The day a pop culture and music icon dies is often the day his or her music is reborn. George Michael, of course, established himself as a Grammy-winning, independent songwriter, producer, and captivating performer throughout the 1980s by exuding endless energy and a enthralling originality that inspired his contemporary successors. And when news of his death at the age of just 53 went public Sunday, his fans returned to his hits and masterpieces for comfort and to celebrate his groundbreaking, illuminating career. It's bound to draw in those who will discover his music for the first time as well. So whether the legend's work transports you back in time or presents a fresh journey, here's how to listen to George Michael's music.
Michael emerged onto the 1980s music scene along with the dawn of MTV alongside the co-creator of the boy-duo band Wham! Andrew Ridgeley, and the two gifted the pop scene with an absurd number of hits in a three-year span, like "Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do)," "Rapture," "Bad Boys," and the earworm that for many became the soundtrack to his Christmas Day death, "Last Christmas." In fact, TMZ reported Monday that Michael's music experienced a 3,158 percent increase in streams since last week, before his death, with "Last Christmas" winning the most listens.
And Michael, who died of heart failure in his home in England, graduated from Wham! to build an impressive, boundary-pushing, and at times controversial solo career. And, luckily for those who want to get acquainted or reacquainted with one of the most influential pop stars of all time, Michael's music is just as ubiquitous now as he himself was throughout the 1980s, both via the preeminent music streaming service and elsewhere.
Spotify should be the first stop, as it offers a comprehensive George Michael experience, from his 1987 debut solo album Faith to 1996's Older all the way through Patience, which was released in 2004. Its Greatest Hits playlist is packed with nostalgia for Michael, a rollicking reminiscence of the music Billboard's Andrew Unterberger wrote "should be taken very seriously, and also very frivolously."
Michael's "I Want Your Sex," which features explicit lyrics to match its provocative title, could be read as a unapologetic declaration from a gay man unabashed about his sexuality, for example, but it also was divisive because some viewed it as encouraging casual sex during the throes of the AIDS epidemic, according to the Associated Press.
And Unterberger compiled a list of the 15 best Michael songs, in his critic's view, lauding him as one of the "few songwriters of his era were as capable of writing both heart-wrenching torch ballads speaking to the essential isolation at the core of the human condition, and sugary pop trifles where the only word you needed to understand was 'jitterbug.'" The vintage videos for many of them are now available on YouTube.
Even long after he stopped making music, George Michael retained a loyal fan base that ensured large crowds at his concerts when he toured, according to The Guardian. Now that he's gone, listening to his recorded music is what will sustain that base and many others.