Well, folks. Here we are. When Fiona and I set up this idea, getting to the 52nd album felt very long away. But, as with every passage of time, sure enough, it comes along, whether you're ready for it or not. This year has been relentless for so many of us all, for so many reasons. Where 2016 felt like constant EastEnders episode finale hooks, complete with stabbing outro, 2017 has felt like one worthy Netflix Original series after another, all dark Instagram filters and blank thousand-yard stares. But, cast your mind back to 364 days ago and there was I, having a very Merry Christmas, drinking something fizzy and finally starting to relax, when the news came in that George Michael had suddenly passed away.
Now, I wasn't aware of how much I would miss the man born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou until he was gone. What I do remember is staying up late, secretly, to watch the Channel 4 midnight preview screening of his video for Freeeek! hearing about how erotically charged it was going to be, which ignited my preteen curiosity, of course. I watched it - and I thought it was hilarious. But he was in on it. That was the point. A joyful-to-the-point-of-hysterical overflowing of saucy winks. What else would you expect from the gleeful gospel singer of, "Sex is natural/ Sex is good"?
Gospel is not a term I'm using lightly here. Going back to the beginning, Faith is, like my forays with the Purple One, a rewarding and, yes, spiritual listen for a heathen like myself. There's so much love here. Love in a sexual sense, love in a community sense, love for yourself, love that's confusing and substituting, but love nonetheless. It's a record rich in personal revelation without stumbling into self-obsession. George Michael wants you to be happy and free and, my word, you feel that that goodness is a tangible, achievable thing when you're listening to him.
That Michael wasn't around for the year his seminal album turned 30, well... That's sad. I knew about the scandals, his being in the press consistently for car crashes, trysts and weed. Given what's been going on for the past couple of years in the public eye, this seems so tame as to be endearing. Besides, it was Michael who stood in his own artistic stead and made the channel broader and more accepting for those to follow. After achieving phenomenal success with this, he follows it up with a video full of supermodels, burning his own iconography. Now that is someone who embodies the paradox of being human, remaining your own whilst embracing change. Who knows what the next year will hold? But we'll get there, soon enough. And in the meantime, you've just got to...