The article “A proud peacock folds his feathers: George Michael sheds sexy image” was written by Edna Gundersen and published on September 13, 1990 through Gannett News Service. This interview is the longer version of the USA Today piece written by the same author George Michael: The Singer Takes Pride in ‘Prejudice’ (1990)
Only three years ago, with a stunning solo debut album called Faith, George Michael shed the bubblegum image that stuck after the success of Wham!
Having secured global fame as a respected pop icon, he’s now wriggling out of his superstar skin to expose the third George Michael.
“I believe I have some kind of gift, but I don’t believe in myself as a star,” says Michael, 27, poolside at ‘.his manager’s Encino home.
‘Deeply tanned and barefoot, he wears a tank top, black shorts, a Lakers cap and one gold earring. He sips ice water under the full sun of a 90-degree afternoon, as two labradors vie for attention.
“To be happy as a star,” he continues, “you have to believe you’re really removed from people. I’ve never been comfortable with that. I know that deep down, I’m the same as everyone else.”
As starspeak goes, this is a party line many tend to dismiss as calculated humility. But Michael’s retreat from pop’s starmaking machinery is plainly evident on several levels.
Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1, released this week, abandons the dance floor for soul-baring regret about romantic loss and career strategies.
The cover depicts a 1940 crowded beach scene, not the coiffed and stubbled singer. Once MTV’s favorite fixture, Michael declined to make a video for Praying for Time. No. 18 in Billboard this week. With his consent, Columbia instead released a stark video of the lyrics.
He’ll make a video for the next single, Freedom 90, but won’t appear in it. He rarely poses for photos.
This peacock is folding up his feathers.
“The person I was four or five years ago was perfectly happy to stand in front of camera “all day,” he says. “Now it makes me so miserable. I’ve never been happy with the way I looked. Maybe I needed physical adulation to make up for things I didn’t see in myself. … I realize it’s not everything to be attractive.”
The grueling 10-month Faith tour took Michael to the brink of a breakdown and prompted a re-evaluation of priorities. A homebody who enjoys walking his dog and playing squash, Michael has decided against touring. Instead he’ll stick close to his London home and return to the studio to record Prejudice’s second volume, out in late 1991.
During a brief U.S. visit, he’s granted only three print interviews to explain this abrupt reversal to his fans.
“About halfway through the Faith tour, I realized I was very unhappy with my position,” he says. “I’d set my sights on American superstardom and getting up there with Michael Jackson and Madonna and Prince, simply because my ego and my ambition needed a new challenge.
“For the first time, I recorded the exact album I wanted to make without thinking of the market,” he says of Prejudice. “There were compromises on the earlier albums that I haven’t made this time.”
The current recoil is an industry rarity, a commercial risk and a surprising answer to 1987’s Grammy-winning Faith, which topped pop and black charts, sold 14 million copies, spawned a record six Top 5 hits and established the singer as a consummate rock star.
“I realized I didn’t believe in that person,” he says.
For now, Michael is portraying himself. Raised by a Greek immigrant father and English mother, the pudgy youngster’s insecurities fed his craving for stardom. It was realized in his rapid rise to fame with Wham! partner Andrew Ridgeley, who by his own admission became a lazy drunk as Michael blossomed into a songwriter and sharp market strategist.
Michael has been romantically uninvolved for nearly two years “the happiest time I’ve spent since I was 17 or 18.” He enjoyed but never embraced the rock lifestyle’s revolving door of sexual favors. “I’m not very good at relationships. I’m quite self-destructive in a way and that’s caused a lot of pain. I’ve changed as a person, so maybe I’ll approach the next relationship differently. I’ve had a couple of pretty disastrous ones. “You don’t necessarily fall for people you want to or who are good for you.
He’s not ready for marriage or fatherhood.
“I don’t think marriage holds people together. To have a child must be the most wonderful experience, and it should not be gone into lightly. Right now, I still have so many other goals. I’m content in my work.”
- George Michael Interview with Capital FM Radio with Dr. Fox (Dec 1998)
- George Michael: The Singer Takes Pride in ‘Prejudice’ (1990)
- George Michael: The Reluctant Pop Star (Calendar Magazine, Sept 1990)
- An Audience with George Michael: Interview with Chris Evans (1996)
- ‘Souled Out: George Michael’ Published in Interview Magazine (1988)