1984, Music

Make It Big (1984) by Wham!

I have paid virtually no attention to Wham! throughout my life. Yes, I was vaguely aware of their biggest hits because how could I not be? But I knew they were not for me and so I ignored them.

My girlfriend loves George Michael and so I’ve come to learn a lot more about him than I knew before we met, and I have now heard at least one of his albums. But she doesn’t like Wham! so I still didn’t find my way back here.

But now I’m here. And somewhere I read how “Motown” Wham! were and it just seems to capture (most of) these songs so well. If anything, some of these songs could be classified as “Motown revival” if we’re all willing to will that genre into existence. A couple of these songs steal so much from Motown its borderline criminal. (I mean, if you could be sued for stealing song components other than the melody and words which, according to some recent US copyright cases, you can!) A bunch of these tracks are basically ’80s Motown girl group with a man singing. That being said, they are well done as far as that goes (and those tracks are less clearly ’80s than the rest until the keyboards come in).

The other tracks are a little more conventional dance pop and I can’t decide whether that’s disappointing or a good thing. The Motown stuff is kind of derivative, but I don’t think anyone was doing it at the time. Everyone was doing dance pop.

Either way, the music is mostly a good vehicle for Micheal, even if the album tracks are usually not as catchy as the singles, and the two biggest hits in particular. (Though “Heartbeat” is an exception to that.)

Listening to this record, I finally get the joke about Andrew Ridgeley; beyond a guitar part here or there, it’s hard to understand what he does. And it’s easy to understand why George Michael went solo since he seems to be doing the heavy lifting.

Michael’s charisma saves me from really panning the record, which I think I could rightly attack for being derivative of both Motown and dance pop. But I think it’s likely headed on to my list of records that were massive hits but whose success doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. (My theory: young people didn’t know Motown and so liked what they heard and old people had their nostalgia strings thoroughly tugged).

6/10 I guess

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