Wham!

Fantastic

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Fantastic is the misguided 1983 debut release from the U.K. duo Wham. With Fantastic, George Michael and partner Andrew Ridgeley introduced themselves as leather jacket-clad, street-smart "rebels." This approach proved wildly popular in the U.K., where Fantastic was a Top Ten hit, but the album went largely unnoticed in the States. While Fantastic showcases the ability of the young (20 at the time of the album's release) George Michael to craft engaging, hook-filled melodies, much of the material on Fantastic suffers from the duo's pretentious, tough-guy posturing. The empty funk of the U.K. hits "Bad Boys," "Young Guns (Go for It)," and the embarrassing "Wham Rap" barely registers, and Michael's smart-aleck, self-conscious lyrics are often unintentionally hilarious. Although Michael eventually became well-known as a reasonably successful emulator of R&B trends, neither these tunes nor Fantastic's stupefying remake of the Miracles' "Love Machine" give any indication of his abilities. At best, Fantastic can be viewed as a testament to George Michael's maturity. "Nothing Looks the Same in the Light" and "Club Tropicana," two of Fantastic's best tunes, lean toward the lush, adult pop of Michael's later solo work. Fortunately, Michael and Ridgeley would later ditch the superficial, leather-jacketed approach for the more sophisticated pop of later Wham releases like "Everything She Wants" and "Freedom" (both from 1984's Make It Big) and "The Edge of Heaven" (from 1986's Music From the Edge of Heaven), finding major U.S. success in the process. Fantastic isn't a good album, but it's oddly entertaining. It's certainly interesting hearing the difference between the frothy Fantastic and Michael's later, "serious" solo work like Listen Without Prejudice and Older. And Fantastic is also good for a few chuckles. Unfortunately, that probably wasn't George Michael's intention. But even he might get a good laugh out of it.

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