Wham!’s Make It Big was the first album I was properly obsessed with, from the minute I purchased it in my local Kmart (price: $11.84). I knew every word, every note, every beat, every song writing credit, every nuance. I timed exactly how long each song ran and designed an insert to go inside the tape cover.
I’m obsessed enough that not only do I own every Wham! album and every George Michael album on CD (and I wrote an extremely detailed guide to which Wham! tracks hadn’t yet made it to CD), I even have Andrew Ridgeley’s solo album on CD, and all the accompanying singles. So following George’s death, here’s my ranking of every track Wham! officially released.
Pedant note: I know ‘Careless Whisper’ and ‘A Different Corner’ were released as George Michael solo tracks, but they both ended up on Wham! albums during the band’s original career, so in my head they 100% count. This ranking is purely personal, other perspectives welcome! And yes, George Michael’s career was much more than Wham!, but right now that’s the bit I’m thinking about.
Wham! only had 24 songs in their career, and the standard was impressively high. But it’s fun to try and sort through them. Go Yog!
24. Piano Outro
This brief instrumental fragment (heard at the end of Fantastic and If You Were There: The Best Of Wham!) doesn’t really count as a song, so it has to take last place.
23. Where Did Your Heart Go?
22. Love Machine
21. If You Were There
All excellent songs, and cover versions remained a crucial part of George’s career throughout, but back in the day, it was the songs George Michael wrote himself (with a very occasional assist from Andrew Ridgeley) that made Wham! stand out. It still annoys me all these years later that ‘Where Did Your Heart Go?’ was actually released as a single.
20. Nothing Looks The Same In The Light
19. Like A Baby
18. Blue (Armed With Love)
Wham! were never seen as a ballads band, and many of the slower songs that they released did tend to be a bit ponderous, as these three examples show. The “solo” ballads from the same era are noticeably better.
17. Come On!
Boppy and catchy but just lacks a distinctive edge compared to the singles of the time.
16. Last Christmas
An acknowledged seasonal classic, and I’ve always loved the cover art. If anything this has been dulled by overexposure and constant inferior covers.
15. A Ray Of Sunshine
14. Credit Card Baby
13. The Edge Of Heaven
Fast and funky is a default setting where Wham! can always deliver the goods.
12. Club Tropicana
My favourite bit of this track is the vocals at the end. Coo-ool . . .
11. Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do?)
There are many, many mixes of this song. The 86 remix is fun and sweary.
10. Everything She Wants
Both examples of what George at the time considered “mature” writing, and similarly themed around a grasping, acquisitive partner. ‘Battlestations’ is a relatively obscure track (a new recording for The Final but never released as a single), with fun answering-machine sound effects and tasty spoken sections.
8. Bad Boys
George Michael hated this track and occasionally had it excluded from compilations, but it’s a fun romp and I’ve been quoting the line “I’m big enough to break down the door” for years.
This mid-tempo ballad strikes me as fertile territory for a cover, replete with echoing pianos. Conveys an end-of-term feel really effectively.
6. Young Guns (Go For It!)
“Hey shut up chick, that’s a friend of mine.”
5. I’m Your Man
Any song that was designed to persuade Brooke Shields to give up her virginity obviously gets extra points.
4. A Different Corner
The first UK number one written, produced, sung and with every single instrument played by a single person (Prince did it first in the US with ‘When Doves Cry’, trivia fans). Looking back, this set the template for much of George’s subsequent solo career.
3. Wake Me Up Before You Go Go
For most people the definitive Wham! track. 1980s pop never got any more fun than this.
2. Careless Whisper
Following up ‘Wake Me Up’ with this was a master stroke. “Guilty feet ain’t got no rhythm” is perhaps the most amazing six words in a number one hit ever.
The definitive Wham! song: a Motown feel, amazing vocals, and a lyric about infidelity. If they’d ever finished the video this would have been an even more massive hit.