568. ‘A Different Corner’, by George Michael

George Michael, one of the biggest pop idols of the decade, returns for his second solo chart-topper. A low-key, and I’d say pretty forgotten chart-topper…

A Different Corner, by George Michael (his 2nd of seven solo #1s)

3 weeks, from 13th April – 4th May 1986

It has a haunting intro: two bass notes, and a distant, echoing piano. ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’ it is not. In fact, cast your mind back just a few months, and Wham! were at number one with the perky, Motown-flavoured ‘I’m Your Man’. This is a big departure, a big statement, for an (almost) former boyband star, and the fact that Michael took such a sparse record to the top shows just how popular he was.

It’s not a verse-bridge-chorus kind of song. George’s voice smoothly caresses its way over hills and around corners, through a tale of unrequited love… I would promise you all of my life, But to lose you would cut like a knife, So I don’t dare… He’s never been in love, as he’s in ‘A Different Corner’… As with all of George’s #1 thus far, I can’t help but read a little subtext in this. I’m so scared of this love… he groans, and I’m left wondering how it took everyone so long to realise. According to George himself, it was written about the end of a very quick relationship, as well as his sadness at the end of Wham!

The obvious comparison to make is with George Michael’s first chart-topper, the much glossier and more bouffant-ed ‘Careless Whisper’. That’s not my favourite song, but I get why it’s much loved. ‘A Different Corner’ is a very different beast on first listen, but actually it’s something of a ‘Whisper’ redux: Michael is still emoting, and smouldering, but over a less-cluttered background. (Plus, there’s a Spanish guitar again). In the video, he is locked in a white room, reclining on large cushions and taking phones off their hooks, rather than swanky hotel rooms and luxury yachts.

I’ve probably made this clear in the five George Michael/Wham! songs that I’ve covered up to know, but I’ll out myself once and for all… I’m not his biggest fan. I like certain of his songs, I respect his talent and voice as a performer, and I was sad when he died, much too young. But he doesn’t rank among the Ultimates for me: the Elvises, The Beatles the Dustys, and so on… And I think since he died he’s been unjustly pushed to the very top of the pile.

I also respect a song like this getting to number one – it sounds unlike anything we’ve had at the top for a while – but I don’t love it. In a sign of Michael’s immense talent, ‘A Different Corner’ was the first ever #1 to be written, performed and produced by the same person. (Which, yes, is more than Elvis or Dusty ever did, but that’s irrelevant… Music doesn’t work on a points system). This pretty much marks the end of Wham! – although they still have one more #1 to come – and sets George Michael up for the all-conquering ‘Faith’ era – during which he would at least have some fun, not just mope around on big white bean-bags…

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8 thoughts on “568. ‘A Different Corner’, by George Michael

  1. I agree, the man was talented but I think that his gifts are somewhat overrated, and like Marc Bolan his premature death has resulted in his similarly over-canonised. As for this being the first No. 1 single ever created and produced from start to finish by one individual, I remember much being made of this at the time. I do however sometimes wonder about Wizzard’s ‘See My Baby Jive’ and ‘Angel Fingers’, both written and produced by Roy Wood. With his multi-instrumental abilities and gift of being able to impersonate more or less any male and female rock’n’roll singer at the press of a switch, it seems the suspicion lingers that he may or may not have sung and played everything in the studio himself, if only to save himself the time of teaching every other band member exactly how it was to be done.

    • Yes, I do feel that since his death in particular he’s been elevated to a status that doesn’t quite ring true. Not that he wasn’t very talented – and I do love several of his songs – but he did have a tendency towards treacly R&B/soul that doesn’t really do it for me…

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  3. I’m not sure about “forgotten” but it’s certainly low-key and therefore not a fave track for upbeat oldies stations (or even radio 2). I think it’s stark sparseness works against it, but it’s also the reason why I love it so much. There’s so much space, class, that gives George the opportunity to emote every word and to show, if anyone had any doubt by this time, that he was a serious artist – not just a pop band that stuck shuttlecocks down the shorts. It remains my fave George track, and one of my top 5 tracks of the 80’s. Of course, in terms of his next solo single Georgie got banned be the Beeb, so I Want Your Sex really is the forgotten solo single as no-one got to hear it much anyway (plus it wasn’t that great, but it was a bit of a marker in the sand) other than hard core fans (I bought it in annoyance of the BBC more than anything else).

    • I was going with ‘forgotten’ on the basis that, for people not around to hear it at the time, like me, it hasn’t really made the Top 10 of his best known songs, especially when compared to what had gone before with Wham, and was about to come… And you are probably right about its starkness being a reason for this (though maybe it’ll be getting a few spins this week!)

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