4

Rebel Assault

^
Keep Dallas Observer Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

The passing years can be unkind to rebels. You survive booze, bad marriages and car crashes, only to have the march of time leave its muddy bootprint on your shining legacy. One day, you're Marlon Brando in The Wild One, a quintessential leather boy. A few decades later, you're being shot in shadow to hide the fat creases, and you're getting lampooned on SNL. In contrast, George Michael has gotten off lightly: He merely lost his American audience.

On the surface, calling the British, blue-eyed soul titan who sometimes calls Dallas home a "rule-breaker" seems laughable. His rendition of Nina Simone's "Feeling Good" was the highlight of his recent appearance on ABC's Eli Stone, but there's no "Mississippi Goddam" in his catalog. Hell, he can barely dress the part; even in a motorcycle jacket and aviator shades, Michael looks more like a grooming expert than a thug. But his record speaks for itself. Throughout his quarter-century in showbiz, the two-time Grammy winner has been an unrepentant troublemaker.

Take his initial heyday as half of early-'80s pop pin-ups Wham! While Madonna urged audiences to enjoy a "Holiday," Michael and his foil, Andrew Ridgeley, pumped out singles advocating staying on the dole ("Wham! Rap") and avoiding matrimony ("Bad Boys"). It's telling that his new career-spanning compilation, Twenty-Five, opens with the pointed "Everything She Wants," rather than the insidious earworm "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go."

Info

George Michael

George Michael performs Sunday, July 13, at American Airlines Center.

Between 1984 and 1991, Michael scored 10 No. 1 singles in America. How did he thank his handlers? By continually crossing the music industry that pimped him. Heavy MTV rotation helped his 1987 solo debut, Faith, to sell 20 million copies worldwide. But for its follow-up, the superlative Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1, he eschewed most promotion chores—including making videos. In just a few years, Michael went from stuffing a shuttlecock down his shorts onstage to refusing to appear in his own promo clips; the video for "Freedom '90" featured a gaggle of supermodels, but no George.

In the aftermath, he sued his record company, Sony, to get out of a contract he deemed unfair. Whereas Prince and Nine Inch Nails enhanced their outlaw status with similar maneuvers, Michael suffered as a consequence. One of his best singles, a 1999 duet with Mary J. Blige on the Stevie Wonder jam "As," wasn't even available on a domestic CD until Twenty-Five. Did you even know he released a covers album, Songs from the Last Century, in 1999? In Britain, it peaked at No. 2 on the charts. Here, it stalled at No. 157.

Still, Michael has refused to play nice. His 2002 single, "Shoot the Dog," skewered Tony Blair and George W. Bush. But his best work of the last decade came in response to his 1998 arrest for "engaging in a lewd act" with "Outside," a frothy, disco paean to public sex. Having already gone on record about his sexuality, discussing how the 1993 AIDS-related death of his lover shaped his album Older, Michael laughed off his belated media "outing." Likewise, he characterized his February 2006 bust for possession of Class C drugs as "my own stupid fault." He then got nicked by the fuzz twice more.

Michael, who just turned 45 last month, is the most-played artist of the last 20 years on British radio; here, until he popped up on this year's American Idol season finale, he'd barely troubled airwaves since 1996. When he stopped acting like a mature pop star, America stopped treating him like one. Now his first U.S. tour in 17 years looks to be his last. In a recent interview, the singer admitted he has no delusions about kick-starting his career. The loss is ours. For a nation founded by rebels, America doesn't always recognize them. Maybe this one just needs to fatten up.

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.

 

Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.