple, MTV, sometimes known as the world's largest radio station, stayed away from the equally complicated but compelling music video.
It was like "Fastlove", another provocative song and video, was the first American single. It wasn't. However, its well done visuals fit perfectly into the MTV mode so it did get reasonably good rotation.
Still, programmers dare not truly listen to its lyrical content are it probably would have been banned. Nearly any sexually hormonal being that danced to it, especially gay men, found it to be anthemic. It remains one of my favorite songs and videos today. After "Jesus to a Child", it was the next video I played on Vevo's "George Michael Tribute".
While nearly 20 million fans embraced "Faith" as their favorite, for me "Older" is the creme de la cre'. He became more than another MTV Icon (an award he should have won, if he didn't).
Other songs like the title track and "Star People" analyzed what the word "superstar" had become.
He switches back to his relationship with his partner in the beautiful "To Be Forgiven".
From this album through "Songs from the Last Century" to "Patience" to his last album "Symphonica", we experienced life and growth with him.
Once again, thanks to Oprah, more people became aware of what they were missing out on and the depths of his soul.