George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley: The Rise and Success of Wham!
George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley, the duo behind Wham!, reached the pinnacle of their global fame when they visited the Great Wall of China in 1985. Their musical project, born from their time as students at Bushey Meads School in Watford, achieved immense success between 1981 and 1986. In a new documentary on Netflix, it becomes evident that Andrew Ridgeley skillfully took on a supporting role in a society where being a figurehead was not his place.
George Michael’s reserved personality during interviews contrasted with his sensual and charismatic stage presence, making him one of the keys to Wham!’s success. At that time, the music industry operated under different parameters, and appearing on shows like Top of the Pops could determine the trajectory of a career. Wham! managed to break through these barriers. Their breakthrough came unexpectedly when they were invited to perform on the BBC program as a last-minute replacement for another band. Their performance of “Young Guns (Go For It!)” showcased their charisma and set them on the path to success.
Directed by Chris Smith, known for his work on “Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond,” the Wham! documentary takes viewers through the different stages of the duo’s career. Smith uses a collection of numbered albums loaded with press clippings, meticulously collected by Ridgeley’s mother, to structure the story. The voices of George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley guide the narrative, with Michael’s archival interviews shedding light on their journey.
While the documentary briefly touches on the personal struggles that haunted George Michael later in life, it primarily focuses on the relatively short-lived euphoria of Wham!’s success. It delves into the calculated decisions George Michael made to change their image and establish himself as a serious solo artist. Wham! was known for their vibrant and carefree look, but Michael understood that a mature pop star needed to evolve and avoid becoming a parody.
Wham! faced stiff competition in the pop music scene, but they managed to top the charts with hits like “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” “Careless Whisper,” and “Freedom.” They even broke through in countries like China, where Western artists had limited visibility. Their success demonstrated the enduring power of pop culture, even under rigid regimes.
In the end, George Michael’s desire for recognition and self-acceptance transcended Wham!’s success. Despite achieving immense fame as a solo artist, his personal struggles continued to haunt him. This aspect of his life would make for an intriguing complement to the documentary’s focus on Wham!’s rise and impact.
Wham! may have been a fleeting presence in the music industry, but their success and impact cannot be denied. According to a poll conducted by the New Musical Express in 2008, they were hailed as “The best boy band of all time,” surpassing groups like Backstreet Boys and NSYNC. While the documentary provides only a glimpse into their story, it serves as a reminder of their unique place in music history.