Originally released May 13, 1996
Reissued September 16, 2022
The context behind George Michael's third solo album is crucial to fully appreciating all it has to offer. In the lead-up to its release in '96, Michael had been outspoken about his displeasure with Epic Records, who had released his previous (and hugely successful) two albums. This unhappiness stemmed particularly from the label's inadequate support of Michael's charitable work in the midst of the AIDS/HIV epidemic, which had a profound effect on Michael — at the time of recording, Michael was grieving the loss of his partner, Brazilian designer Anselmo Feleppa, who had passed away from AIDS related brain-disease. Around this time, Michael also grappled with his sexuality, and, as one of the defining icons of 90's popular culture, was forced to do so in the spotlight. He shaved his iconic blonde hair, started wearing more black. He listened to more jazz and Jobim. His lyrics grew nuanced in areas such as loss, grief, love. Instrumentation grew somber and melancholy, eschewing dance floor jive for solemn introspection. It was a very public catalogue of his forced maturation, while privately he developed a legacy as one of Britain's great philanthropists. He grew older out of necessity. He referred to it as his greatest moment, because it was.