Make It Big


Columbia Records, 1984!

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


It’s all been downhill for the boys from Wham! since Make It Big took the world by storm in 1984. After parting ways in 1986, George Michael has released five studio albums with varying degrees of success, while Andrew Ridgeley released just one. Michael has become infamous and Ridgeley has become obscure.

This doesn't change the fact that Make It Big is pure pop and is among the very best of the ’80s. Like the other two Wham! albums, Michael dominaes practically everywhere, singing, writing and producing each track. It makes one wonder what Ridgeley's purpose was; although he played guitar, there were rumors that the duo were more than just friends. One need look no further than the video for the leadoff, syrupy-sweet #1 single “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” to ponder that question; their tight shorts certainly got this gay boy’s attention, though George would top himself in the fashion sweepstakes with those jeans and black leather jacket on his 1987 solo disc my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Faith.

Prurient fantasies aside, the Make It Big album itself is the yin to Faith’s yang. The song “Freedom” (not to be confused with the inferior “Freedom 90” from Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1) is as much fun to sing along to as “Kissing A Fool” and is a great showcase of how absolutely soaring George’s vocal can be. Perhaps the strongest song to demonstrate his range as a singer can be found in the cover of the lesser-known Isley Brothers’ track “If You Were There.” As far as successful white soul singers go, only Boy George from Culture Club came this close during the decade.

As the best song on the album by far, “Careless Whisper” immediately transports the listener back to 1985. The extended version is featured here and is the only song on Make It Big that Michael and Ridgeley wrote together. With its gorgeous sax solos and sterling production, it’s the perfect tune for taking the boat out on the water in the summer. It’s certainly the one contribution that the otherwise silent-partner Ridgeley should be proud of.

Even the non-single album tracks are highlights, most notably the relaxing “Like A Baby” and the 60s throwback “Credit Card Baby,” and the record as a whole has held up remarkably well after all these years and certainly should not be dismissed as filler.

Only Michael’s recent solo albums can be criticized on that front. Honestly, can you even name one of his songs from the last decade? A great idea for a comeback would be a follow up to the Listen Without Prejudice series, since Michael has obvious talent. It's just a shame he has yet to record anything as solid as Make It Big.

Rating: A-

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© 2006 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia Records, and is used for informational purposes only.