Friday, May 2, 2008

No. 480: Faith

Band: George Michael
Album: Faith
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Oddly good, "Faith" is a wonderful intersection of white-guy soul and dirty pop. George Michael's thinly veiled -- or not veiled in the case of "I Want Your Sex" -- sexuality powers the album, along with his strong voice.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: It's certainly dated.
Best song: The title track is great, as is "Monkey.
Worst song: "Hard Day" isn't great.
Is it awesome?: Actually, yes.

As I mentioned in a recent piece, one of the joys of this project is seeing how certain albums were received, despite my ignorance of said reception when the album came out.

"Faith" was released just before my seventh birthday and "I Want Your Sex" was wildly popular. In a rare show of parental censorship -- one thing my parents did really well was let me sister and I see/hear just about everything we wanted -- my parents (I don't remember if it was a combined effort or one or the other) weren't comfortable with two popular songs. One was Salt 'N Pepa's "Push It" -- which confused us, because we didn't understand the innuendo as 6- and 8-year olds -- and George Michael's "I Want Your Sex."

To this day, my purchase of this album was held up by this notion. I, like 10 million others, probably would've had this album before last month had my parents treated the song the same way they treated so many movies, CDs and TV shows.

So, my parents' ruling is one of the things I remember about "Faith," not the acclaim it apparently received. I mean, wow. I'm really struck by the reviews from Rolling Stone and AllMusic. AllMusic's review begins as such:

A superbly crafted mainstream pop/rock masterpiece, Faith made George Michael an international solo star, selling over ten million copies in the U.S. alone as of 2000. Perhaps even more impressively, it also made him the first white solo artist to hit number one on the R&B album charts.

The Rolling Stone piece ends this way:

It's a sentimental dead end. But the rest of Faith displays Michael's intuitive understanding of pop music and his increasingly intelligent use of his power to communicate to an ever-growing audience.


As for me, I understand the love for the album. It's actually incredibly smart, taking on contemporary issues like spousal abuse ("Look at Your Hands"), 1980s British politics ("Hard Day"), drug use ("Monkey") and, of course, religion ("Faith"). Yes, most of it is couched in Michael's easy sexuality, but that largely makes the records catchy.

It's a nice listen, but it's hardly the masterpiece it was found to be when I was a wee lad.


One final thing: "Faith" is a 1980s album, so it comes with the normal caveats that the 1980s were a decade of strange compression, big strings, horns and cheap drum machines. There's a lot of that stuff on this record and I imagine a lot of those songs would be better served by cover songs being produced by different artists.

Um, of course, other than this shit:

That's just wrong.

1 comment:

taotechuck said...

Odd. Listen Without Prejudice Vol 1 is a much better album. I think it faced unnaturally high expectations, but in retrospect, it possesses warmth and depth that aren't fully realized on Faith.

Of course, the production is rotten on both of them, but it's not quite as rotten on Listen.