In the days since the unexpected death of George Michael at the age of 53, fans have been mourning by listening to his music. Billboard reported that Michael's music has seen a jump on Spotify. Following the singer's death, reportedly from heart failure, his music has reportedly seen a 3,158 percent jump globally, according to the streaming service. Spotify reported that fans have been listening to Michael's holiday song "Last Christmas" with his band Wham! on repeat making it the singer's most popular song to hear right now.
For those first time listeners looking for an introduction to Michael's catalog, this bittersweet '80s holiday classic is a good place to start. But, it's not the only hit Michael has and certainly shouldn't be the only song on your playlist. To get yourself acquainted with Michael, who became a gay icon after coming out in a 1998 interview with CNN, it's worth looking back at those songs that also encouraged conversation about love, desire, and acceptance.
To know what Michael truly meant to a generation of pop music fans, you need to start looking at the songs that took him to the top of the charts and won him a special place in so many hearts.
Before Limp Bizkit turned this song into a rap-metal hit in 1997, a decade earlier, Michael was shaking his Levis-clad bottom to the track that had him playing the role of Elvis Presley for a new generation. Fitting, since this track was Michael's play on rock and roll. Twenty years later, Michael's pastiche still has us rockin' and rollin'.
2. "Careless Whisper"
That saxophone though. The lead-in to this song about cheating is one of the most iconic in pop music. Even if Michael reportedly never understood its appeal, the song he wrote when he was just 17 deserves another listen.
3. "Freedom! '90"
This song was Michael's message to the music business. He was no longer interested in being a celebrity, and he wanted to take back some control. He started with this song's video, which he didn't appear in, but instead featured supermodels Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell, Tatjana Patitz, and Cindy Crawford. In the end, it became one of the most iconic videos in MTV history and a signature song for Michael.
4. "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go"
Michael's first hit with Wham! was so happy-go-lucky that it's hard not to smile when you hear it. Sure, the video — with its neon and message shirts like "Choose Life" — is laughable (not to mention, very hashtaggable), but it feels like Michael and his partner Andrew Ridgeley are in on the joke. They would keep laughing all the way to the bank, in fact.
5. "Father Figure"
This was Michael's sly comment on his 1997 arrest for engaging in a lewd act in a public bathroom that would lead to his announcement that he was gay. The disco track has him joking about his own sex life, singing about wanting to ditch the bedroom for an outdoor venue.
7. "I Want Your Sex"
"Sex is natural, sex is good / Not everybody does, but everybody should." It was a bold statement for Michael to make in the '80s during the AIDs epidemic. While some felt it was a message of promiscuity, he intended it to be a statement about monogamy, something he felt wasn't being discussed enough.
This primer to Michael proves he was always a performer with something to say and nothing to hide. His legacy will live on.