Wham! broke through in the U.S. with the ersatz-Motown of “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and followed it up with the pristine balladry of “Careless Whisper”. For the hat trick attempt, George & Andrew went with “Everything She Wants”, a song whose slinky funk beat underlied a somewhat bitter lyric.
George sings the song in the character of a guy saddled with a materialistic, demanding partner. Although he’s only six months into the relationship, he sees himself as doomed-especially when it’s revealed in the second verse that she’s with child.
Bitterness is the order of the day. Bob your head and snap your fingers, and you might miss George grumbling “I don’t know what the hell you want from me” and, emphatically as he ends the bridge “I don’t even think…that I love you.” This sentiment-believe it or not-completed the hat trick. Wham! topped the pop charts (and just missed the top ten on the soul list) with “Everything She Wants”. With that, they became the first artist of the ’80s to top the charts three times in a row. It only happened three more times during the decade; Whitney Houston had a run of seven straight from 1985 through 1988 (a record that will never be broken), Michael Jackson scored five straight from 1987-1988, and when George decided to let Andrew race cars and went solo, he racked up four consecutive chart toppers on his own. Not. Bad.
When you think about George’s tenure as a (heterosexual) sex symbol in the ’80s, it’s almost amazing that he earned that status despite writing songs that seemed very suspicious (to put it mildly) of relationships. You can almost think of “Everything She Wants” as a sequel to 1983’s “Young Guns (Go For It)”, which George sings as the best friend of a guy who could very easily be the dude singing “Everything She Wants”.
When I was working on The Jheri Curl Chronicles book a few years back, I interviewed a couple of musicians. One in particular named “Everything She Wants” as one of his five favorite songs from the ’80s, and when I asked why he liked the song so much, he said “only a gay nigga could write lyrics like that”. No clue why that made me laugh as much as it did then (and does now, still), but…
The single remix of “Everything She Wants” has way more ear candy than the LP version, and George also tacks on an extra bridge, so seek that out. Also, this was the video that debuted the five o’clock shadow that would change pop music.
NOT QUITE FIVE STARS…
“Everything” by Jody Watley (1989): Jody Watley sang a fair amount of slow songs as 1/3 of Shalamar, but “Everything” was her first ballad as a solo artist, and on her own she’d established a reputation as a supreme dance diva, and a tough as nails one too. “Everything” was a welcome exercise in vulnerability, and Jody sings it with passion and sensitivity.
“Everything I Miss At Home” by Cherrelle (1988): Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, the composers of “Everything I Miss At Home”, had a way of making real situations poetic. This chart-topper from the perennially underrated Cherrelle is about cheating. Specifically, Cherrelle has found someone (played here by guest vocalist Alexander O’Neal) who gives her attention and is sensitive–everything her current partner isn’t. The advice columnist in me would tell Cherrelle to drop her man and get with Alex if he’s giving her everything she misses at home, but then there’s the whole “grass is greener” argument. A lush, mature ballad by a production duo best known for their uptempo jams.