By Jasmine Grant
Just when we thought we could finally put this trying year behind us, the curse of 2016 reared its ugly head one more time and took yet another one of our music legends – George Michael. There’s no denying that this insanely talented 80’s boy band member-turned solo artist will go down in history as one of the greatest songwriters and LGBT trailblazers in pop music history. The proof lies in the many artists who have spoken out about how George inspired them following his untimely death.
Not only has George Michael’s death been met with kind words and condolences, his music has received a huge uptick in streams. Iconic hits like “Last Christmas,” “Faith,” and “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” have skyrocketed over 3,000% more streams compared to this time last week on Spotify. We’ve rounded up 11 of George Michael’s most important hits that have inspired some of the pop artists we know and love today.
“Praying For Time”
George Michael’s 1990 hit “Praying For Time” is still remembered by many fans as a milestone in pop music decades after its release. British producer Mark Ronson spoke about the song at great length in a deeply sentimental Instagram post of the vinyl record, saying he had “never heard a musical language quite like that before.” Carrie Underwood credits her singing knowledge to George Michael, saying he’s the first artist whose voice she could instantly identify on the radio.
Adam Lambert has been on a steady rise since winning American Idol in 2009. Perhaps no other pop artist exudes the look and sound of George Micheal quite like Lambert. The proudly gay singer/songwriter is known for his signature smokey eye makeup and funky wardrobe choices. When we watch his elusive black & white video for “Ghost Town,” we can’t help but think of George Michael’s iconic song and video “Father Figure.” Lambert, who issued a R.I.P message to Michael on his Twitter account, also did a stellar cover of his hit song “Faith” this year at American Idol’s “Greatest Hits” show in August.
It’s always a full circle moment when an artist you’ve grown up admiring is everything you’d expect them to be IRL. Such was the case when Kelly Rowland was approached by George Michael in Australia, who told her he loved her then-new record “When Love Takes Over.” In an Instagram post paying tribute to the late icon, she remembers being glued to the TV watching the stunning visuals for George’s single “Freedom.”
Back in 2008, Usher literally pleaded to George Michael for permission to remake his timeless 1984 hit “Careless Whisper.” George obliged, acknowledging that he thinks very highly of the Atlanta singer. So it’s no surprise that his death weighed heavy on Usher, who posted a throwback pic of when he finally met the icon face-to-face.
R&B singer Miguel is another artist where George Michael’s influences are immediately visible. Miguel posted a headshot of the late musician with mention of his two favorite songs “Faith” and “Freedom.” Ironically, these are the two ideals that George Michael’s championed for during his career and fight for LGBT rights. Saddened by the news, Miguel signed off with a huge middle finger to the year 2016. Yeah, we feel you there Miguel.
“One More Try”
In an interview for the 2005 documentary George Michael: A Different Story, Mariah Carey recalls how much his album Faith influenced her and everyone she grew up with. “People in my school who only listened to rock music had that album. People who only listened to rap music had that album.” In her own rise to fame, Mariah evolved from a George Michael fan (who covered his hit “One More Try”) to a friend. In a sad farewell tweet, Mariah is pictured with George and friends at dinner, all smiles.
“I Want Your Sex”
Like George Michael, Justin Timberlake went from a boy band hunk to a sophisticated solo act. J. Timb’s songs like “Sexy Back” and “Rock Your Body” bear a striking resemblance to “I Want Your Sex.” In 2011, Timberlake was invited as a special guest to George’s show and sat front row alongside Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss. Whispers soon spread that the two artists were talking about recording a duet together, but sadly those rumors never materialized.
“Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”
This track, originally written and released by Elton John, got its second wind when it was performed as a live duet with George Michael and peaked at number 1 on the US and UK charts. This classic song about unrequited love closely mirrors the heart wrenching love songs that British singer Sam Smith is known and loved for. In a tear jerking Twitter thread, Sam (another openly gay artist) calls George “one of the bravest and most important figures in music & life” as he knows it.
“Everything She Wants”
There is nothing new under the sun, especially when it comes to reinventing classic hits. So it’s no surprise that Michelle Williams was inspired to borrow the WHAM! hit “Everything She Wants” for her song “Sick of It.” This wasn’t the first time George Michael inspired a Destiny’s Child member. In a tribute post, Michelle recalls the time DC sampled George for their song “Winter’s Paradise.” For Michelle, the memories started even earlier than that. At one point, she was just a little girl dancing to George Michael in her living room.
“Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”
You know George Michael has made a huge impact on the culture when you see a show like Glee, which has a huge a cult following, recreate his work. All of the “Gleeks” enjoyed this 2013 episode where the choir recreated one of George Michael’s original group WHAM’s most beloved single.
Before Mariah Carey became known as the queen of Christmas, George Michael, while part of the pop duo WHAM!, created on of the most legendary pop Christmas/heartbreak songs, “Last Christmas.” The song has been covered countless times by numerous artists, including Ariana Grande. With this in mind, the fact that George actually passed on Christmas stings even more.
2016, you are officially dismissed!
Looks like we can add George Michael’s death to the “lows” of 2016.