When your debut solo album spawns six top-five singles and nabs you an arm full of awards, how do you follow-up that type of success? Well, if you're George Michael, you go left. After enjoying a dizzying ride to the top of the charts thanks to his solo debut, Faith, the popular singer decided to head in a musical direction far different from the sound that made him a sex symbol pop star.
Instead, he decided to reinvent himself and the result was his sophomore album, Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1, which was released in September 1990. Absent was the carefree sound that had made him a chart topper. Gone was the image of the hip-swiveling, guitar-playing George Michael. And when he released the video for "Freedom! '90," gone also was the man himself. The Brit caused quite a stir when he opted not to appear in the video for the song, instead featuring supermodels Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington mouthing the lyrics instead. He further raised eyebrows when he proceeded to destroy all of the items we had come to associate with his image during his Faith period. That leather jacket that became his uniform? Set ablaze in the "Freedom! '90" vid. The jukebox that he casually propped up against while strumming his guitar? Both blown to smithereens. By the end of the video, the message was quite clear. There was more to George Michael than what we had come to know.
Where Faith was fun and sexy, Listen Without Prejudice was somber and introspective. He paid homage to Stevie Wonder with a true-to-form cover of "They Won't Go When I Go" from Wonder's own reflective album, 1974's Fulfillingness' First Finale. While "Freedom! '90" is the most popular song from the album, the only song to reach the number one spot on the U.S. charts from the album would be its first commercial release, "Praying for Time." Even though "Freedom! '90" would not reach the heights previously associated with Michael, it still is considered one of his most popular songs-to-date. While it was a break from the sound fans had grown accustomed to, it stayed true to his envelope-pushing roots and more importantly, to his voice.
In the years following the album's release, he would experience several pitfalls, including numerous arrests on various charges ranging from public indecency and drug possession. His personal issues have done little to hamper his fan appeal, however. His 25th Anniversary tour earned him a hefty $97 million, proving that a little taste of freedom can go a long way.