First Hit #1: October 13, 1990
George Michael was in an odd position in 1990. On one hand, he was a highly talented musician who wanted to make music. On the other hand, he did not want to actually have a music career, in the sense that he didn’t want to actually participate in publicity or sell his album. He was at odds with his image, with his fans, with himself, with everything. This explains Praying for Time, which sounds great, but has a certain bitterness laced throughout, the song of a man who is confused, angry and has no idea how to deal with that. The lyrics don’t quite build to any specific point, they’re really just some free range anger at the state of the world, the scattered musings of a man on top of the world who doesn’t want to be there anymore. Michael can sell it, the man was one of the great pop stars for a reason, but it’s clear that it’s an attempt at career suicide, a pop star trying to destroy his kingdom. Yet the single hit number one anyway, because even if Michael might want to stop being a pop star, he’s still damn good at being a pop star. Still, his career soon collapsed, in spite of some good music, because pop music is about more than the songs, much as we might want to deny it.
The video should probably get a mention, since it’s just the lyrics. It was shocking at the time, but I’ve seen a few other artists do it recently. It does feel like a placeholder though, but then again it’s usually used as a placeholder now.