Firstly, let me say that I don't care about his Sexuality, lifestyle choices or off the pitch shenanigans. I just see George as an excellent songwriter.
From the Hi Colour 1980s came the pop duo Wham. Now, I challenge anyone to admit that they thought out of that duo would come a global superstar and a brilliant songwriter.
After 3 albums, Fantastic, Make It Big and The Final, George Michael left Andrew Ridgely to go solo but had already had a solo number one with A Different Corner while still in Wham. This showed a new, more sophisticated sound which George was going to mine seamlessly for his solo career.
His solo career actually kicked off in 1987 with a duet with Aretha Franklin and became a HUGE number 1 single all over the world.
Following this song, he released the album Faith which would launch a stellar career on both sides of the Atlantic and see him becoming the most successful male solo artist in the world. Faith has sold over 25 million copies and has made George one of the most successful recording artists of all time.
Faith did show signs of a growing maturity in his songwriting
There is no doubt about his credentials as a songwriter but the touring and success of Faith took it's toll. He did not release his next album until the end of 1990. Listen Without Prejudice Vol 1 was George's attempt to be finally taken seriously as a songwriter. Gone was the happy pop and image conscious products of previous albums, this was a new, serious George. Even it's title encouraged listeners to take him more seriously.
The first single had no George on it whatsoever and was a lyric only production. The majestic Praying For Time.
I think that the move George made was the right one. I love the lightness of touch and simpler more acoustic based songs on the album.
George, for me though, still has one fatal flaw in his music. He continues to follow the path that he is a dance music creator. Very much like Madonna. But I think this album shows that he can produce better music when he concentrates on songwriting and not on producing and chasing contemporary soundscapes. The dance oriented songs were the weakest ones on this album.
There is a depth and maturity on Listen Without Prejudice that shines through the majority of the tracks. And, unlike some of the following albums such as Older, the songs are not maudlin or depressing.
It caught the record buying public, especially in America, off-guard. It only sold 2 million copies in the USA and a total of 8 million worldwide.
I wish that George would go back to this template, concentrate on the songwriting and give us another Listen Without Prejudice Vol 1 (the dance oriented Vol 2 was supposed to be released a year later). He has it within him. He just needs to believe in his own talent again.
Twitter - @GeorgeMichael