As one of Britain’s most prolific artists of the 80s with Wham! and an incredible artist in his solo career, George Michael has had some cracking tunes. From hits such as ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’ to ‘Careless Whisper’ to ‘Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me’, Michael had penned some of Britain’s most beloved songs to date. Even up until his untimely death on Christmas day in 2016, he was a living legend.
However, the harassment that the star underwent by tabloid papers in the late 90s is astonishing. Following his arrest for soliciting sex in April 1998, The Sun published the now infamous article ‘Zip Me Up Before You Go-Go’ on their front page. He was outed globally by the press and became the subject of mockery. He was right to be worried; if he had come out before this, his career definitely would have suffered with the stigma surrounding the LGBT+ community that dominated the 80s and 90s (no thanks to Thatcher and Reagan). Although the press took away his opportunity to come out in his own time, he embraced his sexuality and became a prominent voice for the gay community. Michael even fronted a documentary about HIV in 1998 to get the conversation around AIDs and HIV going on!
Using his platform to highlight the prejudices that gay men faced, Michael quickly situated himself as a proud, out gay man in the public eye. For instance, he satirised his 1998 arrest with his video for ‘Outside’, commenting on the injustices that many faced for their sexuality. As the first song following his release after his arrest, Michael made sure that the world knew he was proud of his sexuality.
Embracing his arrest made a statement to the press – you cannot tear him down. The music video sees Michael pose as a LA police officer performing a dance in a public toilet styled out as a disco, akin to ‘cruising’ spots of the eighties, wherein LGBT+ men often couldn’t meet each other otherwise. We then see two officers arrest two men, having previously engaged in sexual acts with one another; the tone shifts, and we see the officers share an embrace through the lens of a surveillance camera. What really makes this video a masterpiece and two-fingered salute to the press is that the lyrics of the song themselves reference his arrest, and he blends samples of the exact radio reports of his detention into the music! Owning his sexuality and being unapologetically himself only made the public love him all the more, much to the conservative press’ chagrin.
Check out ‘Outside’, available via Sony Music UK, down below.