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The Review


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Careless Whispers: a mildly biased review of the Wham! documentary

Emily Yen, Sarah Clark, Emily Matthews-Ederington
George Michael was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last weekend.

In my biased opinion, George Michael is one of the greatest lyricists and musicians ever. I’ve dedicated way too much time poring over his lyrics, admiring his majestic hair and singing his pop hits with my sister. 

Last year, I clocked more than 2500 minutes of listening to his solo catalog. I obsessively picked apart the way he blended R&B and jazz into a sound that radiates the 80s. It’s comparable to Aretha Franklin’s sound, the artist he most wished to emulate. 

Did I cry when I found out he cut his beautiful, flowing hair? Maybe. Did I find out he cut his hair 25 years after it actually happened? Quite possibly. 

I also appreciate how he acted towards others with grace and eloquence. Getting arrested and publicly outed after soliciting sex from a police officer definitely wasn’t his finest moment, but he responded with a sense of humor and a banger of a song

Consider how Michael has blessed humanity: his Live Aid performance of “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me,” extensive philanthropy in children’s hospitals, “Careless Whisper,” his hair and, controversially, “Last Christmas.” 

Michael wouldn’t have achieved much without Andrew Ridgeley. They hard launched their careers together as teenagers and relied on each other for emotional and stage support. Ridgeley enjoyed his fame as a young adult, then dropped off the face of the Earth. 

I was excited when I found out that Netflix was making a Wham! documentary, which came out in July. I enjoy most documentaries that cover a musician’s process, but this one hit close. I wanted to understand what inspired some of my favorite hits, like “Everything She Wants,” “Freedom” and “I’m Your Man.” 

Without further ado, here’s my comprehensive takeaways from the documentary.

Pro: the soundtrack

I had high expectations for this soundtrack. Honestly, I don’t know how they could have flopped in this department, because a) there aren’t many Wham! deep cuts and b) many of the deep tracks are still solid. 

However, the music was well-incorporated and well-explained, especially about hard-hitting tracks like “Careless Whisper.” The documentary explained Michael’s trip to Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama to record with saxophonist Jimmy Wexler. After this trip, Michael decided to completely re-record and re-mix the track to his liking in London. Overall, I give the soundtrack a 10/10. Obviously. 

Con: it ended. ?

I was disappointed that the Wham! Documentary ended with the final Wham! concert. You may be thinking, “obviously it ended when Wham! ended,” but the producers left strings untied. It left me wondering what Ridgeley pursued after Wham!, how Michael dealt with internal identity issues and their backup singers, Pepsi & Shirlie, who produced a #2 hit only behind Michael and Franklin. 

The ending was understandable, but I would have liked the documentary better if it were part one of a short documentary series with more Wham! lore. 5/10.

Pro: the media

The documentary was narrated almost entirely by voiceovers and interview excerpts of the pair, so it was essentially Micheal and Ridgeley telling their own story with their own recollections. I loved hearing their personal accounts of rising to fame balanced with interviews of close friends. 

The documentary repeatedly used pictures and mementos from scrapbooks created by Ridgeley’s mother, which added to the intimate feel of the story and left the viewer with a nostalgic idea of the timeline of Wham. 9/10.

Con: where was Andrew’s story?

Even though I was excited to learn more about Michael, I feel like the producers shirked Ridgeley. A fair portion of the documentary depicted him as partying or enjoying his fame, but I think they could have given more information about Ridgeley’s role in recording, performing and personal relationships, especially because he still promotes Wham! on social media and can recall what he was doing then. 7/10

Pro: the outfits!

Ridgeley and Michael marketed themselves on their youth and fun attitude, and it’s visible. The clips of their performances show their unique, quintessentially ‘80s personas and fashions. 

While some outfits made my jaw drop in amused horror, they were all fun to see and woke me up (before you go go). Same goes for the hairstyles! 10/10

Overall, this film was definitely worth the 90 minutes. I hope that Netflix considers making a second part to this documentary because both Ridgeley and Michael pursued interesting endeavors after the final Wham! concert. I do hope there’s more to come, especially with Michael’s complex career and posthumous awards—he was inducted into the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame just this weekend. 

For now, I’ll just do my part in helping “Last Christmas” hit number one on the charts.

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About the Contributor
Lauren Baker
Lauren Baker, Deputy Editor
Lauren Baker ('24) joined The Review in 2021 as a sophomore. She is an avid George Michael fan and likes Greek yogurt with honey.

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