539. ‘Freedom’, by Wham!

Time for more effervescent pop from George and Andrew, as Wham! cement their place as the teen idols of the day…

Freedom, by Wham! (their 2nd of five #1s)

3 weeks, from 14th October – 4th November 1984

Like the duo’s first #1, ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’, it’s another backwards facing hit. And if that sounded like a subtle dig, then I didn’t mean it to. It’s wonderfully retro, a tribute to Motown and sixties vocal groups and the perfect follow-up to ‘Wake Me Up…’, which was pitched half a decade earlier, towards the days of doo-wop.

Every day I hear a different story, People say you’re no good for me… The chord progression in the verses sounds so familiar. I don’t know if it’s because ‘Freedom’ sounds like something, or if something released since has sounded like ‘Freedom’, or if it’s just such good pop that it sounds timeless. The verses, and the bridges – ending in that and you do-o-o… – are so strong that the chorus, when it comes, feels a little pedestrian. I don’t want your freedom… It follows the beat too much, and gets a little slowed down by it.

It’s not as instant as WMUBYG-G (what an ugly acronym) but then I did rather excitedly claim that as the catchiest song ever! It’s still a great slice of pop, though. Yes, Wham were teeny-boppers, but they proved that being a teeny-bop act needn’t mean being second rate. And the lyrics here are (slightly) darker than before. George’s girl is treating him properly bad, like a prisoner who has his own key, not just sneaking off to the dancing without him.

It is also a bit too long: five minutes even with an edit. The ‘solo’, where the boys adlib over that deliberate beat feels like they were killing time for some unknown reason. It’s not fair to compare – each song should be taken on its individual merits yadda yadda yadda – but WMUBYG-G was shorter, and even sweeter for it. (There are even seven-minute long mixes of ‘Freedom’, which is definite overkill.)

The video for this one is interesting, taking the form of a travelogue from the duo’s tour of China in 1985 (it must have been made several months after the song was a hit). They were the first Western act to play there since Mao’s rise to power, and they sold out stadiums despite nobody knowing who they were. One wonders if using the song for this video was intentional: I don’t want your freedom… sung over images of communist China?

So. Three of the past five chart-toppers have been written and performed by George Michael. (And Andrew. Let’s not forget Andrew!) Over half of the year so far has seen either Frankie Goes to Hollywood or George Michael at #1. Wham! won’t be back at the top in 1984, but under normal circumstances they would have been. They were about to release probably the world’s favourite Christmas hit (sorry Mariah…) only to see it kept off the top by… Well, we’ll save that for another time.


12 thoughts on “539. ‘Freedom’, by Wham!

  1. A great slice of retro Motown for me. It does and did sound instantly familar. And catchy. The Four Tops used the same vibe courtesy Phil Collins for Loco In Acapulco a few years later as they harked back to their golden days. If I was guessing where the rhythm came from… Tears Of A Clown maybe.
    George always knew what he was doing, so id say freedom and China go hand in hand as intentional. A man of conscience and generosity and politically and socially supportive of causes and people. His next single donated proceeds to charity to support famine victims. Even while he was fretting about hairdos his heart was in the right place.

  2. I’ve always had a open mind about ‘teeny-bop’ bands …. I have to concede I have enjoyed most, for what they were, from the early 70s onwards. (Now ‘boy bands’ – that’s a different story!)
    So yeah, I always had a sneaking admiration for Wham! and I do like this one in particular.

    Thanks for posting the video – I have a fascination / interest in China, having many books and visited a tiny corner of the country some years back. I cannot remember ever having seeing this though, so double the joy. 😉 😀

    • Living in HK, I’ve been to China quite a few times (though not in the last couple of years, for obvious reasons… : ) Fascinating place to visit, though it’s changed completely from the country you see in the Wham video.

  3. Pingback: Recap: #511 – #540 | The UK Number Ones Blog

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