December 14, 1987 12:00 PM

George Michael

Wham! has gone the way of all pop groups—into oblivion. But in his solo career George Michael is still using the same marketing ploy that worked so well for him and Andrew Ridgeley. A few carefully selected singles are released and go shooting up the charts well in advance of the album. This builds a hefty popular ground swell and creates anticipation for the release. As a preemptive strike against critics, it’s effective. Who can argue with success? The thing is, if you’ve already bought the singles I Want Your Sex, with its persistent groove, and Faith, with its choppy guitar strokes and mock-rockabilly feel, you already have the best parts of this album. Michael has meticulously crafted the sound of the LP, but the record is marred by his weakness for mawkish material. He carries the torch enough on Faith to qualify for the Olympic opening ritual. Other selections such as Hard Day are clearly just half-baked song fragments endlessly repeated. Michael’s voice can be quite appealing when he puts some muscle into it. Most of the time, however, he’s trying to inject it with overwrought drama. There seem to be only two shades on his emotional palette. Michael’s voice either gets all soft and breathy (signifies he’s being sensitive or seductive) or distraught (signifies he’s heartbroken, angry or horny). That may be exactly what the doctor ordered to get the little girls screaming, but for most people, it’s a snooze. (Columbia)

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