In 1990, the pressure was on for George Michael. The star had succeeded in breaking away from his early success with Wham! with his hit solo album Faith in 1987, which sold over 25 million copies and sent four singles to the top of the charts.
Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1 arrived on Sept. 3, 1990, and seemed almost purposefully designed to fail, even before people heard its largely acoustic, moody cuts. Michael announced in advance of the album that he would not be doing any press to promote it, nor would he be appearing in any of its videos or on its cover. Instead, the album shipped with a 1940 photograph of Coney Island’s jam-packed beach, shot by Arthur “Weegee” Fellig, a photographer known primarily for his black and white shots of crime scenes.
But it was “Freedom ’90,” the third single from the album, that made the biggest cultural impact. Directed by David Fincher, who was then hot off his video for Madonna’s “Vogue,” the video for “Freedom ’90,” true to Michael’s promise, didn’t feature the singer at all. Instead, Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Tatjana Patitz, Christy Turlington and Cindy Crawford all appeared in his place, lip-syncing the song’s lyrics. Propelled by the bold choice and photogenic cast, the video went into heavy rotation on MTV.
Though Listen was far more successful in the U.K. than Stateside, the record went onto sell eight million copies worldwide, and was certified platinum in Canada, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland in addition to the U.S. and U.K.