- Audio CD (January 22, 1985)
- Original Release Date: January 22, 1985
- Number of Discs: 1
- Label: Columbia/CBS/Sony BMG
- Run Time: 38 minutes
- ASIN: B00000261P
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (163 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #70,424 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
Make It Big
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Wham ! ~ Make It Big
This is the album that started it all for George and Andrew! Whether or not it will ever be "cool" to admit liking them, Make It Big sounds pretty good after all of these years. Granted, "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" is an impossible notion to begin with--who could possibly sleep after this sugar binge? But "Everything She Wants" has a sophisticated tension in its syncopation, and, wow, could the boy sing! "Careless Whisper" really showed that George Michael had a firm grasp on R&B and soul. --Steve Gdula
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The fun, swinging, upbeat funky bass, the brass section in the bridge, and George Michael's soulful vocals that reminded me of a more refined El DeBarge makes "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" a piece of classic 1980's pop. Some may cringe at the lyrics used to rhyme with "go-go" like "yo-yo" or "going solo." I'd give anything to have a girl with these qualities: "You get the gray skies outta my way/You make the sun shine brighter than Doris Day/Turn a bright spark into a flame/My beats per minute never been the same."
Yet another single, "Everything She Wants", complete with funky Stevie Wonder-style keyboards is another example of white soul, and has Michael bewailing a marriage where his hard work of giving is not rewarded with equal giving from the woman. He asks in despair, "Somebody tell me/Won't you tell me.../Why I work so hard for you?/All to give you money." Eventually, he believes "All the things we sign/And the things we buy/Ain't gonna keep us together.../Girl, it's just a matter of time." What was it the Beatles said more cogently... "money can't buy you love."
"Heartbeat", with its prominent keyboards sounds like something Bill Steinman might do on a Bonnie Tyler album, say, "Take Me Back" from Faster Than The Speed Of Night crossed with Sheena Easton's "Long Distance Love Affair." A wistful poignant high school love song with a sweet swinging beat.
Things get nighttime mellow with the jazzy keyboards in "Like A Baby." It's this song which is a template to what George Michael would develop in "Kissing A Fool" from Faith. His falsetto really blooms with emotion in certain lines.
Trumpeting brass and keyboards with those three repeated notes herald "Freedom", the song that introduced me to George and Andrew with repeated viewing on MTV. I had my classmate Howard copy this for me. That catchy bridge and chorus will always stay with me: "But you know that I'll forgive you/Just this once...twice...forever/'cause baby, you could drag me to hell and back/Just as long as we're together/And you do...." Chorus says "I don't want your freedom.../I don't want to play around.../I don't want nobody baby/Part time love just brings me down/I don't want your freedom/Girl, all I want right now is you." For sentimental reasons, a classic.
A brass opening and a cantering beat characterizes "Credit Card Baby", who is a materialistic girl using a guy, who's probably got money to spend, as he says, "You can have my credit card baby/But keep your red hot fingers off of my heart lady." It amounts to, "Hey, if you want my money, just say so straight out, but don't try to wheedle it out by saying you love me." And giving another nod to the "money can't buy you love" theme, there's "Between the ocean and the sky/There are things that you can't buy/And if you look you'll see/One of them is me"
A more mid-tempo, relaxing jazz-pop/soul number, "If You Were There" follows. Closest thing to filler on this album.
After "Freedom", my second favourite is the haunting ballad "Careless Whisper", on infidelity and the regret that follows. It's that acoustic guitar during verses, chorus, and sax solo following it that touches me down there: "I'm never gonna dance again/Guilty feet have got no rhythm/Though it's easy to pretend/I know you're not a fool/I should have known better than to cheat a friend/And waste a chance that I'd been given." For other similar melancholy melodies, compare Wham's cover of Was Not Was's "Where Did Your Heart Go" on Music From The Edge Of Heaven and Debbie Gibson's "Foolish Beat."
"Freedom" and the singles from this album, as well as their swansong Music From The Edge Of Heaven became part of my essential 80's music education.
Their 1983 debut album FANTASTIC was reasonably pleasurable pop music that did not set the charts on fire as their next album would, perhaps deservingly since FANTASTIC only scratched the surface of what George was able to do. By the time 1984's MAKE IT BIG came along, it was quite apparent that Wham! had at last established themselves, even as it became more increasingly apparent that it was all but a solo vehicle for George himself.
Whereas FANTASTIC failed to even spawn a top 40 hit, MAKE IT BIG literally steamrolled it by creating 3 #1 hits and a top 5, going multi-platinum where FANTASTIC even failed to go gold. The insanely infectious "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" at last introduced George Michael to the big leagues of stardom, topping the charts for 3 weeks, and while it may in fact be a song that makes Backstreet Boys music sound utterly GT (gifted & talented), its unabashedly lightheaded nature (the line about shining brighter than Doris Day certainly applies to the song itself) is oddly inviting. Not to mention the idea of George asking his lover to forgo a night of dancing for some midnight loving at home certainly put it a notch or two above normal, often inoffensive teen-idol fodder.
If there was any doubt about who was really the brains behind Wham!, the second #1 hit being credited to "Wham! featuring George Michael" made it more than crystal clear. "Careless Whisper" once again showed George as much smarter than your average teen idol by creating a truly soulful lost-love ballad miles ahead of simplistic "you broke my heart & now I'm blue" fare. This was clearly a song for adults, and 20 years on from its success, the song could still be a surefire hit if covered today, which it has been several times over. Even Bananarama (Keren Woodward would eventually become Mrs. Andrew Ridgeley) gave it a whirl on their most recent album EXOTICA.
The final #1 came with an uptempo song revisiting the old soul convention of "I work so hard to give you my money, but you still treat me like a dog". "Everything She Wants" was George's take on that standard, and once again demonstrates him taking the high road with regards to his material rather than cozying himself on typical "love-hate" relationships that teen idols rehash over & over again. Most importantly, George asks for an equal amount of giving from the other party rather than one-dimensionally saying "Love me for me, or I'm outta here". This was the 1980s, after all, when even women were engaging in the "spend, spend, spend" mentality of the era.
After 3 #1's, one would think the streak continued, but not quite. The 4th single "Freedom" petered out at #3, but that is certainly no bearing on its overall worth. It remains quite as strong as its more famous counterparts with a punchy horn arrangement that would have had Motown clamoring for it in its 1960s heyday. Even with AIDS becoming a cold hard fact of life in the 1980s, the one-night stand seemed to still hold court in relationships, but George again goes for higher goals by asking his girl to commit to him, and that he no longer needs to play the field breaking hearts all over the world. With Wham! being the first group to ever tour China, the video for "Freedom" featured scenes from that trip, and remains one of my most memorable videos of them.
With half of MAKE IT BIG having been released & hit (a common occurrence for 1980s albums in the wake of THRILLER), that likely meant the other half could not measure up. Well, not really. "Heartbeat" does border dangerously close on your typical lovey-dovey teen-idol pop, but the oh-so-80s synthesizer arrangement makes it a bit more tolerable even if just as a period piece. "Like A Baby", on the other hand, demonstrates the facility with ballads George would develop on 1987's FAITH by laying the foundation for sultrier, more grown-folks fare similar to "Father Figure" & "Kissing A Fool". To show where George's heart was in regards to his musical inspirations, his cover of the Isley Brothers' "If You Were There" shows that maybe George always had a more refined, developed musical taste. Finally, "Credit Card Baby" again plays to the "let's make [and blow] lots of money" attitude of the 1980s by telling a girl she can have her man's finances at her disposal, but do not masquerade that attitude in faux-romantic devotion. This could likely be the prequel to "Everything She Wants" & the result of this "spend first, love later" scenario.
Some would say the 1980s was not really the finest decade for popular music with more one-hit wonders than you shake a platinum record at, and with more undeserving acts having hits instead of the truly talented & timeless ones. By embracing something as often-disposable as teen-idol pop (at least in the beginning), Wham! could have become an ordinary footnote that would have a few people who matured during the decade smiling in rememberance. But even if George Michael did become well-plastered on girls' bedroom walls all over the world, at least he got there by making music that would transcend its origins & still manage to hold up long after its time in the sun was finished. MAKE IT BIG is, in fact, one of the 1980s most finely-crafted & memorable pop albums, demonstrating that we had a real icon in the making with George Michael, especially since it appeared he was the one who really wanted to put in the elbow grease to MAKE IT BIG & stay that way.
When I think of the late-George Michael, several of the tracks on this album were how we in The States were introduced to him. While he (and his bandmate Andrew Ridgeley) achieved success in Europe with 1982's FANTASTIC (Wham! UK), for The States, it wasn't until MAKE IT BIG's "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" "Careless Whisper" "Everything She Wants" & "Freedom" hit the charts here, that they achieved the success that the album's title insinuated.
Along with the accompanying videos, Wham! were all the rage in the early-to mid 80s (along with Duran Duran, Culture Club, Paul Young, Tears For Fears and Eurythmics) and almost everyone wanted a CHOOSE LIFE t-shirt, featured in the "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" video.
Other highlights of the album are "Credit Card Baby" "Heartbeat" & "If You Were There" ... "Like A Baby" shows the maturity of the late-George Michael as a songwriter. As a matter of fact, the legend goes that the late-George Michael wrote the music & lyrics to "Careless Whisper" when he was just 16-years old, three years before ever having a record deal.
Of course, after this 1984 release, Wham! had one more studio album (the stellar but not hit-heavy MUSIC FROM THE EDGE OF HEAVEN) and then by 1987, the late-George Michael was on his own with FAITH, eclipsing anything Wham! had ever achieved.
Great music for 80s-Nostalgia sake! Make It Big