With the combined momentum of Wham!’s success and his debut solo record Faith, George Michael ascends to the heights of becoming the biggest pop star on the planet. But after winning several R&B awards usually reserved for black artists that results in backlash as well as feeling burned out from the “merry-go-round” of astronomical success, Michael retreats. His next album Listen Without Prejudice Volume 1 not only marked a stylistic shift, it went against the typical pop star formula – Michael wasn’t on the cover, he did no promotion, and didn’t appear in the lead single’s music video. It lead to a bitter court despite with Michael’s record label all while he was dealing with personal tragedy.
As a singer, George Michael songs are among some of my very favorite to perform. In that regard I’ve never underestimated him. But before this documentary I had no clue to what extent he was an introspective, brilliant, stubborn, and generally complicated artist. Resounding testimonials in this documentary from the likes of Elton John, Mary J. Blige, and Stevie Wonder furthered his case as one of pop music’s greatest icons. While those interviewed clearly revered Michael’s Wham! and Faith-era material, Michael only gives passing mention. It’s almost as if he wanted to get across that Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1 is where he really became an artist. This makes Freedom a slightly skewed documentary. But as the last project Michael worked on before he died, he leaves his own lasting impression and we as consumers have to grant artists that license sometimes.