Retrospective Review: George Michael, ‘TwentyFive’
TwentyFive (Remastered) gives George Michael fans a respectable compilation of his greatest hits. TwentyFive isn’t without its omissions, however.
Sometimes, it takes tragedy to acknowledge the gifts of an iconic musician. It is unfortunate, but with the deaths of numerous iconic musicians, the desire to own their work goes up exponentially. Such is the case with British pop musician George Michael, who died unexpectedly on Christmas Day, 2016. One of the better compilations of his music is TwentyFive, a two-disc, 29-song collection released in Spring 2008. As with all compilations, it has its pros as well as its cons. The biggest cons with a compilation – the omissions.
Fittingly, TwentyFive starts with two songs courtesy of Wham! – “Everything She Wants” and “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.” Both songs were no. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, appearing from the pop duo’s second album, Make It Big (1984). Down the track list, on the second disc, another no. 1 hit, “Carless Whisper” as well as Christmas hit, “Last Christmas,” appears. “Careless Whisper” is attributed to Wham!, but is truly a George Michael song. Notably, “Last Christmas” made waves on the Hot 100 dated January 14, 2017, peaking at no. 41.
Some Wham! songs naturally missed the cuts. “I’m Your Man” is one of such, a no. 3 hits back in 1986. “Freedom” – another no. 3 hit – also misses the cut, though “Freedom! ‘90” appears. One final top-10 hit doesn’t receive a nod, “The Edge of Heaven,” the title track for the film of the same title from 1986. All in all, The Wham! portion of Michael’s career is covered well here.
George Michael’s Solo Career
The trickier part of TwentyFive is covering the solo career of George Michael. Following openers “Everything She Wants” and “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” a cover of the vocal standard “Feeling Good” appears. “Feeling Good” is a newbie. “Faith,” from Faith (1987), puts GM fans in the sweet spot with the incredibly fun no. 1 hit. Its follow-up, “Too Funky,” appeared on a previous, two-disc compilation, Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael (1998). Though “Too Funky” first found a home on that album, it peaked at no. 10 on the Hot 100 on the chart dated August 8, 1992.
Things begin to center on the core of the musician’s discography. “Fastlove” hails from 1996 album Older, and peaked at no. 8 on the Hot 100. “Freedom! ’90,” cited earlier, reappears from Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1. Like “Fastlove,” it was another top-10 hit for Michael, peaking at no. 8. “Spinning the Wheel” (Older) arrives next, followed by two songs that appeared on The Best of George Michael: “Outside” and “As,” featuring Mary J. Blige. None of the three impacted the Hot 100.
“Freeek” is incredibly fun, showcasing the popstar’s risqué, explicit side. “Freeek” reappears from his final studio album released stateside, Patience (2004). Compare “Freeek” to an updated “I Want Your Sex,” which doesn’t appear on this album! As great as “Freeek” is as well as how fitting it is in representing a contemporary George Michael sound, should “I Want Your Sex” be sacrificed in its favor? No.
TwentyFive keeps it “all in the family” with the appearance of “Shoot the Dog,” “Amazing,” and “Flawless (Go to the City).” Of the four songs appearing from Patience, “Amazing” is the crème de la crème. Unfortunately, none of the singles from Patience charted on the Hot 100 stateside. “An Easier Affair” closes disc one, For Living.
Following the Wham! songs that initiate the second disc, For Loving, “A Different Corner” is reprised from The Best of George Michael. Two juggernauts from Faith arrive with “Father Figure” (no. 1) and the timeless “One More Try” (no. 1). Sacrificed from the Grammy-winning album are “Monkey” (no. 1), the aforementioned “I Want Your Sex” (no. 2), and “Kissing a Fool” (no. 5).
Paul McCartney & Elton John
Beyond Faith, “Praying For Time” (no. 1) receives its just due, reprised from Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1. Paul McCartney amplifies the superstar power, appearing with Michael on “Heal the Pain,” originally from Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1. Elton John does the same on a fantastic recording of “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.” “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” had previously spoiled listeners back on The Best of George Michael.
“Jesus to a Child” (no. 7) and “Older” reappear from Older, while ever-popular cover “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” reappears from Songs From the Last Century (1999). “You Have Been Loved” (Best of George Michael), “John and Elvis are Dead” (Patience), and “This Is Not Real Love” featuring Mutya (TwentyFive) conclude TwentyFive.
Ultimately, TwentyFive offers an abundance of riches for the fan who wants to remember some of the biggest highlights and triumphs of George Michael’s career. More often than not, TwentyFive gets it right. Still, like most compilations, there are misses. In addition to the aforementioned misses, how does 80s mega-hit “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” with the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin miss the cut? It was a no. 1 hit in 1987, sigh.
Non-Negotiable Gems: “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” “Faith,” “Amazing,” “Careless Whisper,” “Father Figure,” “One More Try” & “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”
George Michael • TwentyFive (Remastered) • Aegean / Epic • Release: 4.1.08
Photo Credit: Aegean / Epic