Sunday, December 29, 2013

New Year's Eve Is Real & Inclusive –– & Why Chariots Of Fire Is A Quintessential NYE Movie

New Year's Eve has gotten a bad rap for a long time. People often complain that they don't have exciting plans for the night, or grow despondent if highly anticipated plans prove lesser than they had hoped. Some feel like being alone on New Year's Eve is indicative of personal failure. It's all a matter of perspective. Just remember: In the midst of all the holidays that pass during the fall-winter season, this is the only one that is inclusive and universal. It is 'real'. New Year's Eve bears no real conflict for anyone, in truth. No politics or religious denominations. No questionable history.
Despite the fact that some parts of the world celebrate a different calendar –– and therefore a different day that signals the new year –– everyone can relate to that transition. Whether your year has been a good one, or a difficult one, (for some it may have been one they can't wait to leave behind), New Year's Eve is a day for everyone.
Whether you're surrounded by friends and family or spending the night entirely alone, it is your night. It is everyone's night. Make the most of it in any way you can. It's a night to celebrate. Or reflect. Whichever makes sense in your particular predicament.
Two years prior, we wanted to spend New Year's Eve relaxing at home. The plan was to watch a movie and play board games. By happy accident, I had a craving for one film: 'Chariots Of Fire'. That was my movie pick, so we watched it. And by 'happy accident', I mean I had no idea when I chose 'Chariots Of Fire' that I'd soon consider it the quintessential New Year's Eve/New Years' Day movie. Every aspect of life –– and what drives people in living it –– is represented in 'Chariots Of Fire'.
Lord Lindsay
Harold Abrahams
Eric Liddell
If you are like Eric Liddell, you feel a sense of purpose and you're driven in life by a power you consider greater than yourself. You are running for what you consider to be your God, whatever you aspire to. If you're like Harold Abrahams, you are running to prove something to others –– you are running because of the shear force of competition. If you're like Lord Lindsay (Burghley), you run because you are privileged enough to do so, and only because you can, which minimizes a sense of purpose in your efforts. But whichever force is driving you to be part of the race, you are in it.
The real Eric Liddell
The real Harold Abrahams
The real Lord Burghley (Lord Lindsay in 'Chariots Of Fire')
Of course, there are also those on the sidelines. There are the cheerleaders and supporters. And there are the coaches. Whichever role you most identify with, there is no denying the strength of 'Chariots Of Fire' in capturing the way we exist by way of running (or standing by to watch) our own particular heat in the game of life.
And I can attest that it is a uniquely inspiring experience to watch this movie –– one that is as unfairly and oft-derided as New Year's Eve itself –– as you transition into the new year.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Special | Movie Style: On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)

'On Her Majesty's Secret Service', released in 1969, is arguably the very best film of the entire franchise for countless reasons. The focus here will be on giving a rundown some of the great styles that are worn in the film. A good deal of the plot occurs during Christmastime –– and the designs  captured in 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' are the epitome of late-1960's fashion sensibilities.
Lady In Distress (In THAT Dress)
Diana Rigg, as Tracy, first appears wearing a beautiful mermaid-like sea-colored, paisley-pattered sequined gown with bell sleeves. The dress shimmers in a scene that occurs on a beach at night while Tracy is in danger. Bond, wearing a white shirt and tuxedo trousers, saves her life -- and their fates are sealed forever.
Suited & Booted, Beaded & Needed
'Why do you insist on rescuing me, Mr. Bond?' Bond's next encounter with Tracy occurs in the hotel casino where they are both staying when he bails her out. 'Tracy, next time play it safe, and stand on five.' She counters with, 'People who want to stay alive play it safe.' Lazenby's Bond feels a genuine concern for this doomed lady. 'Please stay alive… At least for tonight.' In this scene, Tracy wears a white dress, its shoulders and low neckline intricately beaded with small white pearls. Bond wears a sleek and classic tuxedo. His white shirt has front ruffling that would soon be more common for tuxedo styles in the 1970's.
A Leisure Suit, Tweed & Dual Equestrian Styles
Tracy's father, Draco, asks Bond to marry his daughter -- to help keep her grounded. Bond is reluctant to make such a personal deal, but information from Draco can be useful in tracking down the whereabouts of his nemesis, Blofeld. When Bond has this discussion with Draco, he wears an actual leisure suit. It is a dark tan-colored leisure suit and he wears an orange mock turtleneck underneath. This is a very neat, late-1960's transitional look. Next, Bond joins Draco at his birthday party, where Tracy insists that her father gives Bond the information he needs without any more talk of marrying her off to him. From that point on, Bond and Tracy fall in love with one another legitimately, without ulterior motives on either side. In this scene, Bond wears a tweed jacket to top off his equestrian style, complete with riding boots; Tracy wears a high-collared white lace shirt with a black riding suit, hot pink cummerbund-like belt, black hat, gloves and boots.
'We Have All The Time In The World' Sequence
'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' is in many ways the epitome of the Bond franchise. The action sequences. The cinematography. The aesthetics, from the the cars to the buildings, to the interior design. Peter Hunt's impeccable direction. George Lazenby -- who played Bond only once but left a lasting impression. He is the only 007 who looks and behaves not like an actor playing a spy, but instead like a capable man who could have actually been a spy in real life. Diana Rigg -- the only Bond girl to become a Mrs. Bond -- who was already beloved at the time for having been Emma Peel. Telly Savalas as Blofeld. John Barry's musical score, Louis Armstrong's beautiful tune. The locations. The fashion from 1969.
And the romance –– which is unlike any other in the series, since James Bond actually marries Tracy. The sequence that follows Draco's birthday is also unlike anything that's ever occurred in the Bond series. We see glimpses of James and Tracy's blossoming love to the lovely sound of Louis Armstrong's 'We Have All The Time In The World'. Immediately following the sequence, during which the new couple shops for an engagement ring, Bond, Tracy and Draco share a car. Draco sits awkwardly and cramped in the middle as Tracy and James look at each other adoringly from either side of him. The chemistry between Lazenby and Rigg in OHMSS is palpable. Tracy wears a 20's-inspired ensemble of yellow tweed, complete with silk scarf and a smart hat. James wears another beautifully tailored gray suit with light blue-gray shirt and a black tie. When they drop 007 off, he says: 'I'll get cracking on this appointment and catch up with you later.' Tracy, casually and amused: 'The story of our life, James?' James: 'Just keep my martini cold.' There is an easiness and casualness to their rapport that lends to their wanting to be married to each other. It's touching, and believable.
During the sequence, Tracy wears an ice blue mini dress while James wears his tuxedo; Tracy wears a white, light green and yellow color block mini-dress while James wears a navy inspired military-style blazer with gold buttons, navy tie and khaki slacks; Tracy wears a light pink mini-skirt suit with a purple scarf and light pink hat while James wears a beautiful light gray suit as they shop. Throughout the sequence, in each moment together, James Bond puts his arm loving and adoringly around Tracy's shoulders. It is the most romantic sequence in all of cinema. At least in this Examiner's estimation (and it would've been perfect, except for my wanting to hug -- and free -- the adorable bears who appear very briefly in a zoo at the very end of the sequence.) 'Nothing more. Nothing less. Only love.'
A Spy In Disguise, The Angels Of Death & Christmas At Blofeld's
In OHMSS, Bond goes undercover. He poses as genealogist Sir Hilary Gray in order to get close to Ernst Stavro Blofeld. For these scenes, Bond amusingly dresses in Sherlock Holmes style, complete with caped wool coat, tweed cap, horn-rimmed glasses and pipe. He also assumes a stuffier British accent. He dresses for dinner in his (Sir Hilary's) proper Scottish Highland dress with kilt -- where he meets the beautiful patients at Blofeld's 'allergy-research institute'. Each one is lovely and they're dressed as if they've walked right off of a runway, in silks, beads, jewels, brocades, pearls, bright colors. The interior of the institute looks like the most elegant ski resort drawing room. Bond might be in a pickle, surrounded by these incredibly lovely, vulnerable ladies (not only accessible, they're more than willing) while he's engaged to the loveliest of them all. And Tracy is far away at the moment.
After a couple of trysts (this is Lazenby's Bond, after all, not poor Dalton's) Bond's cover is blown, the 'angels' are hypnotized and sent off to perform their actual missions, and Bond is left to spend Christmas with Blofeld and his henchmen. During some of the scenes, Bond wears a tan cardigan, tie and slacks. Another timeless men's look. During his getaway, Lazenby as Bond dons a chic blue ski suit, and his stunt man performs perhaps the most incredible ski chase sequence in the history of film set to John Barry's incomparable score. He's rescued by Tracy at a skating rink. Tracy is dressed in a caramel-colored skating ensemble, with matching quilted headband. After spending a night getting reacquainted in a shack, James and Tracy make a run for it (or ski-for-it to be exact); James wears the same blue ski suit from the previous day and Tracy maintains her color-coordinated wardrobe by wearing a caramel-colored ski suit. Tracy can keep up with James as they race away on skis, which is yet another testament to their being a perfect match.
Attack At Blofeld's & Tracy's Rescue
The furs worn in OHMSS would be nice if replicated using synthetic materials. The first one is Tracy's coat when she rescues Bond; she wears it over her caramel-colored skating outfit. And one truly worth noting is Tracy's leisure outfit when she is held captive by Blofeld. It's an all black ensemble, save for the gray trim (a replica of this look would be nice with fake fur) along the neck, hood and sleeves. Blofeld tells Tracy before taking and kissing her hand: 'Now, if you're very, very nice to me -- I could make you my countess.' Tracy replies, taking her hand away: 'But I'm already a countess.' Blofeld, irritated by her insolence: 'Whereas if you displease me I can promise you a very different estate.' When Tracy realizes 007 and her father are on their way to rescue her, she feigns interest in Blofeld, just until the attack. During the attack, Tracy, a.k.a. Diana Rigg, demonstrates her Emma Peel-like fighting skills and holds her own against Blofeld and his men.
All of the action here is superb, again. And it all ends on a happy note when an adorable St. Bernard pads over in the snow, drops and rolls next to James Bond to offer him his hand in affection. 'Never mind that,' Bond jokes. 'Go and get the brandy, huh? Five star Hennessey, of course.'
A Beautiful Wedding & A Most Tragic Ending
James Bond parks his Aston Martin DBS in front of the jewelry store. He wears a sky blue suit. He chooses the ring he and Tracy had eyed before, a unique band of silver and gold melted into each other. The ring was designed for the film -- and it actually spells out 'All The Love In the World'.
For his wedding, James Bond wears a black morning coat over gray waistcoat with matching gray trousers, light gray silk tie, and a white carnation in his lapel. He also has a bowler hat. Tracy wears what appears to be a dress entirely of a daisy motif lace, with a white gauzy chiffon coat over it; however, she does not marry James Bond in a dress. The lace beauty she wears is, in fact -- and incredibly -- a wide-legged trouser jumpsuit. She is a very modern woman. For Diana Rigg to be married in a jumpsuit on film, at that time (and the jumpsuit is only evident in publicity photos, not in the film) would have surely been an ode to Emma Peel -- with her iconic jumpsuits -- as well.
It is painful to watch the final moments of this film. Any couple, especially one as happy as James and Tracy, should have the chance to live an entire lifetime to love one another. Indeed, they should have had all the time in the world.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Wham! Doctrine: Youth, Freedom, Work & Love (Songs For Various Stages In Life)

I 'CHOOSE LIFE'. And in this life, I've chosen WHAM! 
For too many who've loved this band, it's been easy to forget (or dismiss) the small but fruitful catalogue of musical contributions by George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley. Cynics always wondered what Ridgeley ever really did to contribute to the band, since George Michael wrote, produced and sang every track. 
Without Andrew Ridgeley, guiding and prompting his best friend early on, there would never have been a band called WHAM! Or subsequently, a George Michael musical breakthrough. As it were, there was. Andrew Ridgeley is perhaps the most successful best-buddy-to-a-natural-born-star in the history of music.
Of course the majority of people DO love WHAM! at least once each year. 'Last Christmas' is a beloved staple at Christmastime. (As it should be.) And many do appreciate musical gifts (i.e. 'Careless Whisper') left to us by singer-songwriter George Michael.
For me, WHAM! is a way of life year round. WHAM! could even be a doctrine. Because for so many life stages, there is a WHAM! song. I'm leaving out a couple of songs (Come On & Love Machine) and going in order of appearance on their three albums.  
Note the high level of productivity from this band, releasing three solid albums in just three years.



'Bad Boys' is the first song on Wham!'s debut album Fantastic. It begins right at the first stage of life: 'Dear Mommy, dear Daddy, you have plans for me. Oh yeah, I was your only son." In the beginning, there's family. And the next stage: 'Dear Mommy, dear Daddy, now I'm 19 as you see, I'm handsome, tall, and strong. So what the hell gives you the right to look at me as if to say, 'Hell, what went wrong?'' At the age of 19, he's self-confident as all get out. But his parents protest and dispute his decisions, and they worry about him. As parents often do.

'Move it, move it, baby. Can't you see I'm ready to dance? Without this beat my life would fall apart.' A little bit disco, a little bit funk, a lot of 80's pop -- all in a perfectly balanced mix for one incredible song.
'Sometimes, you wake up in the morning with a bass line. A ray of sunshine. Sometimes, you know today you're gonna have a good time. And you're ready to go!' This one could be one of my top 5 songs of all time, by any artist –– because of how it makes me feel. 'A Ray Of Sunshine' is all about a natural burst of energy and enthusiasm for being alive. I feel enthusiastic when I hear the song. Nothing can top that. I've included two videos for this one because the video clip from the Lindsay Anderson-helmed WHAM! film 'Foreign Skies' is priceless.


'Do... you… enjoy what you do?' This one is at the post-adolescence stage of life when you're expected to: 'Get yourself a job!' Anyone who's ever been unemployed against his or her will knows it is not actually fun. But 'Wham Rap' is a song for those who choose unemployment. And who hasn't (at one point or another) denounced the idea of working a 9-to-5 office job? The Wham! boys were young and ready to take on the world. They didn't need no stinkin' job to bring them down. They do seem a little defensive with: 'Wham, bam, I am a man. Job or no job, you can't tell me that I'm not.' Well, who knows what kind of shade they'd been getting for wanting to have fun and perform––and get paid for it? Their refusal to pursue a more normal line of employment worked out very well for them!

'Club Tropicana, drinks are freeeee. Fun and sunshine. There's enough for everyone!' The boys who wouldn't settle for taking ordinary jobs managed to find a way to enjoy both travel and leisure through their new jobs (as airline pilots) in the video for 'Club Tropicana'. Every now and then, we all hope to relax poolside in a tropical setting. When I've been lucky enough to do so, I immediately remember this song and video––both imprinted in my brain as an ultimate in tropical getaway fantasies. The song is great and the video is always worth watching.

'Blue' appeared first as a B-Side to 'Club Tropicana'; the studio version was otherwise not released. Wham! included a live version of the song 'Blue (Live In China)' on their final album. It's another one of their lovely, relaxing songs –– the mood is full of summer breezes; the lyrics and George Michael's delivery are full of melancholy. But there is a greater significance to this early Wham! song. 'Blue' sounds very similar to 'Nothing Looks The Same In The Light' (below)––and in it, you can already notice hints of an enormous hit to come: 'Last Christmas'.

With freedom from parents––and now a little spending money––you (or he, or they) can now go out and about to explore what this life holds. It's surely possible to meet other young, single people learning the ways of the world. It's even possible to spend time with someone you've just met until the wee hours of the morning. Will the light of morning be a harsh reminder that this situation only attributes to being young and foolish? Or will the rendezvous make sense the next day? That is what 'Nothing Looks The Same In The Light' is all about. And we've all been there.

'One, two, take a look at you. Death by matrimony!' This one is pretty clear: Our protagonist, George, tries to convince his friend not to settle down with his current lady love. In 'Young Guns (Go For It!)' he's very worried––and not only because he'd lose his friend. He also doesn't like the unexpected pressure of being that much closer to the responsibility of settling down himself. 

ALBUM #2. MAKE IT BIG (1984)

The jitterbug. (Snap, snap.) 'You put the boom-boom into my heart!' Here, our friend has finally found love and joy in his relationship. So much so that he can't wait until they go out dancing together. Of course, he suggests it's also nice to stay home in bed. 'Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go' might seem to be on the too-fluffy side, but our fellow has made real progress in his love life and he is ecstatic about it––as he should be. We've all been there. Or at the very least, we should all feel this good sometimes! And this one always gets extra points for the Doris Day mention: 'You put the gray skies out of my way. You make the sun shine brighter than Doris Day.'

'And now we're six months older.' Well, things have taken a sorry turn. Our guy has considered settling down for good with his beloved. Lo and behold, he's now working so hard that his 'back will break' just to give his money away to the most materialistic and sad excuse for a partner in the history of song. 'My situation never changes, walking in and out of that door. Like a stranger, but with wages. I give you all, you say you want more!' And he has no idea why: 'Somebody tell me, why I work so hard for you!' No wonder he resisted the notion of working in his Wham Rap days... In 'Everything She Wants', his worst fears have all come to fruition. 'My God! I don't even think... that I love you!!' (Get out of there quick, George!)

After that rough previous relationship has ended, we find our hero resting his soul on vacation. He may or may not have set out on this journey alone. By the end of 'Like A Baby', we discover he is so deeply in love with someone he is left 'crying like a baby' at the prospect of their impending separation. He might also be hesitant to go back to his many responsibilities at home. I can't think of a song that evokes the mood of being out on an ocean, far removed from daily stress––possibly on or around an island––than this one. Just listening to the song (which is a relaxing instrumental until 1:40) is like taking a vacation. Reaching the end of the song leaves me crying like a baby, too. Kudos to George Michael for once again knowing how to evoke a very precise mood.

Before the stunning Freedom '90, there was 'Freedom' '84. After crying like a baby, things must worked out on that romantic getaway. At least now our fella George is smitten by his new partner––so much that he insists he wants to be monogamous relationship. 'I don't want your freedom. I don't want to play around.' It takes a mature young man to open up this way. And the love of his life is now giving him a tough time. His friends tell him: 'Saw your lover with another and she's making a fool of you!' The tables have turned. Now his friends are trying to talk him out of getting too serious. But he is adamant. This one is worth it and he does not want his freedom anymore. (This Wham! video is also a classic, made with scenes from their historic trip to China.)

'If you were there, you'd know. If you were there you'd know... That I care.' The tables repeatedly turn. Despite his finding some level of maturity, his partner has gone from trying to make him jealous about her shenanigans to feeling worried about their relationship. Not very consistent. He insists that if she was there, she'd know (and figures he'll make her a tad more jealous, in the process): 'You ought to see how the other girls behave when you're not around. And only then you would know it's on your finger I'm wound.' So far, he seems to either go for divas or drama queens... Oh well. We'll see how long this one lasts!

Oh my! People and their patterns. 'People think you're just so sweet. But they don't know you quite like I do. I guess they think that I'm a lucky guy––but you're not fooling everybody." Looks like George is back to equating a money-hungry soul-crusher with 'life partner'. 'You can have my credit card, baby. But keep your red hot fingers off of my heart, lady! All I know is what I see. You're getting what you want–––and girl, it ain't just me!' Well, this one's on you, George. 'No matter how you cry, I'm not giving any love away. Do you think I'm crazy!?' Well, I do know. You should've known better after being with that 'Everything She Wants' gal who was breaking your back and taking all your money. When will you learn? Not all women are this way, I promise. (But I guess he gave up on ladies long ago! And perhaps he was in relationships with all the wrong ones for a reason? Hmmm...)

The video tells the story of a guy who cheats on his fiancĂ© with another woman. But I'll be honest. Here is where I believe George Michael officially came out. Not really, but this is how I see 'Careless Whisper'––in retrospect. In the narrative of the band, he and Andrew wrote the song together. Which may very well be true. But I always wondered what this 'careless whisper' might have actually been about. He feels so guilty about it: 'Guilty feet have got no rhythm. Though it's easy to pretend, I know you're not a fool. Should have known better than to cheat a friend, and waste this chance that I've been given.' Sure, this could be the run-of-the-mill relationship deception. But I think this may have been about George wanting to admit the truth about himself. He feels bad, he does love his lady friend––she's his 'good friend'. The pain will subside, and at least he can really be free. With 'Careless Whisper'––as with all of these wonderful Wham! songs–-–whatever actually inspired George Michael to write, sing, and produce such finely crafted pop tunes, everyone can relate to the moods and emotions he creates. I used 'Careless Whisper' for a ballet routine I choreographed and performed for ballet class school recital (in 4th or 5th grade) and it felt rather deep dancing to lyrics that insist: 'I'm never gonna dance again!'


Wham's final album begins with 'The Edge Of Heaven' and it's clear that the duo is feeling carefree. They released the album while being forthright about their intention to close up shop; this would be their last hurrah. The lyrics for 'The Edge Of Heaven' are a little racier than previous tracks: 'I would chain you up… But don't worry, baby. You know I wouldn't hurt you––-unless you wanted me to!' With his newfound creative (and maybe personal) freedom, George Michael suggests that since he's having so much fun, he might need forgiveness. 'Take me to the edge of heaven, tell me that my soul's forgiven, hide your baby's eyes so we can…'

This song is a very honest one for our hero, George: 'I never had the guts to let you look inside. I don't think you'd appreciate the things that I hide.' This one is about that type of relationship where the couple fights incessantly, but then use that energy to have fun 'making up'. (I can't relate to this, but I'm sure there are plenty who can.) In 'Battlestations', the battling is becoming problematic: 'Now we spend more time in battle than we ever do in bed!' The song has a detached, eerie, sexy quality to it. Whether someone relates to the scenario here or not, there's no denying the greatness of the song.

'I'm Your Man' is just bold, confident, fun–-–it's a feel-good song that cannot be denied. A relentless, steady beat runs through it. If you hear this song, you'll have to get caught up in it. 'Ba-by! I'm... Your... Man! Don't you know that? Ba-by! I'M… YOUR... MAN! You bet!' Here, George Michael sounds great, and his lyrics tell us he's feeling pretty swell, too. He's even far less needy with his partner. He just wants to have a good time, but even while calling the shots, and being cocky, he's still rather polite: 'I don't need you to care. I don't need you to understand, yeah. All I want is for you to be there, and when I'm turned on––if you want me––I'm your man!' And of course, there's the anthem: 'If you're gonna do it, do it right. (Right!) Do it with me!' Such a happy, brash tune. Forever infectious. And I love how much fun they're all having in this video.

Here, we have a song that's much more mature and mournful than previous efforts. Again, George Michael shows his fearlessness and vulnerability in 'A Different Corner'. 'I'm so scared. 'Cause I've never come close in all of these years. You are the only one who stopped my tears. And I'm so scared.' He's definitely grown over time, as we all should. He's come to love someone deeply and that can be scary in some ways. 'Turned a different corner and we never would have met. Would you care?' This song is complex––it feels light and dark at the same time. George Michael proves yet again that he is singular in his skill at crafting pop songs that are pleasant to the ear, yet surprisingly deep. 'And if all that there is, is this fear of being used, I should go back to being lonely and confused. If I could, I would. I swear.'

BLUE (Live In China)
Here is 'Blue' again––this is the version more people have heard. It's a lovely song and worth a listen. It's also worth seeing the video. This live footage comes from the film 'Foreign Skies', and it's as close to seeing Wham! perform live as we can get.

'Where Did Your Heart Go' provides more impression than truth. The song feels far less emotional than most of George Michael's efforts. When you get to this point, you can really appreciate his true talents and gifts as a songwriter over the course of his working in Wham! He's at his best when he is being honest–––or as honest as he can allow himself to be. Instead, 'Where Did Your Heart Go' could belong to anyone (or no one) and there is something detached about it. In this video, we finally get to see Andrew Ridgeley featured more prominently––singing. Which actually makes sense with my take on the song. It doesn't feel very personal for George Michael, nor would it to anyone who listens to it.


And finally, here's 'Last Christmas'. We know everyone loves this song. Because it's so universal, everyone can relate to feeling heartbroken around the holidays––at some stage in life. And the next year, you're sure to have some perspective over last Christmas. We can now watch the video and think about how much we miss George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley as a duo. In this video, we discover that George lost his lady love last Christmas––to none other than Andrew! Which would have made more sense in reality. I guess it's a handoff of sorts. George Michael is saying goodbye to the many illusions the public had about him. Let's revel in the the wonderful mid-80's ski trip visuals and the pop magic sound of Wham! And thanks for reading.

I'll sign off and leave you all with something very funny. Here is a Rolling Stone review for the first Wham! album, Fantastic––from Sept. 15, 1983, by music critic Don Shewey: "Probably the biggest problem with Wham! is that the group lacks a really distinctive vocalist. George Michael's earnest whine is as synthetic and overly familiar as the cheap keyboards so prevalent nowadays." Ha! Would you mind repeating that? (Music critics...)