Patience is a virtue: at peace with his sexuality, George Michael produces his best and gayest record ever.
George Michael has certainly tried the patience of even his most ardent fans. They've had to suffer through his decision at the peak of his fame not to appear in his videos, an arrest for lewd conduct, his coming-out after the fact, and a series of mediocre CD releases on a variety of labels. American fans saw him vanish into the obscurity of European life, and it was looking like his career was just this side of over.
Well, looks can be deceiving.
George Michael's latest--and he insists his last--major label outing is worth the wait. Though just released in the United States, the album, property titled Patience, debuted internationally in March. Indeed, the first single, "Amazing," topped the U.K. charts, debuting at number 4, and the album followed suit, going right to number 1 in many countries.
George Michael has grown up over the past five years--as a person and musically--and with Patience he has chronicled that journey. He's come a long way from that public park bathroom in Beverly Hills and even further from the hair and white shorts of Wham! What's more, careless whispers and cries of "I want your sex" have been replaced with substantive, emotionally riveting lyrics. In an era when most songs have only 14 words, none of which is more meaningful than telling the listener to move this or that body part, it is refreshing to actually hear songs that make the listener think about what the artist--the songwriter, the singer is saying.
Just listen to a track like the haunting "My Mother Had a Brother," a true story about his uncle who committed suicide:
"My mother had a brother
Oversensitive and kind
Seems it all became
Too much for him
It seems he took his own life
Mom, I can't imagine
The joy and pain in equal measure
Tears in the dirt
And all over your newborn treasure
I guess he had to wait
Until my mama had me
I guess he couldn't wait
Another moment to be free
In endless sky ...
But Mama will you tell him
From your boy
The times, they changed
I guess the world
Was getting warmer
And we got stronger
Mother, will you tell him
About my joy
I live each day for him
The sun came out, yeah
And I'm just breathing it in."
What a full-fledged validation of gay sensibilities, including Michael's. Oh, my God, when was the last time I heard a pop star say something so rich and wonderful in a song about being gay?
OK, so he's grown up beautifully as a gay man, or at least he's on his way. But it doesn't stop there. Just listen to the title track or to Michael's statement on the culture of the televised information age, "Precious Box"--each is musically lush and beautiful, and vocally each shows that Michael can, in fact, sing better than most male pop vocalists at any given time and certainly better than these whiny--voiced disposable American Idol types whom we now glorify with record sales.
The fact is, Michael has captured a series of very true and very honest emotions on thins album--and surprisingly, it's extremely relevant and wise. From his tribute to his Texas-born boyfriend, "American Angel," to "Flawless (Go to the City)," with which he will again role the dance floors, Michael has created a swan song worthy of a farewell tour.
An added bonus for gay and lesbian listeners is that Michael makes each one of us think of our place as a gay person and demonstrates the obvious joy created by the acceptance of his life and commitment to his love. Musically, it can make one realize that being gay is a joy to sing about, not an affliction that needs to be cured via revival meetings or suppressed via constitutional amendments.
If what he has said is true and Michael will no longer release major-label records, we can rest assured that he saved the best, or something very close to it, for last.
Billboard contributor Bouley is a San Francisco radio talk-show host. His book of essays, You Can't Say That, is due out in July from Alyson Publications.
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|Author:||Bouley, Charles Karel, II|
|Publication:||The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)|
|Article Type:||Sound Recording Review|
|Date:||Jun 8, 2004|
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