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Nov 13

GEORGE MICHAEL – “Fastlove”

Popular65 comments • 3,894 views

#738, 4th May 1996

fastlove “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.

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Comments

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  1. 51
    Izzy on 5 Nov 2013 #

    ‘Forget Me Nots’ returns to no.1 in just over a year’s time.

  2. 52
    Cumbrian on 5 Nov 2013 #

    Shoot The Dog also got to number one on the Wallonia chart in Belgium but only 46 on the Flanders chart. Presumably these are based on airplay? Anyway, big with the Flemish is George.

    And yes, I picked this up off wiki. Movements on the Belgian charts not usually being my forte.

    I think STD (top acronym there) is alright but from memory it was a bit of an inflexion point for George. Thereafter he has not had that much success on the UK singles chart at least. I suspect that if he comes back at this point with something of the ilk of Fastlove it might not garner much attention. He’s going to need something that really stands out to break back up to the top of the charts I think.

  3. 53
    thefatgit on 5 Nov 2013 #

    “Shoot The Dog” would have been a great #1 if only for the “Love Action” lift.

  4. 54
    Cumbrian on 6 Nov 2013 #

    Anyone want a pair of football boots? I believe Adidas are good.

  5. 55
    Izzy on 6 Nov 2013 #

    He did As later with Mary J Blige. I think it might’ve been a tack-on to the Best Of. I liked it – it would’ve been hard for those two to cover any Stevie song badly – but I found the video, in a club populated by dancing George & Mary clones, somewhat nightmarish.

  6. 56
    leveret on 6 Nov 2013 #

    I had no idea he had managed as many US number one singles. I’ve never even heard of ‘Monkey’ (UK no. 13) and ‘One More Try’ rings only a vague bell.

    Were these number 1s based on genuine big sales figures amongst the US public or was radio play largely responsible?

  7. 57
    Alfred on 7 Nov 2013 #

    Both, at least in my neighborhood. Those Faith were — all of them — massive.

  8. 58
    AMZ1981 on 9 Nov 2013 #

    A few thoughts;

    Fastlove is, as others have said, the last number one for George Michael but four further singles in the two and a half years that followed hit the runner up spot and at least three were victims of lousy timing; Spinning The Wheel (held at bay by Wannabe), You Have Been Loved (Candle In The Wind 97) and Outside (Cher’s Believe) – Star People was blocked by a landfill number one.

    His commercial peak perhaps came when his Ladies and Gentleman compilation proved massively successful over Christmas 1998. However in the new decade he seemed to be more interested in stirring controversy rather than giving the public what they wanted; Amazing showed he could still score with a good song but the other singles from Patience, while fine in an album context, were perhaps too vague to crossover. Leaving aside his troubles with the law it’s perhaps a little bit unfair to write him off as the result of recent unsuccessful singles – his contempories are hardly setting the singles charts afire either. If he could put together an album that would be the best litimus test of his commercial clout.

    This is a bit shameless but as somebody mentioned Shoot The Dog here’s my take my from my blog (not in Tom’s league but few blogs are) http://amz1981.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/great-moments-in-flop-history-part-1-shoot-the-dog/

  9. 59
    Patrick Mexico on 11 Nov 2013 #

    STOP BUNNYING! Oh, it’s okay, you’re remapping the Axis of Evil.

    In his first week at No. 1, George held off stern competition from the “oh, they were a bit good last decade” mob – new entries from PSB (No. 7), The Cure (No. 15), and Springsteen (No. 26)*. I guess few except hardcore fans would say they were career bests.

    The Ghost of Tom Joad is apparently an understated, warm-the-cockles-of-t’heart, album, mind – a shame we won’t see the omnipresent Boss on Popular. However, to quote Dennis Bergkamp channeling IDS in a rubber mask of Alex James**, there are other sites. Then again, there are other formats.

    It was the year of the awful, Cantona-inspired FA Cup final; Michael also nobly blockaded Move Move Move (The Red Tribe) and Pass and Move (To The Liverpool Groove) from glory; when the parentheses follow the half-Greek groover, it is because they think someone will be born out of the sea.

    And lo, they were, in the promo for Sleeper’s Sale of the Century. (#10 new entry in Fastlove’s first week.) One of Britpop’s most mistreated bands, often by the same magazines that once saw Louise and.. you know, them, as standard-bearers for that Maconie emotion. The efficient dourness of the George Graham-era Arsenal back four spearheaded by a glamorous, idealistic frontwoman; we’d seen this happen in other peoples’ lives and Melody Maker didn’t like it if it happened in theirs. Especially someone singing about pebbledash driveways and spilling wine on the sofa.

    Yes, like many of their ilk, they read the future in prosaic suburban beige, used a Supermarket Sweep theme for one promo, and covering Atomic for Trainspotting was a cute, knowing reference point or the worst “Start digging upwards” for a British band since, oh, well, Duran Duran’s Thank You.

    However, SOTC was a delight of a single; sidelining the “songs about chip shops” (in Mat Osman’s beautiful phrasing) for a non-stop erotic cabaret (note lower case), vision of a city that never sleeps, if that city really was London. It definitely isn’t prosaic, and it could be anything from a conversation between a young woman lusting for a much older man to manning an antique submarine.

    Uses an all-too-familiar riff.. hello, No One Knows! Hello, Black Velvet! Hello (next year), Waltzing Along! Hello, the theme tune from CBBC spy spoof Marlene Marlowe Investigates! (Is this up there with Tiger Girl from I Hate This House as a memory of nineties popular culture only acid casualties could recall in the A&E ward?) But it uses familiar elements to WORK as something genuinely iconic and memorable, especially the chiming, Siamese Dream-esque bit towards the end.

    Speaking of which, the Smashing Pumpkins hit #8 in the third week; if Sale of the Century eschewed the horrors of Britpop going all too generic, this fought the same corner for grunge, or at least the broad church of whatever the hell “alternative rock” means. The liberal use of strings brought to mind A Design For Life; the passion and sense of Corgan nobly avenging his demons, brought to mind the Boss in more stadium-rock guises (but not losing passion) and the rest of Everything Must Go, particularly the “most generic, yet most perfect” Australia; and this was made by a band paying homage to Georges Méliès; who in turn on Top of the Pops got their late keyboardist to perform aided by a cuddly toy.

    Like its parent album, Tonight Tonight was confusing, contradictory, and utterly captivating, and it never once brought to mind – as Maconie said as he imprinted Lambretta tyre marks onto Eddie Vedder’s face; “people who’d come to clean up a canal towpath”, or “Oh God, do I have to tidy my room?”

    There was apparently something called Salt Tank in the lower, ahem, depths of the charts. Was it, he, she, or them any good? Or were they kissing cousins with Scanty Sandwich?

    * And Def Leppard, though I fear that sort of band will not be appreciated on Popular.

    ** In Fastlove’s second week, Charmless Man went straight in a #5. 17 years on I’m still unsure whether it’s their finest three minutes, or Crocodile Rock covered by the Inbetweeners in hell.

    Oh, and.. Jubilee. Public Enemy gave us “You’re blind baby, you’re blind because you’ve been watching that garbage 24/7″, the British response is “He gone divy, too much telly, He’s been watching 24 hours of RABBISH!” Ali throws the first punch, the second comes from Norman Wisdom.

  10. 60
    Cumbrian on 11 Nov 2013 #

    Minor point from me: I can’t think of anywhere I have seen Ghost of Tom Joad described as heart warming. Understated, yes. But about the only warm thing there is the production; if it had been too rough and ready, it might well have invited even more comparisons with Nebraska. It’s mostly a, pretty spare, hard times album, with an undercurrent of both sorrow and serious anger so obvious that a band, that we will get to in the fullness of time, was able to cover the title track as a hard rock number so effectively that the lead guitarist wound up filling in for the E Street Band’s Steve Van Zandt for stretches of their last tour down under.

    Re: Sleeper. Of the female fronted Britpop bands, I preferred Echobelly or at least Dark Therapy beat everything in Sleeper’s back catalogue and I thought both King of the Kerb and Great Things had more winning choruses than Sale of the Century and Inbetweener. And following the Great Britpop Poll, I have more time for Kenickie than I did back in the mid-90s. Sleeper run at least third from this (rather sexist) grouping.

  11. 61
    fivelongdays on 11 Nov 2013 #

    If I had to sum up this in one word, it would be Tasteful. It’s a tasteful tune, with smooth vocals about how George will meet you in a Tasteful club, buy you a Tasteful drink, take you back to his Tasteful apartment and have Tasteful sex with you. Tastefully.

    It always sounds like background music, and, although it wasn’t at number one for as long as I remember it being (it was there for three weeks, but to my recollection it felt like six) there’s not really much I can say about this. Four.

    Incidentally, Sale of the Century isn’t as good as it’s B-side, the reply rather fantastic Package Holiday. Sleeper were unfairly maligned, that’s true, and The It Girl isn’t THAT good, but their debut, Smart, is the rarest of things – a sexy indie record.

    And Tonight, Tonight? Just LOVELY. Would undoubtedly get a ten.

  12. 62
    wichita lineman on 13 Nov 2013 #

    “You can take the song in a dyad with Jesus To A Child…” That’s how it has always sounded to me, which makes Fastlove a very honest record. The way it splits in two with the (pretty cheesy – intentionally?) scratching dividing impatient, groping George on the first section and mourning George (“In the absence of security”) on the second is, I think, quite remarkable.

    He seems a smooth mover, clubbing and shagging with that cheeky but rather melancholy synth-whistle hook as his motif. But it’s only an attempt to hide an absence that he can’t shake off – this is only revealed on the later section, with Patrice Rushen’s Forget Me Nots as the ghost of his lost love. George shakes his head, quietly singing to himself – “I miss my baby” – as his one night briefly stand looks away. He’s still on the pull, though (“that’s right!” he winks, unconvincingly), and the song eventually dissolves into un-seductive electronic noises that are closer to Gary Numan’s Telekon than Luther Vandross.

  13. 63
    Billy Hicks on 15 Nov 2013 #

    59 – Salt Tank’s entry at number 40 was the actually quite beautiful early trance track ‘Eugina’, the radio edit of which can be listened to at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoZ9PFBT5LY . Only discovered it recently from a friend who had the original vinyl.

  14. 64
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  15. 65
    Andrew Farrell sent back from the future on 3 Feb 2014 #

    Classic series 20 spambot there, tortured glimpses of sentience but nothing threatening as yet – the series 30 would at least have enough contextual nous to finish “Writing about onward to peer you actually, bay-beh”.

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