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Nov 13

GEORGE MICHAEL – “Fastlove”

Popular70 comments • 7,644 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. 31
    MikeMCSG on 4 Nov 2013 #

    # 21 Yep and it’s nearly it for me too. I think I mentioned that George Michael had a habit of being number one at key points in my life and here he is again in the week I met my future (and still current) wife. With other things that were happening – my father’s declining health, professional studies and a massive bust-up in the social club I was involved in – something had to give and following the charts in any meaningful way was one of the things jettisoned. We’re not far away from the first number one since 1972 to by-pass me altogether so my contributions are going to be scarce from now on.

  2. 32
    @octojon on 4 Nov 2013 #

    6 is a little harsh – it’s a solid 8 (welcome back, Popular!) RT @tomewing: Popular entry – George gets his groove on http://t.co/A8XyAo9lvg

  3. 33
    Andrew Farrell on 4 Nov 2013 #

    Surely there’s also the generational thing of a boy-band member self-consciously making the jump to ‘proper’ music at the same time as their demographic, sealing love for him* in their hearts forever? Later generations had Robbie (using George’s song!) and Justin, earlier ones had Michael Jackson and er all the Beatles.

    *I can’t actually think of any female examples, but I’m sure one will pop along immediately afterward I post.

  4. 34
    hardtogethits on 4 Nov 2013 #

    #26 etc – I think it’s dreadfully simple to explain George Michael’s status – “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”.

    The attention bestowed upon him began with chart success. I feel uncomfortable presenting SUCH a factual case (see below), not least because when presented so starkly it makes me seem like some kind of George Michael superfan – which I’m not – but there have been points where I have wondered if the UK media have actually come to terms with how successful he has been – even though, as you say, the media have responded to his success by treating him as a superstar, I’ve not seen any of the “almost as big as / bigger than the Beatles” press-release type facts that have celebrated the achievements of … hmmmm… probably too close to spoiler territory but there are at least 5 examples I can think of with ease.

    To recap: By the time this made number 1, it was the 7th UK number 1 single on which GM was a named artist. Add to that the 4 Uk number 1s he achieved as part of Wham!, and his contribution to the Band Aid single and already one can make a case for him being the biggest UK singles chart star other than Elvis, the Beatles and Cliff. And of course, he’d had the best selling #2 UK hit of all time.

    All four of his studio albums (Wham! and solo) had entered the UK albums chart at number one (and the fifth was about to follow suit).

    He had (as pointed about above) become massive in the US, scoring 10 (ten, videprinter, TEN) number ones – six of which weren’t UK number ones.

    And so on.

  5. 35
    Mark G on 4 Nov 2013 #

    yeah.

    But APART from all that….

  6. 36
    Nixon on 4 Nov 2013 #

    #34 obliged! The point about the media not acknowledging how successful he was is a very good one, and really at the heart of my question – it always seemed he was much talked about, but the explanation as to why (for those like me arriving late) always got skipped. I’d entirely forgotten at least 3 of those earlier number ones – in fact I don’t think I’ve ever even heard A Different Corner.
    There was an extra paragraph in my original post which I cut for length asking specifically about being Big In America (as well as if Wham were fondly regarded post-split, as I couldn’t work out why GM made it into the mid 90s with his commercial stock rising but not eg Simon Le Bon or Adam Ant.)

    But like I said, I didn’t *disagree* or begrudge the extent or nature of the coverage, I just didn’t get where it was coming from as it didn’t really seem to be based on the music. Even though I quite liked the music.

    33: I get the boyband transition to adult star thing but essentially I missed the transition; Listen Without Prejudice (or really most of George Michael 1985-1992) is missing footage.

    28/29 yes, that makes a lot of sense and jibes with what I was feeling before HTGH’s potted CV put it in more perspective – we need stars, bankable names to put on the cover, proper pop stars to write gossipy articles about.

  7. 37
    thefatgit on 4 Nov 2013 #

    I’m guessing, as Tom did, “Fastlove” could be paired with “Jesus To A Child” as twin aspects of the tail-end of his grieving process. In the Kubler-Ross 5 stages of grief model, JTAC could be “acceptance”. “Fastlove” is what follows, or a continuation of acceptance, an attempt to move on without entering the scary closure of commitment to the next life-partner who can expunge that grief and fill the hole, once and for all. In the interim, a string of empty one-night stands and meaningless encounters prove to become inevitably unfulfilling, but this is what he’ll settle for now, without exposing himself* to anything as daunting as real feelings. The video presents a string of increasingly sexually aggressive holograms. So in a sense, the fast love that George seeks out comes with the usual “proceed at your own risk” caveats. But when he’s hurting still, he’ll take comfort where he can find it. But these “holograms” suggest he has shut himself away, sealed himself from human contact in his stylish future-prison cell he’s created for himself. And he hasn’t entirely shaken off stage 2 of his Kubler-Ross grieving process with those “Fony” headphones. A bitchy little snipe at his former paymasters.

    Yes, I was a little ambivalent towards “Fastlove” earlier, and I guess I was at the time of release. But now, the subtleties and the backstory make this song, and I suppose most of the content on “Older” worth a re-examination. Maybe 7 is a reasonable score.

    *That particular incident isn’t a million miles away, either.

  8. 38
    ciaran on 5 Nov 2013 #

    Before anything did Fastlove not make Number One on the 28th April Tom?

    A tough one to analyse this.

    Part of me can see merit in it as its the most experimental if not the most daring single from Older.George brings his usual high craft to proceedings here aswell.At the time I preferred it to the somewhat laboured JTAC.

    On the other hand having listened to it for the first time in an age last night I didnt enjoy it as much as I might have done in 1996.It seems a bit boring now.It got massive airplay for a considerably long time which maybe has led to a sense of meh about this although It seemed to ‘disappear’ after the events in Los Angeles in 1998.Probably due to the bold video which is highly camp around the middle.The new GM image was a bit strange aswell.

    I can see the promotional effort behind it with how left-field prodigy and babylon zoo (and even late 1995 jacko!) would have been to some at this time.George was a safe pair of hands (in 96 anyway!). The other thing about 1996 is with the exception of about 2 acts which we’ll get to America had a lean year popular wise so little competition from them for GM.

    I could go as low as 5 or as high as 7.There is a lot worse marks to come in 1996 and seen as this is an accomplished entertainer still riding high and making a better go at it than most a 7 from me.

    Could be on my own here but I would have preferred Spinning The Wheel and Older to this.Star People and You Have Been Loved were really scraping the Barrel however.

    Outside would have been a 9 had we got round to it.

  9. 39
    Billy Hicks on 5 Nov 2013 #

    Lots of very good points raised, being a 1988 stork-boy he’s someone who was always simply There and you accepted his mega fame. Ask me fifteen years ago who he was and I’d not only tell you but draw you a picture of his bearded face. I think I mentioned it in a previous thread but I enjoyed ‘Outside’ as a pre-teen having no clue about any of its context and saw it as simply someone who wanted to go outside in the sunshine, not quite understanding what urinals had to do with it all in the video.

    It is, however, fairly surprising that he was still essentially guaranteed top 10 with everything he did right up to 2004, by which time he was really phoning it in – ‘Flawless (Go to the City)’ is one of the laziest hits ever, a dance track from three years earlier with a couple of repetitive “You’re beautiful! Always the same! Yeah yeah!!” etc soundbites from George over the top for five minutes. Inexplicably it reached 8, one place lower than the original ‘Flawless’ did in 2001.

  10. 40
    Alan not logged in on 5 Nov 2013 #

    re the date, at some point we aligned with the official dates of number ones as originally showing in the Guinness Book of British Hit Singles, data that matches the official charts dates http://www.officialcharts.com/all-the-number-ones-singles-list/_/1996/

    HOWEVER, those days, currently, are SATURDAYS. (If you go back to the 60s you’ll see other days of the week are the official date of some number 1s). Now a bit of me seems to recall reading in the GBoBHS that the date they show was the saturday at the end of the first week of the song’s reign. I may have that backwards, but as Sat 4 May 1996 is indeed the Saturday after the Sun 28 Apr 1996, that accords with ciaran’s recollection.

    this may blow a few people’s minds. of course if I have it wrong, i’ve blown my own

  11. 41
    Doctor Casino on 5 Nov 2013 #

    I definitely appreciate Nixon’s comments, and the responses – as an American born in 1981, I sort of missed Wham!, and a lot of the stuff after that didn’t make an impact (at least on whatever I was listening to).

    However, I was always fond of “Fastlove”; my brother had the CD-single (including the b-side, “I’m Your Man ’96,” a somewhat flat affair that was nonetheless my first introduction to the song). The A-side is cool, almost icy, like freshly minted breath…no dance club here, but maybe a particular stiff art opening, wine coolers and unexciting money in the room. If he is driving home with a lover, the dominant feature isn’t the cologne but the new car smell. 6 is about right.

  12. 42
    Astronaut Omens on 5 Nov 2013 #

    An 8 from me, the gentleness and subtlety of the chorus melody was a brilliant contrast to overblown Britpop stuff, as were the lyrics describing a complex emotional situation:
    Not knowing much about the world, I had figured out that people could sometimes be promiscuous for sleazy transgressive exciting William Burroughs-esque reasons, in the manner that Placebo would sing about on “Nancy Boy” the following year. But I hadn’t really figured out that someone who was hurt might want to shag around a bit, and might even be honest with sexual partners that that was what they were up to.

    The thoughtful-looking bloke in the cardigan at 2:09 in the video always made me think of Graham, the character Alan Bennett plays in his “Talking Heads” series. I thought that alongside all these virtual reality super-ripped boy and girl models, George wanted a virtual over-sensitive, unhappy man who can’t get away from his mother and reads chess magazines.

  13. 43
    Alfred on 5 Nov 2013 #

    The top ten placements of “Jesus to a Child” and “Fastlove” in America were tips of the hats to a fading superstar whose time had passed. I don’t remember hearing either on top 40 radio except for countdown shows. However, the rather well-manicured electrogroove of “Fastlove” was most refreshing in late spring ’96; I played it enough to warrant placing it in my year end top twenty.

  14. 44
    Alfred on 5 Nov 2013 #

    PS: We haven’t talked much about 1992’s “Too Funky,” which like “Fastlove” hearkened back to a time and musical context in which GM no longer fit. It did get significantly more airplay though.

  15. 45
    Steve Mannion on 5 Nov 2013 #

    ‘Too Funky’ is his best post-80s single I think. ‘Amazing’ is…OK.

  16. 46
    Doctor Casino on 5 Nov 2013 #

    Boy, do I wish we’d get to talk about “Shoot the Dog”…

  17. 47
    Mark G on 5 Nov 2013 #

    You get to talk about it now!

  18. 48
    Doctor Casino on 5 Nov 2013 #

    It’s interesting! Maybe pertinent to the issue of GM not really ‘translating’ – it was inescapable on British music TV when I was there in the summer of 2002, but I’ve never met another American who’s heard of the thing. Obviously it’s full of Brit-specific references, and the sonics aren’t exactly poised to dominate the American airwaves but it’s a catchy enough song (mainly the “GOOD puppy!” bit) that you could have imagined it at least turning up as American NOW! filler…. if not for the politics. It made #12 in the UK and #1 in Denmark (!), hardly the best performance of the [i]Patience[/i] singles but better than you’d expect if people were just buying it as an anti-Blair gesture. As far as I can savvy, it either wasn’t released in the US or didn’t chart if so – just like all his other post-“Fastlove” songs.

    The other thing is that the video gets quite self-referential at one point, with cartoony versions of previous Georges – Wham!, Faith and Fastlove – with the last possibly being presented as “current” in 2002 even though it looked to me like a parody. The whole thing makes no sense if you’re not already invested in George Michael the star.

  19. 49
    MBI on 5 Nov 2013 #

    Are the whoo-hoos sampled from “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”?

  20. 50
    Lazarus on 5 Nov 2013 #

    Heh, good spot – similar, but a different key surely.

  21. 51
    Izzy on 5 Nov 2013 #

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

  22. 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.

  23. 53
    thefatgit on 5 Nov 2013 #

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

  24. 54
    Cumbrian on 6 Nov 2013 #

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

  25. 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.

  26. 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?

  27. 57
    Alfred on 7 Nov 2013 #

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

  28. 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/

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

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