Symphonica by George Michael – Album of the Week

GeorgeAlbum: Symphonica

Artist: George Michael

Year: 2014

Details: 15 songs; 1 Hour 9 minutes

Who’s Choice: Gone Mild

George Michael fell out of a car going 70 miles per hour last year?? Who does that? I don’t pay a lot of attention to the personal life of George Michael, but for god’s sake, this guy is a mess. That he is still on his feet performing – not in jail or in a hospital bed – is something. I still, however, don’t care for him.

Dan’s love for George Michael has always kind of cracked me. When he picked Symphonica for our album, I had a giggle. I had some giggles when I listened too. But in his post this week, Dan describes his own willingness to just give in to liking him, warts and all. We take opposite sides on this album as a whole and even on specific songs. We all have our guilty pleasures, and this album even made me return to one of mine.

This seemed a very long album – performed live with an orchestra. From my understanding, many of these songs are George Michael standards. Not knowing his work, I had to fact check most of them. Most of those that aren’t his own songs, are popular standards.

The album starts out with Through – one of his. To me, this sounds like a something from a Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. The orchestra is lush and beautiful with some really nice french horning. But when he sings about the audience being so cruel, and then the album’s production has the crowd clapping joyously, it doesn’t listen well to me. I call phony claptrap. Five minutes and ten seconds of him pronouncing “through” different ways, is also too much for me.

I do kind of like the album when he goes Harry Connick/Michael Buble upbeat. The finger popping like he does on My Baby Just Cares for Me, and even when he does Nina SImone’s Feeling Good, is nice. If there were more of these, I may have enjoyed it to a greater extent than I did. 

His ballads just sound so schmaltzy to me. And when he sings some of the lyrics, they really sound goofy. He sings this song, Let Her Down Easy.  This is a Terence Trent D’arby song that I did not know before looking it up. When I went to listen Terence sing it, the song made much more sense. That research actually made listening to George Michael’s version easier. 

That wasn’t the case with his singing Roberta Flack’s The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. Even though I know this song, his vibrato and dramatic phrasing on this – oh boy! The guy has a pretty voice, but this made me roll my eyes. It felt like something you would experience in an American Idol performance. 

And then there is this one, (which is one of his):

But the words that made me cry

The thing he softly said

It stayed with me, it keeps messing with my head

He said, “If Jesus Christ is alive and well

Then how come John & Elvis are dead?”

What does that mean???? And he sings it with such over the top emotion. 

I don’t really get “live” albums either. When the production brings audience sounds in at different points in a track, I find it weird and distracting. 

As I noted earlier, thanks to this week’s album and George’s version of Idol, I became a little obsessed with listening to my guilty pleasure – old Elton John. I thought of picking one of those for our next album, but I think we need something new.

Next up, Gary Clark Jr.’s Blak and Blu