egregious ’80’s songs: i want your sex (george michael)

wham! bam! no thank you, ma’am!

after splitting from wham! partner andrew ridgeley (a duo which created the much covered, wretch-worthy careless whisper), george michael put out a solo album in 1987, faith, which simply became HUGE. a big part of that hugeness was caused by the controversial song i want your sex. despite the fact that michael kept towing the proverbial party line about the song being about monogamy (a particularly important and interesting message during the seemingly and sadly uncontrollable early days of AIDs), there was a lot of discomfort with the song’s content. MTV would only play if after hours. american top 40‘s casey casem couldn’t even bear to utter the song’s title. apparently, there’s something very naughty about a man writing explore monogamy on a woman’s back in lipstick. who knew?

anyway, i had a few issues with the song myself, but none of them involved prudery.  for starters, there’s something so crude and dull about a chorus where michaels just sort of drops the words i want your sex… i mean, who the hell talks like that? i would expect that sort of stilted conversational style from those wild and crazy czech brothers, but that sort of line in real life would probably just earn you a smack for being so forward.

secondly, by 1987, did ANYONE think that george michael was heterosexual? SERIOUSLY? well, i certainly didn’t; and i have a serious problem with people who masquerade as something they are not. i recognize that coming out has got to be one of the hardest things to do for a GLBT person; much of society has yet to just get over it and live and let live. we still don’t recognize gay marriage in most of these united states, so i get the whole stigma — everyone from your family to your nation has an issue with your sex life.  i don’t even think i can understand this sort of pressure, having never experienced it; but i can only imagine it as being horrifically, horrifically challenging for some. lord knows it leads to suicide for so many. even so — it is one thing to live closeted. it is another thing to try and portray this wildly hetero (and wildly false) image. and that’s what george is trying to do with this song.

in short, that infuriates me.

years later, i have read the stories of his drug use; of his arrests as he cruises around for anonymous sex. i know he’s out now, but i feel sorry for him.  i just don’t think he’ll ever be comfortable just being who he is.

and that saddens me.

5 Responses to “egregious ’80’s songs: i want your sex (george michael)”

  1. This song has awesome memories for me… riding the band bus home from football games in high school. We didn’t care what his sexual orientation was. The song was loud. The song was rockin to dance to. And oh yeah, it was blatantly about sex. Perfect for a bunch of high school kids even if the song was totally wrong. It was totally wrong at the right time. I’ll always dig it!

  2. I think my primary disagreement with you on this (and a few other songs of the 80s) is that I EXPECT pop music to be shallow, vapid. It’s pop music, after all. When have the great masses ever picked out anything inspiring as a whole? It’s about sex – which also defines most of pop music (or “romance” – but even most romantic songs are barely-concealed as being about sex).

    So when a song hits my base expectations for the genre, I just take it as it is and either like it or not, depending on its fit with my general musical tastes. This, as Sue said, is a kickin’ song – great dance music (for the 80s) and a song which gets the teens involved (like it or not). It’s the songs where the lyrics are either above or way below the baseline that catch my attention – exceptionally violent songs (e.g., nearly anything, it seems, in the hip-hop world, although there have been a few I like) or the rare song not about romance/sex in some way.

    As to his sexuality and representation of it – a non-issue to me. Folks can be what they want and, to a certain extent, pretend to be what they feel is necessary. If we start dissing love songs simply because the singer was gay and the song appears to be hetero (or vice-versa), we’ll end up hating most of what’s out there. A gay man singing a song about gay monogamy might have been a hit in various circles throughout the nation, but certainly wouldn’t have been a chart-smasher amongst the teen/20s crowd.

    • points well taken. it’s just that for me, the song makes me so very, very sad. i know people who have lived in the closet; and to know that michael’s gay while trying hard to prove to the world how hetero he is is a testament to how far we had not come by that time. i’m just a big proponent of people being who they are. it is hard to do — and why it’s that much more admirable when famous people come out and essentially tell the haters to take a flying leap.

  3. I don’t think anyone really suspected George was hetero in 87, but the video was blatant denial. How it was a hit escapes me. You’re right, it is sad what he’s turned into.

  4. Kind of puts the whole Adam Lambert controversy in a different light eh?

    I fall somewhere in between on this one – the song always made me smile..nice beat to it and as a dancer at heart, that is the first thing that appeals to me..but I COMPLETELY agree on the representation of who he was/is…and how this song was an utter denial of himself at the center of it. Quite sad, but yes, a reflection of the times.

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