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Nov 13

GEORGE MICHAEL – “Fastlove”

Popular70 comments • 7,204 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. 1
    Tom Ewing (@tomewing) on 3 Nov 2013 #

    Popular entry – George gets his groove on. http://t.co/P8lNvpdtdB

  2. 2
    The Woose on 3 Nov 2013 #

    About time Tom!

    This is a much better record than I thought at the time – it didn’t fit well with the retro Britpop stylings.

    Did we all still think George was hetero then? I only ask because I’m lining it up with the lothario of Careless Whisper and I Want Your Sex.

  3. 3
    Lazarus on 3 Nov 2013 #

    There were some of us, and I slowly raise my hand, to whom the incident with the police officer came as a surprise – if only because many of us assumed, during the Wham years, that George and Andrew were shagging for England, with no gentleman callers involved. If he cultivated a more staid and sophisticated image in the 90s it wasn’t evidently because his preferences had changed – it might just have been a natural maturing of a man entering his thirties. This record and the ‘Older’ album got played a lot at ours in 1996 but that was largely for the benefit of Mrs Laz – he’s always had more of a female fanbase, I suspect. It’s a daytime radio staple to this day and I never mind hearing it, I’d go along with the 6.

  4. 4
    lonepilgrim on 3 Nov 2013 #

    I’ve been fairly sniffy about GMs last couple of hits – repelled by the obsessive studio sheen that (for me) shuts out the more human elements of the song. Here the obsessiveness serves the theme of the song perfectly, with ‘Forget-me-not’ suggesting more vulnerable qualities.

  5. 5
    Patrick Mexico on 3 Nov 2013 #

    It didn’t fit well with the retro Britpop stylings, and all the better for it; this returns some groove and sophistication to the charts, from a Briton (just like Return of the Mack, but this record’s got a much more agreeable personality. Too young to understand what was going on in the video but thought he must be, in the words of Matchman from, er, MATCH magazine (it’s OK, it was 1996, R**** T***** wasn’t invented) a true babe magnet. Little did I know.) 8.

    There’s another number 1 coming up next year that also cribs from Sending Me Forget-Me-Nots, but in the wrong way.

  6. 6
    Tom Lane on 3 Nov 2013 #

    Had to go look it up, but it was true. This is the last record he charted on the US Hot 100, outside of “Last Christmas” getting a single release. A very good song, which I always thought at the time was meant to show that he could still knock out a catchy dance confection whenever he wanted. Definitely an 8.

  7. 7
    Billy Hicks on 3 Nov 2013 #

    Worth noting early on that there are two main versions of this song along with many of the ‘Older’ singles – the original album/video version ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQVWYu4BdMo ), and the housier ‘Forthright Edit’ which bizarrely got included on Now That’s What I Call Music 35 and can be listened to at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2whVR3uYqlM .

    I (along with most) am only familiar with the original and agree with a lot of what’s been said already. What surprises me is that both the song and video have two things that you’d think would be censored on daytime television but whenever I’ve seen it on the music channels it’s always been uncut at all hours, one the word “bullshit” and two the closeup of a woman’s breast/nipple at 1:59 in the video. Is it simply getting away with it because he’s George Michael?

    On buying my first iPod in 2007, I found this song excellent for walking home to on a cold winter evening.

  8. 8
    Birdseed on 4 Nov 2013 #

    Isn’t that a man’s breast? (Or a trans-woman’s breast, acceptable through society’s strange double-standard.)

    I dig the Forget-me-nots connection, to one of the all-time great slow-burning dance tracks, but it doesn’t stand up all too well in comparison. In grand 90s tradition there’s just too much going on in the production for it to really gel, (despite the nice horn/melody interplay). It’s not long until garage comes and sweeps that away, thankfully.

  9. 9
    swanstep on 4 Nov 2013 #

    Wham’s Young Guns basically hymned fastlove over matrimony/babies etc. too, but it did so with wit, hooks, and energy galore, all of which are largely absent here. The ‘Oooh Oooh baby baby’ section with the horns, on which ‘Forget Me Not’ eventually drops, is the only part of this track I rate, although I agree with Birdseed,8 that it’s dangerous for Michael to invite the comparison. The syndrome here is ‘2 bars in search of a song’ I’m afraid, whereas a younger Michael wrote and arranged tracks that burst at the seams with ideas and that couldn’t stop giving pleasure.

    Glossy and confident, but incredibly lazy where it counts, for me ‘Fastlove’ is a (grumpily bestowed):
    5

  10. 10
    Mark G on 4 Nov 2013 #

    Well, I like this more than “Young Guns” because the ideas here are executed with more finesse, and probably closer to the real GM, where the former seemed more down to the blueprint..

  11. 11
    AlexN on 4 Nov 2013 #

    This is a strong 8 for me. The whipcrack snares, the cyberpunk-lite video, the ghostly backing vocals buried at the back of the mix – an exciting precursor of the Timbaland/nu-r’n’b stuff just around the corner.

    And there are some cracking quicksilver lyric hooks: “I won’t bore you with the details baby / I hope you get there in your own sweet time”. Best of all is the quatrain in the second verse:

    “Looking for some affirmation
    Made my way into the sun
    My friends got their ladies, they’re all having babies
    But I just want to have some fun”

    Very tidy indeed.

  12. 12
    anto on 4 Nov 2013 #

    I recently heard ‘Fastlove’ at about 3a.m and it suddenly made a lot of sense. It sounds just right for that time of the morning and for me it’s the one George Michael single where he acheives some sort of balance. ‘A Different Corner’ is under-rated but the vocal is overdone. ‘Outside’ is too self-consciously camp while the sax solo on ‘Careless Whisper’ has always been a bit too ‘Enjoy the rich taste of Kenco ‘ for me. In contrast the sax on ‘Fastlove’ is supple and sensuous. Also the interpolation of ‘Forget Me Not’ is more imaginative than it’s use on another song which I don’t think I’m allowed to mention yet.
    This is one occasion where I’ve heard the track in a completely different way to the review. It sounds fairly joyous to me albeit a vulnerable sort of joy – something like ‘yes one-night stands are empty and unfulfilling but they can be quite enjoyable too ‘. Like I say, ideal for 3a.m.

  13. 13
    Cumbrian on 4 Nov 2013 #

    It’s funny that Anto describes this record as making sense at 3am. I had a similar sensation actually but, when listening to it, it put me in the mind of a late night, somewhere in Central Europe, jetting away from a nightclub. It’s very sleek and the seductive quality of George’s voice lends it a slightly blurry edge, as you might have at 3am after leaving a club, punctuated by the slightly more urgently sung “make a little room in my BMW” like certain snatches of a night leap out at you when you’ve had slightly too much to drink.

    It’s a pretty good aural picture – at least in my mind – I think I’d give it an 8. It might be getting bonus points for being a bit more outward looking than the prevailing trends at this time though. As a rule, there weren’t too many Britpop bands evoking Central Europe at about now (and using BMW not Jaguar – a particular favourite of Noel Gallagher – as the signifier of a certain level of automotive class) and I couldn’t picture George doing anything as jingoistic as plastering the Union jack on his guitar or all over his clothing. It was a welcome point of difference, I reckon.

  14. 14
    James BC on 4 Nov 2013 #

    I could swear that this song was allowed to keep its “bullshit” uncensored on the radio and Top of the Pops. Can anyone confirm this? If so, why the exception? Were there complaints?

    As for the song, it takes a while to grow but I rate it by far the best single from Older.

  15. 15
    weej on 4 Nov 2013 #

    It’s not a word to throw around too lightly, I know, but this record is boring. I’m sure it will do servicably well as background music in a bar, but I’d like my pop to be a little more ambitious than that.

    And as someone who spent their early 20s in Central Europe, going out a lot more than was sensible, I can’t think of anything more inapplicable to the 3am-outside-a-club feeling than GM, but I’d have been on a tram rather than a BMW, and, so maybe my Central Europe is just one of many.

  16. 16
    Cumbrian on 4 Nov 2013 #

    #15: Ha*. I guess being outside any nightclub anywhere in the world is going to be pretty similar – I don’t see why Munich need be that much different to Birmingham when you’ve had a bit too much to drink and have danced fro 4 hours, and so also feel a bit knackered. Having never been to a Central European nightclub, nevermind been to a sophisticated one where you jet off in a Beamer afterwards, this is a fantasy made whole cloth from my own mind.

    *In memoriam, Mrs Krabappel

  17. 17
    thefatgit on 4 Nov 2013 #

    I’m quite meh about this one. In my mind, as I try and recall the tune, it’s kind of the “Forget Me Not” bits that stand out and the chorus. The rest of it is anonymous smooth sheen that might or might not drift into a #2 from 1998 at any moment. So I’m going to keep my powder dry until I’ve re-acquainted myself with it.

  18. 18
    weej on 4 Nov 2013 #

    #16 I think my problem with this kind of music is that sophisticated nightclubs of any sort are my idea of hell.

  19. 19
    Cumbrian on 4 Nov 2013 #

    #18: I think I’d broadly agree – at this time, I was trying to sneak my underage self into the local indie clubs and later in life, the lower the ceiling, the hotter the room and the louder the music, the better I thought a club would be. Something suave never really entered the equation.

    I guess I am picking up all of my thoughts on what GM is evoking here from TV and Film. Bowie in the back of a car, film stars staring out of windows at neon lights. That sort of thing.

  20. 20
    Chelovek na lune on 4 Nov 2013 #

    It worked in Odessa – definitely on the Eastern side of the Eastern/Central European boundary. The song was oft pumping out from speakers, day or night, along the Deribas, “the most beautiful street in the world”, as its inhabitants claim it to be.

    And the track does say, to me: dark car, with dark glass in its windows, late at night, in a sophisticated city.

    I like this: slick, smooth and a coherent whole. I loved the whole conceit of the “Older” album: a more polished, mature, and I think less temperamental, more in control, GM: and damn, some of the album was superb. Not really groundbreaking, perhaps, and not GM’s finest moment ever, but competent, sophisticated, slick and honest. Possibly, indeed, almost certainly, the last really good single he released, too. (Although a case is to be made for “December Song (I Dreamed Of Christmas)” being cruelly overlooked, much later on, but that very much a late exception).

    Probably a 7 from me.

  21. 21
    Tom on 4 Nov 2013 #

    This is it for George, isn’t it? For some reason I thought “Outside” got to No.1, but no. Well, it’s been fun.

    As for future singles, I was quite tickled by “Shoot The Dog” and “Freeek!” at the time, obviously flawed though they were. Haven’t heard them in years though.

  22. 22
    Ben Cook on 4 Nov 2013 #

    14 – I remember Richard Madeley once claiming on their Channel 4 teatime show that he was allowed to say bullshit on TV but not shit for some reason. Cue a cringing Judy as he repeatedly used the word.

  23. 23
    mapman132 on 4 Nov 2013 #

    Debuted in the US Top 10, but dropped down rather quickly, just like his last single. Someone already said this was his last US hit. For me, the video was more memorable than the song itself. 5/10.

  24. 24
    Mark G on 4 Nov 2013 #

    #22, well, “Beat Surrender” has to have a ‘radio-play’ version with the line “that rubbish is rubbish, it just goes by different names”, in 1982

    But, yes, I do believe Bullshit was one side of the ‘acceptable line’ and shit was on the other.

  25. 25
    iconoclast on 4 Nov 2013 #

    I thought very little of this at the time, but seventeen years on I’m a bit surprised to find that it isn’t actually at all bad. In its favour are some effective chord changes, a nice bass-line, a general unhurried tempo and a pleasant ambience all round. Against it is the feeling that it’s a bit too grown-up and air-brushed for its own good. Somewhere between inoffensive background music for parties and something to drift off to at night. SEVEN.

  26. 26
    Nixon on 4 Nov 2013 #

    Since this is the end for George on Popular, this both prompts and is an excuse for me to ask a question which has been nagging me, namely: what’s the big deal?

    I don’t mean that he’s not good or anything (he is, obviously), but I’ve never understood how he was (and to an extent still is) treated by the media, in all forms and at all levels, not just in the UK but internationally, as a mega-level Big Name superstar.

    Perhaps it’s a generation thing, perhaps I’m just the exact wrong age to get what the fuss is about, but from the moment I started Getting Into Music in the earlyish 90s, George Michael seems to have been an institution, with the assumption that (a) we should all accept it has ever been thus, and (b) so it always shall be.

    His return from the label dispute being treated like the second coming, the comeback singles anointed on their “obvious” path to #1 (when as far as I knew he’d not really been regularly troubling the very highest reaches of the singles chart as an unaided solo turn), was just deeply confusing. Not unwelcome, I’d give both this and Jesus To A Child at least 8, but *confusing* – the mid-90s legend of George the superstar seems to me to have been augmented to coincide with his comeback, making him out to be far, FAR more famous (or more of a National Treasure) than he was before.

    So many weird things stick in the memory: this record’s pervading atmosphere of I’m George Michael, Get Over It (“bullshit” going not only unchallenged on both radio and TV but unremarked upon; the f*ck-you gesture of the “Fony” headphones in the video attracting no meaningful criticism that I can remember, not least from Sony themselves) didn’t die out quickly. I remember TOTP giving George airtime to launch his new label (first single: a godawful duet with some limp-voiced acoustic chancer), played in full *and* with a spoken video intro; years later, when he’d shuttered the whole enterprise, Channel 4 gave Freeek a World Exclusive premiere special… (I know Freeek has a great video, and C4 has since done quite a few of these premiere things, but I remember George’s being trailed all evening, to which our sofa response was… buh? Shouldn’t this guy’s “level” of fame be somewhere on a scale between Seal and Bono?)

    And the negatives too: FAMOUS MAN IS GAY, fine, it was still a newsworthy headline (may still be), but f*cking hell, the viciously homophobic, leering coverage of his arrest was so widespread you’d have thought it was the Pope. (And yet in my head the Sun et al realised they’d f*cked up and misjudged the popular mood, because all I remember for Outside’s disco urinals and calling the greatest hits “Ladies & Gentlemen” is a ‘good old George!’ smirk reaction, not a BAN THIS SICK FILTH episode.)

    Nobody’s interested in NetAid? George offers to spill the beans on his personal life in return for suitable coverage, and nobody stands up and says “What the hell are you talking about?”… I was always confused. And he kept making rather good pop records, and yet nobody really talks about George Michael’s post-Older pop records, nor do they get played on the radio (I’d hazard a guess that of all his singles, this is the one you’re most likely to hear/see while flicking through channels, and it’s 17 years old). The records are accessories, something to be added to the appendix of the next updated biography, addenda to the real story: look, it’s George Michael!

    Educate me, for I am ill-informed.

  27. 27
    Cumbrian on 4 Nov 2013 #

    I must be honest, I am not an expert on George Michael by any stretch of the imagination (I had quite a tin ear for him until relatively recently) but, having a stab, is his position (as of ’96) not a little bit of:

    -The Live Aid effect (one of the few “new” artists to be given the seal of approval from the Boomer era stars at that event) putting him in the mainstream public’s eye as a “serious artist”,
    -Faith becoming enormous in the late 80s, thus capitalising on the boom in MTV in the USA and
    -The scarcity factor due to his label disagreement, making it seem like he was a returning King from a previous era.

    That’s how we got here, I think, though as I say, I’m no expert. Someone who knows more will be along in a minute to prove I know nothing.

    But if we’re talking about the George video you see when flicking the channels, I would say it would be Faith, Freedom or Outside, dependent on which channel you’re looking at. Fastlove would probably come after those I think.

  28. 28
    Tom on 4 Nov 2013 #

    #27 Add in the generalised UK industry panic over ‘faceless’ dance music in the early-90s which led to the fast-tracking of surviving 80s stars into “icon” status – at the time there was a real anxiety over where new stars might be coming from, which meant strong commercial performers like George and Annie Lennox were massively and continuously promoted.

  29. 29
    Cumbrian on 4 Nov 2013 #

    #28 I guess that would be right – The KLF even reference it in The Manual – something about faceless DJs standing behind some decks losing its appeal on TOTP after 2 weeks or so.

    Thinking about it, the other George videos that get played a lot on certain stations (Magic for one) are Careless Whisper and (given we’re coming up to the time of the year when loads of those music channels hiding about 350 on the Sky Guide will be owing George royalties) Last Christmas.

  30. 30
    glue_factory on 4 Nov 2013 #

    The “in the abscence of security” part (is it a middle-8?) has always reminded me of the section in Careless Whisper which begins “tonight the music seems so loud”. In both a relatively buttoned-down, restrained song, suddenly seems to spiral away as George has to get away/get out there.

    And I love the line about his BMW. Somehow I can’t imagine Mick Hucknall getting away with that.

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