George Michael left quite a legacy. I think that if you asked 20 people to name their favorite George Michael songs, including Wham, you would probably get 10 different answers. I recently asked that question on social media and it didn’t take me long to get to eight different songs.
Here are the top 20 songs I selected as my favorites, in reverse order. Some good ones did not make my list. Thoughts and comments welcome. What is your favorite?
20. Praying For Time, George Michael (1989/1990)
“Praying For Time” was the first single from Listen Without Prejudice and marked his first release after the hugely successful Faith album. It was his last number one in the US and peaked at #6 in the UK. MTV Unplugged version
19. Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, Wham! (1984)
“Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” pretty much introduced the world to George Michael and Wham. It spent two weeks at #1 in the UK, three weeks in America. The “Choose Life” shorts from the video were part of an anti-drug, anti-suicide campaign. Official video
18. Heal The Pain (Duet Version), George Michael & Paul McCartney (2005/2008)
“Heal The Pain” was first released in 1991 as the fourth single from Listen Without Prejudice. I have a slight preference for the duet version with Paul McCartney from his Twenty-Five album. Video link
17. Fastlove, George Michael (1996)
“Fastlove” was the first single released by a then-new company called DreamWorks. It hit #8 in 1996 and was Michael’s last new song to hit the Billboard Hot 100 (Wham’s “Last Christmas” charts seasonally). Official video
16. Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me, George Michael and Elton John (1991/1992)
There is a generation who doesn’t know that “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” was originally Elton solo. The live remake outperformed the original and hit number one in February 1992, making the line, “Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Elton John” famous. Official live video
15. Too Funky, George Michael (1990/1992)
Later that summer in 1992, “Too Funky,” from the Red Hot & Dance album, cracked the top 10. It notably starts with a sound clip of Anne Bancroft from The Graduate. Official video
14. Freedom, Wham! (1984/1985)
“Freedom” was a #1 hit in the UK from Wham’s breakthrough album Make It Big. It hit #3 in the USA right around the time that Wham was dealing with overexposure. Freedom is one of those songs I got tired of at the time but sounds better given the distance of time. The official video was shot in China, where Wham was among the first western bands to tour.
13. Round Here, George Michael (2003/2004)
“Round Here” is from George’s Patience album and was a minor hit in the UK. It’s about his recollections of life as a child and his parents when they were young. One of my favorite of his “unfamiliar songs.” Official video
12. A Different Corner – George Michael (1985/1986)
For some, “A Different Corner” is George’s best. In the USA, this was officially George Michael’s first solo hit, even though it’s on a Wham album and Andrew Ridgely performs on it. “Careless Whisper” was really Michael’s first solo, but in America it was billed as “Wham! featuring George Michael.” “A Different Corner” has a very understated production but it’s a powerful song. Official video
11. Waiting For That Day – George Michael (1990)
“Waiting For That Day” was the third single off Listen Without Prejudice and was a disappointment commercially. It’s loosely based on “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by the Rolling Stones. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards share songwriter credits with Michael. YouTube audio
10. Careless Whisper, Wham! featuring George Michael (1983/1984-85)
It was on a Wham album. was co-written by Andrew Ridgeley, but in most of the world, it was a solo song by George Michael. Because the record company did not want people to think Wham had broken up, it was credited as “Wham! featuring George Michael” in Japan, Canada and the USA. It’s one of George’s most recognizable songs and was Billboard’s biggest hit of 1985. It has become well-known recently as the walk-up music for outfielder Josh Reddick. His unusual selection has led to baseball fans singing along as he walks up to home plate. Official video
9. One More Try, George Michael (1987/1988)
The fifth single off Faith was also his third straight number one hit. “One More Try” also topped the R&B chart and the Adult Contemporary chart. The title only appears once in the lyrics–the final three words. Official video
8. Where Did Your Heart Go?, Wham! (1986)
“Where Did Your Heart Go?” was Wham’s last single in 1986. A cover of a Was (Not Was) song, it was among Wham’s more subdued tracks. It missed the top 40 in America. Clearly not Wham’s most successful singles, but in my mind “Where Did Your Heart Go?” is among their best. Official video
7. I’m Your Man, Wham! (1985)
One of the last singles by Wham has become one of my favorites. Written by George Michael, it’s a bit of a glimpse into what we would hear on his solo album, Faith. “I’m Your Man” was also the last song Wham performed on stage, at Wembley Stadium. Here is George Michael performing it live in 1991: YouTube link.
6. Faith, George Michael (1987/1987-88)
“Faith” is perhaps George Michael’s most well-known song. It spent four weeks at #1 spanning 1987 and 1988 and was the number one hit in America for the year in ’88. The organ intro into the guitar break are as recognizable as the lyrics. It has been covered by Limp Bizkit, among others. Here is a live version from 2008: YouTube link.
5. Last Christmas, Wham! (1984)
I remember resenting all the airplay this song got when it came out. I mean, they have one hit and now they get to have a Christmas song? Pay your dues, punks. Of course. “Last Christmas” became a Christmas classic and it became one of my favorite modern holiday songs. It would rank even higher if they could remix it with the ’80s synth toned down a bit. It be a bit sadder “this year” now that George Michael passed away on Christmas Day. Official video
4. Freedom! ’90, George Michael (1990/1990-91)
The second single from Listen Without Prejudice has a similar title to a Wham song, hence the year in the title. Known especially for its video featuring supermodels and no George Michael, it seemed he wanted to blow up his MTV past. Ironic that in doing so, he had a big video hit. It hit #3 in the US and #1 in Canada. Here’s a 25th anniversary video with younger models: YouTube link.
3. Father Figure, George Michael (1987/1988)
“Father Figure” was the song that really got George Michael noticed by R&B radio. He would go on to win two American Music Awards in the Soul/R&B category. It was also his first Grammy-nominated solo song. The video really propelled its success, but the haunting R&B sound proved memorable. A #1 hit in America, “Father Figure” only reached #11 in the UK, although it is reportedly one of his most requested songs on British radio. Official video
2. I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me), Aretha Franklin & George Michael (1986/1987)
Probably my favorite superstar duet of all time. “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” hit number one in both the USA and the UK in 1987. Despite its success, it almost seems to have become a somewhat forgotten track for both artists. Official video
1. Kissing A Fool, George Michael (1987/1988)
People. If “Father Figure” established Michael as an R&B star, the final single from Faith, “Kissing A Fool” showed that he had some crooner chops. He recorded the vocals a cappella in a single take. His phrasing and timing are impeccable. By the time “Kissing A Fool” was released, very few fans did not already own the Faith album. Still, this one reached #5 in America and #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart. Video link