George Michael is acclaimed as one of the best songwriters in his generation. Learn how important the art of songwriting to him, and uncover his process of writing songs.
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Where the Quotes on Songwriting Came From
The video is based on some of the interviews he gave where he talked about songwriting. Find out what interviews each slide of the video came from :
Unlike Elton John, Michael isn’t much of a ham or a showman. He is, however, a pop star of the first order, and proud of it.
George Michael was an exceptional artist and one of Britain’s biggest pop stars, whose songwriting gift brought massive hits such as “Careless Whisper,” “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and many more.
“The greatest songwriter of his generation” – that’s what Elton John called George Michael.
Wham! was where George Michael started to become one of the most acclaimed songwriters in the world – and one of the most accomplished songwriters in the world – where his dreams started to come true.
And, at 17, he composed “Careless Whisper,” Wham!’s breakthrough ballad. “I was convinced it was a number one, ” he says. “I wrote ‘Careless Whisper’ and… well, I’ll be fair. I wrote ‘Careless Whisper’ with Andrew. I remember saying to him, ‘For Christ’s sake, there’s no way that no one is not gonna want to make money on this song.’ We had no record contract, no publishing deal, nothing. And I told Andrew it was a number one song.
I think some of those songs were a lot stronger than a lot of the pop that was made at the time and some of those Wham! records will be remembered for a long time. Just because they were lightweight, I’ve been having to spend a lot of time in the last three years trying to explain to people that I’m not brain dead.
I mean, I think WMUBYGG, however much people have put it down, I think it was very much a very strong pop record. I think the best of my material, even from really early material… there’s no doubt that people of my generation, when they hear it in twenty years time, they’re going to remember it, they’re going to be nostalgic about it because it was actually that it made an impression.”
How George Michael Wrote His Songs
I always write my songs to touch people or strike a chord and I guess people really get that, so all in all I’d say for my music and hopefully being a really good friend to people and hopefully being a really caring, good and reliable person.
George: I like to have a line or two that make your ear cock up when you hear them on radio. Like ‘guilty feet ain’t got no rhythm’ or ‘drag me to the hell and back’ from ‘Freedom’. How many people put a word like ‘feet’ in a love song? It’s hardly a romantic word.
What’s best about Lennon’s music?
Pure quality. Simplicity and heart. That is really all that great pop music needs. Of course those three elements in combination are not too easy to find these days, which is why generation after generation come back to the Beatles and look to them for inspiration.
A lot of my character is very evident in the way that I write. And if you’re a fan of the way somebody writes you listen to the lyrics, and the lyrics say a lot about their character. I think that I don’t write like an arsehole, I just perform like one. That’s kind of what I think.
GM: The strangest thing is I tend to write in bits and pieces. I tend to … what happens is when I go into the studio, all kinds of bits of lyric and bits of melody that have literally just popped up and made themselves known in my head come together.
How do you go about writing your songs?
I do it all in my head. I have almost a photographic memory for my own ideas. I don’t have to put them down, because if they’re good, they do stay. I have songs in my head that are three years old, and I have the complete arrangements, the string arrangements, everything. My publisher goes white when I tell him that. He says, “You only have to bump your head and you lose millions of dollars.”
I have songs in my head that are three years old, and I have the complete arrangements, the string arrangements, everything. My publisher goes white when I tell him that. He says, “You only have to bump your head and you lose millions of dollars.
So sometimes I can write something very deliberately and slowly and it will be successful. And sometimes I can write something that really just comes, and before I know it I finished it. And it can be some of my best work.
His first single off it, ‘Jesus to a Child’ is, he says, the best thing he’s ever done. “It’s a special song. It was one of those songs that just felt like it was handed to me. I didn’t have to try very hard. It came naturally. It was recorded over five days but written in just a couple of hours.”
For George Michael, Songwriting was Paramount
I’ve really never tried to be interesting to other people; I’ve just always tried to make sure that I’m never bored with what I’m doing. My career is still only ruled by my songwriting. The songs have always got to be the things I am the most proud of.
It’s quite simple, really,” the singer said, sitting on the beachfront patio of his manager’s Marina del Rey apartment. “I decided that the thing I really enjoy … the thing I really needed was my songwriting. I didn’t need the celebrity.
I think I’ve come to realise that my only real conviction is with song writing. I don’t think I am, or was, important as a “pop” star. And I don’t think that I have anything really important to say other than with my songs, you know. I’d much rather concentrate my energies and, if anything, direct my lifestyle towards my song writing.
“This award means more than anything that has ever happened to me. I’m totally overwhelmed. Being acknowledged as a songwriter means more to me than being hailed as a superstar.”
Of the many awards he received through his lifetime, George considered winning the prestigious Ivor Novello awards for songwriting as one of the most special.
“The best way to write something lasting is to be very personal. It’s not picking the bones. I don’t think you can take your personal experiences and water them down for people. I do feel vulnerable but that’s one of the main things that sets me apart from other people in my position. I allow myself to be that involved.”
“I think mostly people are jealous in that it’s all gone too well. Too smoothly. No fuck ups. I often think if there was one major, obvious chink in the armour that people could see it would be easier for me. People consider what I’ve done to be too inhuman. The most unfortunate part of that is that I think I’ve written and sung some of the most human songs I’ve heard on the radio in the last couple of years. But when you do all the other stuff as neatly as I’ve done it, it can actually detract from the human element of the songs.”
“It just so happens he’s one of the best songwriters in the world today, along with people like Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. He’s certainly the best in Britain.”
- An Audience with George Michael: Interview with Chris Evans (1996)
- George Michael Interview with Capital FM Radio with Dr. Fox (Dec 1998)
- George Michael on ‘Listen Without Prejudice’ (1990)
- George Michael on Anselmo Feleppa
- George Michael: The Lone Star State Interview on Q Magazine (June 1988)