It had to be, I guess. Throughout the past weekend, through means intentional and unintentional, I heard George Michael’s “One More Try” at least four times. This, after not hearing it for months on end. For that reason alone, it should be today’s 80’s Mania Monday song. Then I started thinking: rather than feature just that one song, why not write something about the album it came from? Because that was such a great idea, this 80’s Mania Monday post will also act as an Albums That Forged The Path post as well. So, let’s take a look back at 1987’s Faith by George Michael.
It should go without saying that Faith was the biggest success of Michael’s solo career, and it certainly bested anything he had done before in Wham!, the group he formed with schoolmate Andrew Ridgeley. As debut solo albums go, they don’t come much more successful than this one. It has sold over 20 million copies worldwide. It had six (yes six!) top five pop hits, including four #1 hits. The biggest of those, the title track, was also the biggest selling single of 1988. The album itself was also that year’s biggest seller. The following year, it would win Album Of The Year at the Grammy Awards. Those are some of the staggering statistics that the album and its songs would register.
Looking back now, it’s easy to see that Michael was setting himself up for a solo career even as Wham! was thriving. He wrote and produced just about all of the songs the duo performed, he sung lead on all of them as well. By the time “Careless Whisper” was released as Wham! Featuring George Michael, it was a foregone conclusion that he was looking at a solo career. And when “A Different Corner” was released as his official solo debut, even as it was found on a Wham! album, that just about sealed the deal.
I’m sure that predictions as to how Michael’s solo debut would fare figured that it would be successful, but no one could have guessed just how successful. In addition to all the stats given above, the album was the first by a Caucasian artist to top the R&B Albums chart. In addition, “One More Try” would also top the R&B singles chart. But, let’s get to those songs, shall we?
The first song released was the somewhat controversial “I Want Your Sex.” It was released almost four months prior to the album itself, due to the fact that it was included on the movie soundtrack to the Eddie Murphy summer hit Beverly Hills Cop II. Despite the controversy, the song rocketed up to #2 on the pop chart. I can remember back in the day listening to Casey Kasem’s Top 40 countdown on our local station and it refused to even play the song! It was skipped each and every week of its chart run. Thankfully, once I got the album, I could hear the full-length version (or at least parts 1 & 2). Part 1 was the actual single.
Just before the album’s proper release, the title track was released as the second single. On the album, the beginning of the song is actually Wham!’s “Freedom” played slowly on a pipe organ. Amazingly, I never realized this. What on earth was I thinking? Oh yeah, just waiting for that rockabilly groove to come on in. This one was the first of the four #1 singles, and also the longest-lasting: it stayed in the top spot for four weeks.
Of the seven songs released from the album to actually chart, only “Hard Day” failed to make the top ten, either on the pop or R&B charts. It did, however make the top 5 on the dance chart and just missed the top 20 of the R&B chart. It was also given a great remix by the great Shep Pettibone that appeared on the CD edition of the album. It was also the flip side of the “I Want Your Sex” single. It’s that remix that I’ll feature here.
The fourth single to be released would also top the pop charts; this one made it for two weeks. “Father Figure,” according to what I’ve read, was supposed to be a dance track, but Michael removed the snare drums from the original recording. Once he did that, he liked what he heard and so “Father Figure” became the mid-tempo ballad we know and love. For reasons personal and just for my own enjoyment it has become my favorite; even though the memory that I associate with it is bittersweet.
Next to be released was the song that inspired this post. “One More Try” was the first ballad release pulled from the album, and it too made it all the way to #1. The only song to reach the top of the pop and R&B charts, it has become a pop classic and a quiet storm staple. It was also the last #1 single on the R&B charts by a white male solo artist until Robin Thicke’s “Lost Without You” in 2007.
“Monkey” was the next single, and the fourth consecutive #1 pop hit from the album. Once it was released as a single, the song was remixed by R&B hit producers Jimmy Jam Harris & Terry Lewis. The song also reached #1 on the dance charts. With this single’s success, Michael joined Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston as the only artists to have four or more consecutive #1 pop songs during 1987-1988. Fun fact: the video was choreographed by none other than Paula Abdul, who would be having her own hits later in 1988.
The final single released from the album, “Kissing A Fool” managed to get to #5 on the pop chart. With its jazzy torch song feel, it proved to be a perfect match for Michael Bublé to cover, which he did on his self-titled album. It would prove to be Michael’s last single under his own name for two years, until “Playing For Time” from Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1 appeared in 1990 (he would be featured on Deon Estus’ “Heaven Help Me”, which reached #5 in 1989).
The only songs from the original album release not to chart were “Hand To Mouth” and “Look At Your Hands.” For the album’s original CD release, “A Last Request (I Want Your Sex Part 3)” was added. A 30th anniversary edition was recently released, adding even more bonus material. Michael’s pop/soul masterwork was also celebrated as one of the top albums of all time by Rolling Stone magazine. With the memorable songs contained within, it’s easy to see why. After the passing of Michael on Christmas Day, I listened to the whole thing in its entirety. It’s still as good as I remember it from way back when. In a career filled with memorable songs, this album and its songs stand as his signature achievement.
Thanks for allowing me to indulge a bit with one of the 80’s best albums for 80’s Mania Monday. What were your favorite songs from the album? Did you buy/copy the album and wear out your copy? Have any special memories from the album or any of its hits? Leave them in the comments. Thanks once again for reading and listening.