The name George Michael has popped up again in the media after the release of a new documentary about Wham, the duo that thrust him into the spotlight decades ago. The band’s string of hits and massive global appeal are examined in the Netflix film – titled simply Wham – but what about what happened after that?
When Wham split up, Michael went on to become one of the top pop stars in the world. He broke records and won plenty of awards, and he snagged eight No. 1 hits on Billboard’s Hot 100, the main songs chart in America. Now, years after those tunes came and went and long after his passing, it’s a good time to re-examine those singles and see how they hold up.
Here are all of Michael’s eight No. 1 singles in America, ranked from not-his-best (there is no “worst” here) to best.
8. “Praying for Time”
With “Praying for Time,” Michael wanted to say something important. The song tackles societal issues, which the singer hadn’t been known to do very often. Because of this, many critics applauded the move, and fans enjoyed the track, sending it right to No. 1 on the Hot 100. That said, it’s also a bit slow, like “One More Try,” and it’s not nearly as impressive now as it was when it was released in 1990.
When it was released in the summer of 1988, “Monkey” likely sounded much more impressive than it does today. The production of the No. 1 single – the last one of four from Faith – feels dated, and not especially unique. It was surely perfect for dance floors at the time, but if it was played in a club today, people might take a seat for a moment. The same can’t be said for some other Michael or Wham tracks.
6. “One More Try”
Michael sings “One More Try” very well, but even his powerful and perfectly on-pitch vocals aren’t quite enough to make this one of his best. The ballad is long – nearly six minutes in length – and remarkably slow. The combination of those two factors makes it feel like it can drag. Thankfully, his delivery brings something special to the cut. In less capable hands, this really would have been a bummer.
5. “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” with Aretha Franklin
An unlikely duet, “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” sees Michael teaming up with the legend that was Aretha Franklin. The former Wham singer was apparently incredibly nervous to work with the icon, but they pulled off a huge hit. This track would be Franklin’s last top 10 on the Hot 100, while Michael was still just getting started. In fact, he had yet to begin promoting his own debut solo record, which would roll out that same year.
4. “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” with Elton John
A collaboration between Michael and Elton John would normally appear closer to the top of this ranking, if it weren’t for the singer’s other even-more-stellar hits. This single is slow to start, and it really relies on the chorus to save it…and boy does it. The simple refrain of “don’t let the sun go down on me, yeah” is iconic and anthemic, and it’s perfect for the massive shows Michael used to play.
3. “Careless Whisper”
“Careless Whisper” was originally a Wham song, but in the beginning of their career, no one wanted to sign them based on the cut. In fact, it was largely forgotten for a while until the duo resurrected it for their sophomore album. It was released as a single in the U.S. as Wham featuring Michael, which officially started his solo career. The saxophone hook alone is enough to land this tune inside the upper half of this list.
2. “Father Figure”
The second of four No. 1s from Faith, “Father Figure” still has us screaming “daddy” whenever it comes on. It’s more of an R&B tune with gospel influences than a traditional pop track, but Michael still makes it work. The backing chorus serves the track well, and lifts it to heights it wouldn’t have known without those vocalists.
When that guitar starts strumming, it’s impossible to not want to at least tap your toes to the music. “Faith” served as the second official single from Michaels’ solo album of the same name, following behind the controversially-named “I Want Your Sex” (which missed the No. 1 spot by one rung). The video is very simple, but there are plenty of close-ups of the singer’s butt, so that always helps.
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