In the picture

August 13, 2023

With this Netflix documentary, it becomes clear how the late George Michael transitioned from Wham! to global success and why Wham! is really the story of a beautiful friendship.

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Wham! ****

Starring: Andrew Ridgeley and George Michael

Directed by Chris Smith


f you’re an eighties child of music, you might know George Michael for a little (not really) song called ‘Careless Whisper’. If you’re some-one who has been following his music from day one, you might know that he started his career with a band called Wham! who are best known for a song called ‘Wake Me Up’.

And if you do not know either’s music, you will discover that both songs have endured through time and still make it to best of ‘80s pop music lists. But why did Wham! call it a day even though they were so successful?

Music documentaries or fictionalized tales of real musicians, dead or alive, are not always on point. Some are a complete horror show such as the fictional Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody. Some do get things right like a Netflix documentary on Clive Davis, who was one of the biggest power players in the music business and discovered so many acts that it is hard to keep track. He was also the one who pushed Whitney Houston into the mainstream.

Fortunately, this Wham! documen-tary by Netflix makes no intolerable mistakes. For one thing, it is not about the solo career of George Michael. It is, as the title suggests, about Wham! which featured Andrew Ridgeley as well as George Michael. By using real footage of the band and interviews done at the time, director Chris Smith has stitched together a coherent film with a clear vision, as well as a film about a heartwarming friendship.

Watching how Wham! first came together is also cheesy fun. The British band wore colorful shirts and shorts and amassed enormous fame while playing ska and pop music with George Michael rapping at times too. At one point, they were among the biggest bands in the world. But it is often forgotten that Wham! gave George Michael the start he needed.

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Through the footage, it is obvious that in the early days, George Michael copied Andrew Ridgeley since the latter was one year older. They became friends at the age of 11 and 12 years old respectively and in the voice of George Michael, we learn that they had a great time while hanging out together, first and foremost as best friends.

Wham! was not about growing up; it was about having fun. But it wasn’t their first foray into music. As this documentary reveals, they started out as a band when they were just 16 and 17 years old.

“We were the Executive,” narrates George Michael about the band that came before Wham!. Their first mixtape was released in 1979 and there were five of them in the group. As George Michael says, they, “fizzled out as people didn’t turn up for practices or concerts or whatever”.

George Michael, who was given the nickname of Yog by Andrew Ridgeley, went on to form a duo and called themselves Wham!

What follows is the story of Wham! through each year, beginning from 1981 and ending in the year 1986. From the early days when they tasted a modicum of success to being one of the biggest pop acts of the eighties, it all transpired in just five years.

What this documentary handles sensitively is why George Michael was destined to become a solo artist.

As fun as Wham! was, it held a different meaning to each member. For Andrew, it was great fun but as both of them were growing up, it was about identity for Michael. It wasn’t the same for Ridgeley who had let George Michael take on the role of songwriter or producer as the years changed and was happy to be on the ride. When Michael had confessed his identity issues and how the solo career was a way for him to channel those issues, Ridgeley didn’t turn it into an angry band break-up. In turn, Ridgeley, who always knew that Michael was the superior musician, never stood in the way or held a grudge and the two played a final show before calling it a day as Wham!

George Michael had started his solo career while being in Wham! and with no other act to focus on, his solo career soared sky high – with the blessing and support of Andrew Ridgeley, who was cheering for his friend.

Running just over one hour and 30 minutes, Wham! is a good documen-tary that tells you about the early years of the global phenomenon that was Wham! and how a band based on friendship can last. A heartwarming story about two friends, Wham! is a must-watch.

Rating system: *Not on your life * ½ If you really must waste your time ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only *** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection

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