This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #162: Freedom 90 by George Michael.
George Michael possessed one of the best singing voices in modern music throughout the whole of his career. I feel that way. Many fans and music critics, alike, all feel that way. But, most importantly of all, George Michael, himself, felt that way. Maybe not that his voice was better than that of his peers but, he had a certain confidence in his singing abilities. It was his voice that he was most proud of and, in the course of his early career, it was one of the least promoted aspects of who he was as a performer. “Freedom 90” is a song all about George Michael declaring that he was no longer willing to go along with how he was being promoted within the music industry; that he didn’t want to be a sex symbol or a “pretty face” but, instead, he wanted to be known simply for his voice.
George Michael first gained fame, along with his friend, Andrew Ridgely, as a duo who went by the stage name of “Wham”. Wham had many hits during the 1980s, including, “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go!”, “Careless Whisper”, “Last Christmas”, “Everything She Wants”, “I’m Your Man” and many more. Both young men were model-handsome and were marketed as teen Pop idols. Eventually, Michael left Wham and started a very successful solo career that, by the time of his death, had seen him sell over 100 million albums worldwide. His first solo album was called, “Faith”, which spawned the hits, “I Want Your Sex”, “Faith”, Father Figure”, “One More Try” and “Kissing A Fool”. Many of the music videos for these songs featured George Michael’s face and his butt, while placing him in positions as being a very sexy, heterosexual male. Not surprisingly, many young women all around the world viewed him as being very dreamy and had his posters adorning their bedroom walls.
*In fact, I can clearly remember this being an on-going theme on the TV show, “Full House”, where the teenage daughter, D.J., had George Michael’s poster above her bed and pointed to him as being her “dream boyfriend”. In the video for “Freedom 90”, Michael burns the leather jacket shown in this poster, destroys his guitar and throws away his glasses…all to show that he would no longer play along with the image being created for him by others.
Well, as mentioned above, George Michael viewed himself, first and foremost, as a serious singer. He grew tired of the superficiality of being known more for how he looked rather than the quality of his music. He demanded to be taken more seriously as a performer. He voiced this, loudly and clearly, in the video for the song, “Freedom 90” from his second album called, “Listen Without Prejudice”. The song, itself, and the video that was made to support it, took great pains to thoroughly and completely torch his career up until that point. There is much talk about not judging him on his appearance……”sometimes, the clothes do not make the man”. But, it was the video that really brought this point home.
Up until that moment, George Michael had been the focal point of every video of his. In the video for “Freedom 90”, he turned this premise on its’ ear. For the video, he hired some of the biggest names in the world of fashion modelling at the time (Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, among others) to lip-sync the song on screen. George Michael does not physically appear in the video at all. The lack of his physical presence caused viewers to have to focus on his voice. The visuals all went to people who are paid to be judged on their appearance. In the end, George Michael made the point that he was a singer, first, and not a model. From that point on, he was treated with much more respect, as befitted one of the greatest vocal talents of his generation. What helped George Michael’s point to be more palatable with fans and critics was that he spoke his truth behind a truly great song! “Freedom 90” is an awesome song, from start to finish, and has become one of his most popular songs of all-time, as much for the quality of the music, as for the personal and professional points being scored.
As most of you know, in 1990, George Michael’s personal and professional transition did not end with the song, “Freedom 90”. As humans, one of the most common aspects to the pattern of change is that, for most people, change takes time to fully transition through. In George Michael’s case, he went from an unknown young man, to a teen Pop star in Wham. Then, a few years later, he went from teen Pop star in Wham, to teen Pop star as a solo artist. Then, a few year after that, he transitioned from teen Pop star, to a more serious and respected singer who was judged mostly on his voice. Then, seven years after “Freedom 90” came out, George Michael completed his public metamorphoses by coming out as being Gay. This was still a risky step to take, even as recently as 1997 but, by then, most people had suspected as much and, in the end, very few people really cared about that aspect of his life. All that mattered was that he was still a good singer which was all George Michael ever wanted to be viewed as, anyway.
So, without further delay, here is a super video for a terrific song…”Freedom 90″ by George Michael. Enjoy!
The link to the video for the song, “Freedom-90” by George Michael, can be found here.
The link to the video for the song, “Somebody To Love”, as covered by George Michael, can be found here.
The link to the official website for George Michael, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.