Talk about an appropriate week to hop back into action. After feeling all the feels over Prince, new music pops up from both Michael Jackson and George Michael. While I enjoy the new MJ mash-up of “Murder on the Dance Floor” with “Dangerous” (and several other tracks), the first posthumous release from Mr. Michael is what I am really feeling at the moment.
To be honest, I don’t recall hearing “Fantasy” in its original form when it was released in 1990 as the B-side to “Freedom 90.” I bought Listen Without Prejudice the week it came out, and that was enough for a poor college student to get by with. I also missed “Fantasy 98” on the flip side of “Outside,” but I did eventually hear “Fantasy” when it was included on the Deluxe version of the Twenty Five compilation. To my ear, the song has always been a bit of a bridge between Faith and Listen Without Prejudice. I’m sure we’ll hear a story about why it wasn’t included on Listen Without Prejudice now that it’s taking center stage in the run up to October’s re-release of Prejudice.
It’s clear from the number of times this song popped up over the course of George’s solo career that he had a soft spot for it. He even performed it live during the Twenty Five tour in 2006. As a result, this surprise release makes total sense when put into context of Prejudice‘s re-release, since there needs to be some type of hook to sell a collection of music that most fans probably have in one form or another. The best part of the story to me is that this isn’t a Frankenstein release pieced together to capitalize on someone’s passing. “Fantasy” was actively re-worked by George in collaboration with Nile Rogers, who took the horns out and added his own funk guitar groove to the track. That, combined with some reworked vocals and samples, makes for an essentially new track while still remaining true to the energy of the original.
Do I love this new version of “Fantasy?” Right now, love is a strong word, but it’s growing on me. As a child reared in the 80s on “event” releases, I instinctively expect a new release from someone like George Michael to be geared to hook people and hopefully propel it to the top of the charts (ie Taylor Swift’s current chart assault). That isn’t “Fantasy.” This is a release that celebrates George’s desire to re-create music that he felt would stand the test of time. He’s done it several times throughout his career, both recorded and live in concert, so it makes sense that the first release after his passing would be a defiant release of a song I’m sure he felt hadn’t gotten its due. I wouldn’t expect any less from George than great music with a hint of rebellion.