But, quite frankly, I don't care. If I like a song then I'm not really bothered as to how mainstream it is or isn't. I'll just hit here and enjoy it all by myself thankyouverymuchindeed. And Wham!... well... they were about as pop and commercial as the 80's got (and there was plenty of competition for that accolade, too). I know that and recognise that, sure. That's why I'm labelling it that way. But really, I don't feel bad about liking it at all. Apparently, George Michael (one half of Wham!, with Andrew Ridgeley) has stated that this is his favourite of the group's songs, and isn't so happy with some of the less-credible back catalogue.
I don't remember this song when it was first released, mainly because I wasn't quite two years old at the time (1984). I don't even recall hearing it as I grew up, nor when I started developing my own love of music from the 1980's. In fact, I even bought Wham!'s greatest hits album, but I'm pretty sure I didn't even bother listening to this track.
As far as I'm aware, the first time I heard this song was when I bought a compilation album of 1980's 12" mixes: 12"/80s/Dance. That was probably when it was released in 2006, so I was only about 22 years late listening to it.
It didn't take long for me to start listening to it on repeat, learning all the words, joining in with the oohs and aahs, mimicing the synth-drum intro (which seems to pop into my mind at least once a week), and ultimately letting it become the only song I listened to each day during my journey to and from work.
Unusually for a track by Wham!, there appears to be a little more of a story to the song. It isn't just, "I love you, you love me, wooo!" or a series of obvious rhymes tentatively linked together. There's a process, a verse-by-verse account of events that gives the lyrics a little more depth. Again, this is something I don't really feel can often be said for Wham!, and I feel a little silly for even suggesting it. But to hell with it, this is my breakdown of what happens:
- Guy starts relationship with Girl.
- Guy's friends say, "Watch it buddy, she's seriously materialistic and is just after money."
- Guy ignores them because, hey, he's in love.
- Six months later, Guy realises his friends were right: she's always after the next new thing.
- Guy questions how he can possible please her.
- Guy questions why he is trying.
- Guy points out that the relationship now just consists of him working so that she can have new stuff.
- Guy demands that things become less one-sided.
- Girl tells him she's pregnant.
- Guy feigns happiness.
- Guy warns that he can't take much more
- Guy questions how he can possibly provide for both of them
- Guy questions if he even loves Girl anymore
- Guy acknowledges that having all this stuff together is meaningless.
- Guy is aware that it will soon end...
As well as a guilty pleasure, I also labelled this song as being life-changing. I mean that entirely from just my perspective - I doubt very much that it caused any great alterations in the world. But, for me, it had a slight effect. Two years into owning this song, I happened to be in a relationship that I wasn't entirely happy with. Things felt decidedly one-sided, financial burdens seemed to be solely upon me, and I knew that things weren't heading the right way.
Then, one morning as I drove to work, my iPod shuffled to this song. I hadn't forgotten about it as such, so it wasn't some great rediscovery, but I hadn't really listened to it for a little while either. But up it popped, and I sang along as I always do. Two key lines hit me as I joined in:
"They told me marriage was a give and take,
Well you've shown me you can take, you've got some giving to do."
"My God, I don't even think that I love you."
Sure, I wasn't married, but that's not the point. The thing was, as I sung these lines, I made myself ever-so-slightly more aware that, actually, this wasn't working. It was as though I was reminding myself that I wasn't happy, and make think an awful lot more about it. I wouldn't go so far as to say, "Listening to this song made me end the relationship," but it was like a wake-up call. I was singing the things that I was already thinking, and maybe should be saying.
And so that's why I label as one of only a handful of 'life-changing' songs.
Believe me, I would have laughed uncontrollably if someone had told me, "Wham! will make you re-evaluate your life".
"Song is the heroics of speech" - Thomas Carlyle