Editor’s Note: Our recurring “Portrait of the Artist” playlist series pays homage to the artists responsible for the most inspired and indispensable discographies of all time. We hope you enjoy these tributes, and stay tuned for many more to come.
It was a tragic conclusion to an already terrible year—the death of George Michael on Christmas Day 2016. Afterward, the ensuing scrutiny and study of Michael’s personal affairs and music were not surprising. In fact, the latter has been the most rewarding for many of us, if only to gain a better understanding of George Michael, the man.
More than three decades since Michael and Andrew Ridgely parted ways, their Wham! singles remain infused with that charming, devil may care attitude. You know them all: “Wham! Rap (Enjoy What You Do),” “Young Guns (Go for It),” “Club Tropicana,” and “I’m Your Man,” to name a few. However, if Michael’s broader abilities as a singer, songwriter and composer were constricted by Wham!, they finally found their voice with Faith (1987). His solo debut put the whole world on notice about his arrival as an artist and a pop star. Though, by this time, his real life experiences were occasionally powering the narratives of his hits, which were fast becoming decade-defining staples for a generation.
With an exception issued to his fourth album, the suave covers collection Songs From the Last Century (1999), the post-Faith records were all much more autobiographical on the whole. Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1 (1990), Older (1996) and Patience (2004) charted Michael’s journey into greater adulthood concerns, especially where his sexuality was concerned. There was so much life tied into Michael’s art, it’s more than likely that “the man” and “the artist” were just two sides of the same coin. Even with the noise surrounding him in his later (and leaner) years, Michael’s commitment to his craft never wavered.
The following playlist represents the culmination of Michael’s various phases throughout a remarkable career and a commemoration of his complexities that made his music so multi-dimensional to experience.
Note: “If I Told You That” (with Whitney Houston), “Let Her Down Easy” and “Going to a Town” were initially set to be included in this listing, but these selections are not currently available via Spotify.