This is my third George Michael album, in addition to at least one Wham album, and I can say, without doubt, that I’ve never liked his aesthetic. But he often makes up for that with his talent, as a performer (not just a great singer but as a versatile instrumentalist, and some who commits), as a songwriter and as someone who is willing to take on different styles. (Of course, they are rarely styles I like.)
But times have changed. Has George Michael?
Sure, the production is better than it used to be both due to improvements in technology and some aesthetic choices.
But there is just an onslaught of ballads. The influences have changed slightly – the one really dance track definitely sounds contemporary and something like “Spinning the Wheel” could never have been recorded in the ’80s – and there a more pronounced “smooth jazz” influence (for lack of a better word) but not enough change for me. (And to the people calling it an actual “jazz” influence I would ask that you listen to some actual jazz and not, like, Kenny G.)
Though Michael has replaced many of the synthesizers with actual live instruments, he hasn’t committed enough for my liking to this new sound. It would be different, I think, if the energy lever were higher.
That’s my biggest problem – I get that he’s older but one of the things that saved some of his earlier solo music for me was his energy level. Even most of the tracks with some kind of programmed beat are quite low energy.
I still think his songwriting is fine, these are reasonably catchy songs. I’m not sure his lyrics are as good as last time but that could be because there was more to read into them the last few albums.
And his voice is still excellent. But I am not such a fan of his voice that I can ignore how bloodless this is.