It was time for something new. For his first half-decade in the public eye, George Michael was the sleek, impossibly talented young singer and creative force behind Wham!, the synth-pop duo that became the biggest British act of the 1980s in the mid-1980s. But bah! was suffocating, with a mostly teenage audience too busy yelling at Michael instead of listening to his music.
His first big step was ‘Careless Whisper’, a solo single that was packaged as a Wham! single in America. Although the song was a rare co-write with bandmate Andrew Ridgeley, Michael was credited as a solo artist on most versions of the song. More refined than the light and fluffy material that Wham! was transitioning in the mid-1980s, Michael saw a way beyond the boundaries of Wham!
When the duo broke up in 1986, Michael began recording his solo debut almost immediately. By focusing largely on his own personal relationships, Faith was a step out for Michael. To celebrate his newfound independence and his leap into adulthood, Michael radically changed his image by growing facial hair and embracing a more explicitly sex-focused style.
That new image would be featured in full in the video for the album’s title track. While it wouldn’t be the first single to show off Michael’s new look, with “I Want Your Sex” five months earlier, “Faith” would become Michael’s iconic visual and musical statement during this period.
While Michael didn’t air his sexuality publicly at this point, even bringing in his then girlfriend for the video of ‘I Want Your Sex’. But the “Faith” video had more than a few clues for discerning viewers. “Faith” was to become the iconic point of Michael’s independence, but it didn’t take long for Michael to get tired of the song and video.
In fact, just three years later, Michael felt the need to explode from his previous image. “At some point in your career, the situation between you and the camera reverses,” Michael told The Los Angeles Times. “A certain number of years you spoil it, and you need it, but in the end it needs you more, and it’s a bit like a relationship. The moment that happens, you get knocked out… and it feels like it’s taking something away from you.”
As such, Michael declined to appear in the video for his latest single, “Freedom! ’90’. Instead, he hired director David Fincher to create a stylized video featuring an array of supermodels. As an added bonus, Fincher decided to make Michael’s abandonment of his past literal by destroying some of the iconic objects from the “Faith” video, including his leather jacket, guitar and jukebox.
“By the end of the Faith tour, I felt so miserable because I absolutely knew I was gay,” Michael told Attitude in 2004. “I didn’t want to come out suddenly. I wanted to do it with some kind of dignity. So I thought, ‘Okay, you need to start deconstructing this whole image.’”
Watch the video for ‘Faith’ below.
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