George Michael

Older

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Older is the album that many observers initially believed Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1 to be -- a relentlessly serious affair, George Michael's bid for artistic credibility. It's an album that makes Listen Without Prejudice sound like Faith. Michael has dispensed with the catchy, frothy dance-pop numbers that brought him fame, concentrating on stately, pretentious ballads -- even "Fastlove," the album's one dance track, lacks the carefree spark of his earlier work. Although Michael's skills as a pop craftsman still shine through -- several songs are well-constructed ballads that rank with his best material -- his earnestness sinks the album. It is one thing to be mature and another to be boring. Too often, Michael mistakes slight melodies for mature craftsmanship and Older never quite recovers. When melodies do pop up, he doesn't deliver them with enough force to make an impact, and the album slowly disappears as a result.

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