“All that bullshit conversation, baby can’t you read the signs?”. This is a curious record: there’s little in pop like the way “Fastlove” marries seductive form – the discreet grind of its mid-to-uptempo groove – with an impatient candour that undermines it. Other seduction jams enjoy their playfulness, however frank they are about its endgame. “Fastlove” is wary of allowing itself that generosity.
“Into the night” the singer goes, and in the night details are obscured. The setting is anonymous, the partners are anonymous, and so the music we’re hearing slips into anonymity too. A snatch of a different record – Patrice Rushen’s “Forget-Me-Nots” – drifts across the track, like a song you half-notice in a bar when your mind’s on other things. Later singles along these lines suggest that this kind of glossy light funk is something Michael is drawn to, or at least feels suits him – on “Fastlove” there’s a suspicion that the setting is deliberately generic, just more of the “bullshit conversation” – tiresome requirements before the singer scratches his itch. And then what? Back into the night, I guess.
Anything you can use to build you can use to fill a hole: sex is no exception, and “Fastlove” is as clear-eyed about motives as it is about everything else. “In the absence of security,” Michael lays it out, “I made my way into the night…. I miss my baby.” You can, if you like, take the song in a dyad with “Jesus To A Child” – the outcome of a healing process on one hand, some of its less solemn detail on the other – but while that single demanded an autobiographical reading, here it feels more of a reach.
And anyway, “Fastlove” protests too much. Lyrically George is playing the pick-up artist, but the record is never as brittle or cold as it threatens to be. If this is him on numbed autopilot, it just shows that his sweetness and flirtation runs deeper and comes more naturally than the exhaustion. He’s a humane performer even when he pretends otherwise.