White Light By George Michael – The Verdict

It’s the question that’s been on everyone’s lips. What does Remarkable think of the new George Michael single, White Light? Well, I’ve been considering this for a few of days now.  Finally. The. Verdict. Is. In! (Yes, you can tell by my use of punctuation that I’ve read Fifty Shades Of Grey).

I’m not going to do a detailed review in this post, I’ll save that for a later blog.  For now, I’m just going to give the executive summary of my thoughts.

Before hearing the track, my expectations were high. George had said on Twitter that it might just be the best dance track he’s ever made… and he’s made some fucking good dance tracks over the last 30 years…

On the first Play…

I first heard the song, when it premiered on Heart FM, in the UK.  My immediate reaction, was, “Oh Fuck. What’s he done?! This is terrible, tuneless dirge.”

On the second play…

I wanted to listen again, though. Very soon after the play on Heart, I found the lyric video on YouTube. Second time around, it was much better that I’d thought at first.

Over the next few plays…

The track really began to grow on me. I really started to like the track a lot.  Being honest, though, I was struggling to understand why George would think it might have been the best dance track he’s ever made.

Many plays later, listening to the MP3 with the volume cranked up…

I put the MP3 of the track on my phone, and listened on earphones, with the volume cranked up… and it was a “Wow” moment.  This is a great track.  I think George might be right. If it’s not the best dance track he’s ever made,  it’s certainly right up there.

The Verdict

This is a genuinely a 10/10 track for me. That’s a real achievement for someone that’s been writing pop music for 30 years. Amazing stuff.  I’ve got it on repeat now – there are many layers to this track, in the melody, in the rhythmic interplay of different parts of the backing with the vocal, that repay repeated listening…

17 thoughts on “White Light By George Michael – The Verdict

  1. “I put the MP3 of the track on my phone, and listened on earphones, with the volume cranked up… and it was a “Wow” moment. This is a great track. I think George might be right. If it’s not the best dance track he’s ever made, it’s certainly right up there.”
    YES!!!!! that’s my point! thank you!

  2. I’m sorry but I still think it’s a bollocks track. I’d expect this from a 20-year-old who’s just got a Mac and played around a bit with Pro Tools – not from a seasoned professional like George who actually – once upon a time – used to write songs that made you go “wow”. What I also find slightly hilarious is that he had a real good go at Madonna when she was 40 and made a dance album, cause he thought it was a bit “sad that someone that age tries to get down with the kids”. I guess it’s different for him, at nearly 50, then, attempting the same…? Cause it’s not like those two REALLY appeal to a different audience. Never mind. Bottom line is; I won’t be sharing your enthusiasm for this track – or any other of his “fantastic dance singles” if what he’s done thus far is anything to go by.

  3. I was a bit lucky in that I missed the intro of the song and only heard the last three minutes. In my opinion, the last 2 minutes of “White Light” are absolute bliss. I still think it is a great song. Two things that could have been improved:

    a. The intro: Very lackluster. George could have just added the string section from the middle 8 and put electronic beats over it. That would have worked.

    b. The verse could have had a stronger hook. On second thoughts, it’s fine as it is. Its meant to sound ominous.

  4. I just loved it from the first play I have played it many many times now lost counting its a treasure and its an amazing gift from an amazing man thank you George we love you! xxx

  5. @High’n’Dry

    Re: Pro Tools… So, what you’re saying is, you don’t like the arrangement? Well, that’s fair enough😉

    I actually think there are some pretty cool ideas in the arrangement on this track, though. Like I said in the post, the interplay of rhythms in various parts of the arrangement is pretty cool I think.

    As a dance track, I think it stands up to scrutiny. As a danceable pop song, I think there are many better tracks out there – almost anything released by Lady Gaga or Rihanna or even Katy Perry work better as pop songs than White Light does. I’m pretty sure George wasn’t aiming at that, though. I think he wanted to make the kind of record he’d want to dance to in a club. It might well be the first time he’s ever really succeeded in doing that, with the added plus of having a lyric that means something to him and his audience.

    So, when I say it’s a 10/10 record, it doesn’t mean I don’t think there are better pop-dance records out there. For example, I think Lady Gaga’s Just Dance is a better record than White Light. As is Rihanna’s S&M. As is Katy Perry’s Hot ‘n’ Cold.

  6. If GM was doing what Madonna has been doing ever since Hard Candy, he would have enlisted the help of the hottest producer in town and/or the hottest popstar(s)/rapstar(s). As it is, he have done a club dance record that has nothing to do with what the kids are getting down to these days or the current pop trends.

    The track is not an instant hit, but he hasn’t done one of these since Amazing, so I don’t know what people were expecting.

    My verdict though – love it. The middle eight is massive and the song really builds up steadily, which I love. It’s not what many GM fans want from him though and that type of sound isn’t to everybody’s taste so the criticism is understandable.

  7. @Remarkable.

    Yeah, I don’t find the arrangement interesting. I find his vocal even LESS interesting, on the level of dull. This kind of shit is for people with no voice, not for guys like him who can actually hold a note for more than two seconds and also deliver a line with a bit of sophistication. This, compared to his heyday (for me; LWP/Older), this is drivel. Funny you mention Rihanna. I’d never buy a Rihanna record, but I’d buy one of hers before I buy one of George’s that sounds like this.

    Btw, do we think it’s a coincidence that he started doing “music for young gay people” round about the same time as he started dating someone about a decade younger than him?😉

  8. @High’n’Dry

    I do understand what you’re saying. I think you have to allow artists space to make the music they want to make, though. Also, not every record he makes can possibly be better than the last. That’s an impossible standard to live up to.

    When trying to rank this one, I asked myself do I think it’s better than previous records that could be considered dance tracks. That is, is it better than tracks like:

    I Want Your Sex
    Freeek!
    Shoot The Dog
    An Easier Affair
    Too Funky
    Fantasy

    With the exception of Freeek!, I think White Light is a better record than all of these.

    Personally, I think Freeek! is probably a better record than White Light, but that’s just personal taste.

  9. George needs to swallow his pride and work with some external producers if he wants to stay relevant on the Music Charts. His own production style is very 90s and “tinny” sounding. The remixes of “Every Other Lover In The World” sounded better than “White Light” because they were remixed by 20-something year-old DJ’s who know contemporary dance music. “White Light” sounds like an old man rambling tuneless, pseudo-intellectual affirmations over a Casio Keyboard beat.

  10. @Remarkable

    Sure, artists can go out and make whatever music they like. You have people who cater to their fan base (Elton John), others who make music for themselves and think whatever they do is brilliant because they did it (Prince) – and those who believe they have such a faithful fan base that they can do anything to them, throw out anything under the sun (musically and not) and nothing will change their feeling towards them (George).

    I think he started, say, trying people’s patience (harr harr) when he put out “Freeek!” I loved this track. Still do. Then there were tracks like “Precious Box” and “Flawless”. I can’t say I was a huge fan of those, but at least the vocal was still there. Then there was “True Faith”, “Every other lover” and now this one. It sounds like generic bull. What’s original about it? Where’s his signature? You could easily hear that thing on the radio and miss the fact that it’s George – at best maybe think “the voice sounds a bit familiar…?”

    Instead of being the one-of-a-kind artist he used to be, he’s now just “some guy making music that sounds like the next guy”.

    Artists can make whatever music they like – equally, their fans can also choose to like it or not. I choose not – but that’s OK. I had a good run.

  11. …forgot about “An Easier Affair”. Funny that… doesn’t prove my point at all…😉

  12. Love it all the way ….i listen to it million of times and still love itttttttttttttttttttttttt ….please George sing it at the RAH !!!!

  13. @High’n’Dry

    What about the recent new song, Where I Hope You Are?

    https://remarkable.wordpress.com/2011/08/23/where-you-are-world-premiere/

    Is that generic shit too? I don’t think the use of vocoders has to be generic shit. I think these can be used musically and creatively.

    I’ve always been a fan of this kind of effect when used creatively. Having said that, I’m also sure that you’re not alone in not being a fan of this kind of thing. The new studio album is clearly going to all about this, so I’m guessing you might not like it much😉 On the other hand, I’m betting you’ll absolutely love the new live Symphonica album – George can still sing amazingly well, ya know…😉 Better than ever, maybe. Louder than ever…

  14. @Remarkable

    I’d forgotten about that too. lol. Yeah, I thought that was a good use of the effect. That, and it actually has a melody that’s more like what he *used to* do, and not trying to be some ultra cool dance guru. He’s also singing out more, not just whispering at minimum capacity. So although he’s using a vocoder, he’s actually *singing* behind it. Sure, I’d have preferred for the vocoder to not have been used, but I can live with it. Then there’s the age old EMOTION that he also put into it. He sang it like he meant it. He may have meant to put some emotion into “White Light”… probably. But although I see what he’s trying to do, I find it about as moving as a trip to the dentist.

  15. I’m not a musical genius or an expert in musical theory, but for the main part of “White Light” he seems to be fiddling within four notes with the occasional short glimpse of another two or three. And is it just me, or has his voice dropped about an octave in pitch? The open, free, ringing top and strength in his voice doesn’t seem to be, well, intact anymore. I can’t say George sounds crap live (hell, at least he SINGS live!) – but that open, free top is now (at least at times) fairly strained and a bit forced. He used to go up there with full, glorious gust – and if he ventures up there now it’s more of a whisper than true power.

    I’ve also noticed that he doesn’t seem to do many top notes “by himself” without the help of his background singers. He’s not singing out. The microphones are probably so sensitive that he can pretty much get away with whispering and using less than half volume. Put it this way, at the volume he does this one http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C2CI07g4SBg it wouldn’t even make the dog lift its head in the next room. Take the performance at the Freddie Mercury tribute and the neighbours would probably be knocking on the walls (or doing a sneaky recording, depending on the level of fanhood😉 )

    I think anyone would say this is superb:

    If you compare this to now… surely it’s not just me hearing the difference in the upper half of the voice? My guess is; he couldn’t do this kind of vocal now if he wanted to (Though I wish he’d prove me wrong…😉 )

    Before you argue that this was 20 years ago and things happen to someone’s voice etc – then sure. Things happen. Your voice expands and might also get deeper – or not. You find a vocal coach and deal with it, then move on sounding better – or not. Not sure even the best vocal coach would help after you’ve abused your voice with a dozen joints a day for the best part of 20 years…

  16. @High’n’dry – message 1

    lol @ ultra cool dance guru. I know that *you know* that George has had to scrap pretty much an entire album before in order to record “more radio friendly ballads”. I’m pleased that he’s now doing what he wants to do as an artist. Some of it might work. Some of it might not. But that’s sure as hell as hell better than some idiot record company exec without a musical bone in their body saying, “George, we need more ballads and love songs” that the housewives and grannies will buy.

    If I was George, I’d rather kill myself than go down what is popularly known as the “Ronan Keating route,” doing shitty cover version of country songs; or the “Rod Stewart,” route and do shitty cover versions of old songs; or the “Elton route,” which is recording new songs that are really just worse versions of his old stuff. George is genuinely spending his time trying to be creative here as a singer and as a writer. You don’t have to agree with his choices, of course – and in the case of exploring electronica, you clearly don’t😉 I’m willing to bet, though, that the highs that will come out of him being creative will be amazing. This way, he has a chance that his best work his still ahead of him. Going the Ronan/Rod/Elton route just 100% guarantees that his best work is behind him. What’s the point in that? Not much I don’t think.

    I do get that what you’re saying about not singing at maximum capacity on this track. I just don’t think he has to do that with every song, though. The poor bastard has been going 30 years! I think people should give him some credit. Just because he chooses not to show off his voice on every song he records doesn’t mean he’s lost the ability. It’s not like if he doesn’t belt out a track one week, he’ll get voted off X-Factor the next😉 What he’s lost in range at the top end, he more than makes up for in sophistication of his phrasing. He has an amazing voice.

  17. @High’n’dry – message 2

    Don’t worry, George can still belt ’em out. Listen to this…

    That was in the early stages of pneumonia.

    As for the range in the new single, you’re correct… but not every melody has to be soaring. I love the ominous nature of subtle shifts between lines e.g in the parts about Whitney…

    One more pill just one more beer

    *shift to minor*

    One less star in the atmosphere

    and

    Heartless picture on TV

    *shift to minor*

    Change that channel, that could have been me

    I dunno. I just find his creative choices to be very musical on this track.

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