Friday, 1 May 2009

1984 Wham!: Freedom

Now on a purple patch that saw him writing every other UK number one, George Michael's next outing under the Wham! banner was yet another musical homage, this time to the classic Motown sound crafted by Holland–Dozier–Holland.

From the moment the slightly behind the beat drums, handclaps and descending bassline starts up, then 'Freedom' could be mistaken for a mash up of 'Baby Love', 'Nowhere To Run' and 'Stop! In The Name Of Love', and the aggregate of influences ensure the opening verses are an upbeat gallop in the sunshine.

If you're going to steal then steal from the best, but alas! with 'Freedom' Michael only seems to have part of the map to the treasure. The opening bounces along with confidence for sure, but it doesn't know where it's bouncing to and ends up coming unstuck. Shifts of key crank up the tension and expectation as the track builds to the chorus:

"But you know that I'll forgive you
just this once, twice, forever"

making 'Freedom' run breathlessly through narrow corridors toward an exit door that never appears:

"I don't want nobody, baby, part time love just brings me down".

With no way out, it hits a brick wall dead end of silence where it drops its payload of the payoff line:

"Girl all I want right now is you"

A more anticlimactic resolution to the building excitement you couldn't imagine, especially after Michael had already shown how it should be done with the pop perfection and fish hook chorus of 'Wake Me Up Before You Go Go'. Even the brass arrangement, so effervescent and playful throughout seems to give a surprised 'What the.....?' as it jerks back into life to try and regain the lost momentum. Which it does, only to lose it again the next time the chorus comes round.

And it comes round an awful lot, because another of the problems of 'Freedom' is that at over five minutes long, it outstays its welcome by a good two minutes and bores in its repetition. Michael would perhaps have benefited from taking a different leaf out of the Holland–Dozier–Holland book in that the three songs referenced above were short, sharp shocks that came in at under three minutes apiece and by leaving the audience wanting more were all the better for it. By the time 'Freedom' fades into silence there can be few not glad to see the back of it.

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