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In the mid-'80s, George Michael was one of the biggest pop stars in the world. Gifted with good looks, an expressive voice and, arguably, the most popular band in the U.K., Wham!, he stacked up a number of hit singles. Among them, of course, were the irresistibly infectious "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go," "Everything She Wants," "Freedom," and "Careless Whisper."
This led to album sales in the tens of millions and superstar status
worldwide -- among other triumphs, Wham! was the first Western band to
play in China, for instance. For a time, Michael then managed to
maintain that success as a solo star. He added countless awards and
platitudes to his résumé, along with collaborations with other rock
royalty like Elton John, Aretha Franklin, and the surviving members of
Queen. He also scaled the sales charts with a multitude of megaselling
Then it all went awry. By the late '90s, he had become the fodder of scandal sheets and late-night comedians, and over the next decade, his run-ins with his record company and accelerating arrest record threatened to overshadow his music-making.
Today, June 25, Michael turns 48, bringing him perilously close to that day of reckoning, the big five-oh. Given that birthdays are often an opportunity to look back and reflect, perhaps it's time to figure out exactly what went wrong. Here at New Times, we don't claim that we're career counselors, but we know a train wreck when we see one. Charlie Sheen's got nothing on you, George. So we're here to help... with our list of blunders and bad moves you might have managed better.
1) Breaking up Wham!: Somebody should have woken you up before you decided to go-go, given that your partnership with school pal Andrew Ridgeley earned you a mint, made you a pop sensation, and gave you the chance to share the responsibilities of stardom with someone who might have been a bit more sensible. Sure, you did well on your own, but after Wham! went kaput and your music turned all serious and sensitive on us, it simply ceased being all that much fun.
2) An unfortunate bathroom break: Really, George? You're an über-rich rock star and you have to troll a public restroom to score a quickie? Really? Pee-wee Herman needed the publicity when he was arrested fondling himself in a Sarasota movie theater, but what's your excuse? And do you really think Pee-wee is the kind of role model you want to emulate? That's not only lewd but crude. And it wasn't real smart to get caught in similar circumstances in 2006. Get a room already, won't you?
3) Enough is enough: It was pretty sad that you had to play "I'll show you mine if you show me yours" in public places, but then you had to bare your vices as well. Nobody's going to knock you for taking an occasional toke, but telling The Guardian, the biggest newspaper in Britain, that you've cut back to only "seven or eight" spliffs per day instead of the 25 that used to be your daily intake probably isn't the kind of coverage that you should seek. Yes, being a druggie kinda goes along with being a rock star, but being a really wasted idiot doesn't work for anyone. Keith Richards is cool, but you're just a fool.
4) Hire a chauffeur: You're rich enough; you can afford it. When you were busted last year for driving under the influence, you lost our respect entirely. Geez, man, the roads are scary enough. We certainly don't need to worry that a pitiful pothead is in the car next to us. Besides, do you want people to know that the oblivious idiot going 20 miles per hour in the left-hand lane with the constant turn signal on is really you? So much for your iconic image.
5) Forgetting that when your reputation rests on your recordings, you actually do have to, well... record: Just because you named your last album Patience doesn't mean we're willing to wait another seven years (and counting) until your next release. It would be nice to know if you have any music left in you. Maybe drop us a hint one of these years.
Come to think of it, though, with all the foibles you've foisted on us over the course of your career, maybe it would be more appropriate if you launched your own soap opera instead. That, at least, could be consistent.
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