Review of George Michael’s album “Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1,” (Epic Records) by M. Scot Skinner of The Arizona Daily Star on September 21, 1990.
George Michael has served notice that we won’t have his butt to kick around any more. His blue-jeaned rear end was ubiquitous in the late ’80s, but he says it’s about to drop out of sight. He won’t be shaking it for the video cameras anymore, and, in fact, the British superstar will appear in NO promotional videos for his new album, “Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1.”
George Michael, at the ripe old age of 27, is tired of the MTV game. He wants people to pay attention to his music, not his immaculate razor stubble.
“I just hope you understand. Sometimes the clothes do not make the man,” he explains in “Freedom 90,” a gospel-ish and long-winded renunciation of his past marketing tactics. “All we have to see, is that I don’t belong to you, and you don’t belong to me.”
This guy is having a crisis. Life must be so hard for the man who sold 15 million copies of his last album, the Grammy Award-winning “Faith.” George Michael excuse me, the old George Michael manipulated his image better than anyone this side of Madonna. But this time around, he’s lying low just as soon as he finishes all those interviews to say that he’s lying low.
And damned if he doesn’t have some good ideas. The video for “Praying for Time,” the album’s wonderful first single, is a black screen with the lyrics flashing by. That’s all. No rear end. No razor stubble.
His plans for the next video, for “Freedom 90,” are more rebellious, more clever. He will hire some of the world’s top models to lip-synch the song.
“The irony is that the video will probably be a huge success because of the way these people look,” he said in an interview with The New York Times.
Despite the obnoxious title, “Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1” is a soulful, serious work. It’s easily one of the best pop albums of the year.
Although it’s not likely to rack up the sales of “Faith” few albums ever will it has George Michael turns away from image-peddling with his new album Review huge commercial potential. The mournful “Praying for Time”, moves up to No. 5 on the Billboard singles chart this week, becoming Michael’s ninth Top 10 hit since he walked away from Wham!
“Praying for Time” is an unlikely pop hit, a grim song that looks with sadness on a world weighed down with greed, hate and hypocrisy. He’s not exactly sure if time heals all wounds, but it’s just about our only hope: These are the days of the empty hand. Oh you hold on to what you can. And charity is a coat you wear twice a year. …So you scream from behind your door. Say what’s mine is mine and not yours. I may have too much, but I’ll take my chances. ‘Cause God’s stopped keeping score. “Praying for Time,” and just about every other song on this tortured disc, should bring new respect to Michael. His voice has never sounded more expressive, and his songwriting has improved immeasurably. Paul McCartney and Elton John — artists he is most often compared to — would kill for an album so rich, so uncompromising and so effortlessly melodic.
“Listen Without Prejudice” is the rare midtempo LP that actually grooves. It’s obvious that Michael has been listening to a lot of rock from the ’60s and ’70s, yet the album is never derivative. Several songs maintain a languishing mood that brings to mind a blend of Morrissey and This Mortal Coil.
All of the songs are written and produced by Michael, except for “They Won’t Go When I Go,” penned by Stevie Wonder and Syreeta Wright. (It was on Wonder’s 1974 album, “Fulfillingness’s First Finale.”) Michael strips the song down to voice and piano, and achieves a pure, beautiful sound.
Better still is “Cowboys and Angels,” one of several songs that try to make sense of a hurtful relationship: Cowboys and angels, they all have the time for you. Why should I imagine that I’d be a find for you. Why should I imagine that I’d have something to say.
“Listen Without Prejudice” is tender without being sentimental, an altogether more romantic LP than the 3-year-old “Faith.”
On the exceptional ballad “Waiting for That Day,” Michael proves again his uncanny knack for turning simple ideas into terrific songs. He is singing here about a relationship that ended long ago, and yet he can’t find somebody else and move on. “My memory serves me far too well,” he sings. And we know exactly what he’s talking about.
“Healing the Pain” and “Something to Save” are perhaps the most affecting songs. Both are intimate songs in which a sincere, kind-hearted man pleads his case with a wounded lover.
In the process, Michael is of course pleading his case with the public. The man who sang “I Want Your Sex” now wants something else entirely. He wants our ; R-E-S-P-E-C-T. “Listen Without Prejudice,” even when it pushes too hard, proves that he deserves plenty.
- George Michael on Fame and Freedom (New York Times, 1990)
- George Michael on ‘Listen Without Prejudice’ (1990)
- George Michael: The Reluctant Pop Star (Calendar Magazine, Sept 1990)
- George Michael Interview in Blitz Magazine (June 1988)
- An Audience with George Michael: Interview with Chris Evans (1996)