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Word, Noise, Motion, Gesture

George Michael's music has been a part of my life for so long, it's hard to remember a time when it wasn't there. Amidst the piano lessons, the opera-going, weekend museum trips, endless nights of boring math homework, and mosquito-ridden trips to summer camp, his voice was always in my head and heart, humming a tuneful Motown-flecked backdrop to dance or cry to, sometimes both at once. It started in elementary school, alongside the green carpets and jungle-themed wallpaper of my childhood home, in the tidy brick house of a pastel-hued suburbia. I heard a magical, smooth voice, saw shiny white teeth on TV. As musician/video director Kevin Godley told me recently, you can't really separate image from popular music. When you hear Elvis, you see Elvis; that's just how it works.

And so it is with George: I can't imagine hearing him without seeing him. Though he might've tried to destroy the pop star image, his aesthetic is tied up in how he looks, and how he's played with his image over the three-plus decades he's been in popular music.

When I first saw him beamed through the then-new MuchMusic, he was one half of the poptastic Wham!. My childhood best friend's family are English; as a kid, she'd get sent super-cool pop magazines from abroad. We'd pour through them as we listened to records, laughing, swooning, dreaming, planning. We were girls, we liked how George and Andrew sounded, and we liked how they looked too-wholesome enough to be non-threatening to parents, yet smooth enough to be titillating to young girls. They were also good dancers, and it warmed my music-loving heart to know George wrote all his own tunes. "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" was the very coolest thing we had ever seen or heard. When the Katharine Hamnett knock-off "Choose Life" shirts showed up in the local mall, we had to get them. When we heard they were coming to Toronto, we had to see them. My mother said "yes" but then unexpectedly changed her mind.