George Michael's latest release, 'Older,' disappoints: First effort in six years from 'Faith' artist lacks energy and appeal of earlier work, yet will still impress fans

by Michael A> Posey | 7/31/96 5:00am

George Michael, best known as the butt-wiggling poster child of the '80s is now obviously older, but not necessarily wiser. His newest release, titled "Older," features a more mellow, more somber George, a definite change from his guitar-swinging, tight-jean-wearing, teeny-bopping days of yore.

A panache of slow, silky ballads and one upbeat dance tune, "Older" is targeted for an audience which has cast off its '80s-era notions of having fun and living for today.

"Older" is a product of the '90s and it ushers in the era of a new George Michael, slightly shy and unwilling to draw on the successes of his previous works.

With "Older," Michael tries to make a Travolta-esque comeback after six long years out of the loop. Sporting a new look -- a short Cesar cut with a mustache and goatee faintly reminiscent of the Devil -- Michael yearns to be taken seriously.

Although he will always be remembered as the large-haired, earring-pierced singer from Wham!, Michael tries with "Older" to silence his critics and provide his fans with a more restrained George.

However, in his attempt to make music that is mature, adult and contemporary, he has managed to record songs that seem exhausted and out of date.

His first track, a basso nova styled "Jesus to a Child" is representative of his style throughout most of this album.

A slow, pensive tune featuring Michael crooning over lackadaisical chords, "Jesus to a Child" was the first single released on this work.

This song and the army of other saccharine selections on the album is inherent of the overall dreariness of "Older."

Just a grade above boring, this album has all the appeal of a flat carbonated beverage, still palatable, but not all that enjoyable.

"Fastlove" which follows "Jesus to a Child" is a synth-pop confection, complete with whistles and jazz riff.

This song features Michael at his best as he murmurs the following lines before climaxing with a gooey crescendo. He states: "I won't bore you with the details baby/ I don't even want to waste your time/ let's just say that maybe/ you could help to ease my mind."

A danceable ditty with a functional beat and a memorable mantra, "Fastlove" may prove to be the only veritable hit from the entire album.

None of the songs except this sample-saturated second selection, "Fastlove" provide us with any of that raw energy reminiscent of Michael's Wham! days.

Where is a track like "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" or "Faith?" They seem to have been marginalized in order to establish Michael's "invisible" mature artistry.

"Faith," Michael's first solo album, was inviting partly because he seemed to be working so hard to entertain us.

However, Michael's new repertoire is too preoccupied with earnestness and maturity to break a sweat.

"You Have Been Loved," one of the albums' final selections, offers a lilting, whimsical paean to unrequited love.

"Free," the final selection on the album, is a musical mixed drink featuring the alien twangs of a sitar in the background and a thumping bass line.

Michael's voice only occupies a small part of the track; this is probably for the better given his luck with the other selections on the compact disc.

It has been a six year wait since Michael's "Listen Without Prejudice: Volume 1."

You may think that after such a long time away from the recording studio, Michael would want to unleash that blustery, full voice as seen on such tracks as the adrenalined-pumped "I Want Your Sex" and the wispy, sotto voce-styled "Father Figure." Where is the George Michael that we all remember?

Much of the 11-track album is forgettable, however there a few memorable tracks including "Star People."

A Latin-based, comfortably paced selection which offers this hypocritical advice to listeners: "star people/ counting your money till your soul turns green/ star people/ counting the cost of your desire to be seen."

"Older," on the heels of Michael's highly disputed contract with Sony, is the first release to be picked up by Steven Spielberg's newest entertainment vehicle, DreamWorks.

Michael who created a huge ruckus about his contract has now signed with DreamWorks and is riding high after signing a $52 million contract.

Although fans may not be able to wait to hear "Older," its nonchalance and lack of verve may be enough to cure the worst case of nostalgia.

Steeped in a vat clearly labeled "easy-listening," the selections are lethargic and slow. However, Michael's new release is nice and comfortable, something you could put on while studying or jogging. His style is predictable and easily anticipated.

"Older" will indeed make Michael more marketable. In addition to being heard on the radio, this release should be a favorite on Muzak-equipped elevators throughout the United States.

The album insert states "Thank you for waiting." Offering such a listless release, I could have waited just a little longer.

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