Make It Big


Columbia Records, 1984!

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


One of the most difficult things about being a rock critic is that you have to keep an open mind. Especially if you're reviewing an album which you hated when it originally came out. (Why do it in the first place? Easy - to be fair. And hey - you never know if your tastes have changed.)

For example, this morning I was digging through the Pierce Memorial Archives (air-conditioned listening booths for your comfort) when I stumbled upon my copy of Wham!'s 1984 breakthrough album Make It Big. There were George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley on the cover, with faces that made you want to punch them out immediately.

I don't know whether it was a relapse of the bug I had earlier this week, another flash of the "It-seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time" blues, or just a case of the galloping stupids, but I popped it into the tape deck. Just under forty minutes later, I discovered my tastes - thankfully - hadn't changed.

Up to the point of this album, Wham! had a minor chart hit in Britain, and they had gotten a small amount of airplay on MTV. It was with the first single "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" that the band was catapaulted into superstardom. With Michael leading the way on vocals and Ridgeley doing... doing... what the hell my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 did he do in Wham!? - they became another in a line of teenage poster heartthrobs. (Take a look at the album cover, and think about this for a moment: doesn't Michael look kind of like Princess Diana?)

For the better part of 1984 and 1985, Wham! dominated the charts in the U.S. and Great Britain. Four of the eight tracks were released as singles, and a non-album track, "Last Christmas," became a hot item in the U.K.

My question: what was all the hubbub about?

Only the final single from the album, "Freedom," had any real appeal. "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" is a blatant copy of '60s doo-wop, and neither a convincing nor a good one at that. (Another cut, "Heartbeat," is a piss-poor attempt to copy another oldies genre. The beat kind of reminds me of "Leader Of The Pack.") "Careless Whisper" - I don't even know where to begin on this track. The song itself stretches out way too long, it is a poor attempt at soul, it is the cause of male pattern baldness... whoops, got a little carried away there.

There are also the tracks that didn't make it to the singles slots of the jukebox. "Like A Baby" is a complete waste of time, as is "Credit Card Baby" - what the hell was that about, anyway?

One undeniable fact is that Make It Big has not aged well. It has a stale '80s pop sound that went out of style not long after it became in style. Sure, Michael at least did something in the band by acting as lead throat (and Ridgeley's saying "jitterbug" in the "Wake Me Up..." video doesn't count towards doing anything). But for the most part, Wham! was just a pretty boy, do-nothing band.

I know, I know, I can hear your comments now: "That's not fair, dude. You were prejudiced against the album before." Well, maybe. But I have changed my mind on several albums that on second listen turned out to be pretty tasty. Wham! just wasn't one of those.

George Michael is off now on his own semi-successful solo career, and Ridgeley is, well, doing exactly what he did before (if you didn't get the implied comment, don't bother) - within three years of this album, Wham! was no more. They did leave behind a small album collection, including Make It Big. In this case, they needn't have bothered.

Rating: F

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1997 Christopher Thelen 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.