Death has been greedy this year.
After each, earthly mouthful, we clasp at our cheeks in wide-eyed bewilderment: “surely, no, he can’t make room for any more“. Alas, the nature of this freakish appetite is untameable. Yesterday, on 25th December, 2016, Death made room for George Michael.
George Michael was an artist second, an icon first; his persona and identity superseded any of his musical output. This isn’t a slight, nor a devaluing of his primary craft, Michael was responsible for some of the finest pop this side of the 80s. His music had an ability to encapsulate a wild spectrum of themes without ever making such an exercise obvious to its listener. It was deeply constructed: thoughtful, philosophical, wise – and always, always provocative. Whatever the song’s underlying foundation – be it his sexuality or not – Michael was never one to shy away from the larger point. However, under the sonic umbrella of funked-up, sun-drenched pop music, these ideas were made accessible in a way never dared prior to him.
The reason, however, that George Michael’s persona exceeds his music on such an objective level is simple. His music was him. Think of it as less of an extension, and more of an alternative, yet suitably equal method of projection. Like Bowie, like Prince, like Lemmy – fellow martyrs to this year’s mortal hunger – there was no separation of music and soul. George Michael wasn’t a character; he was Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou and Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou was he. Together, they were bright, canny, sweeping, enigmatic, unpredictable, unflinching, magic and dirty as hell. Hand-in-hand, George and his music subverted expectation, normality and A-to-B templates on how to act, or be. Homophobia didn’t stand a chance, nor did hatred.
George Michael’s influence will forever remain. Be it on our radios, or in the way we deal with ideas and notions. Somewhere, he’s the afterlife of the party.
Words by Niall Flynn