If you wanted to make a kickin’ dance record in the mid ’80s, you were going to have to follow Prince or one of his acolytes (like the amazing production duo of Jimmy “Jam” Harris and Terry Lewis). George Michael certainly had the Minneapolis sound Prince, Jam, Lewis and others created on his mind when he wrote and recorded “Hard Day”, the standout dance cut on his monumental album Faith.
It’s bass-led funk groove pumps harder than anything he put out before or since. Lyrically, it finds George in a familiar state: horny. His partner is blathering on about something or other and George doesn’t want to hear a word of it. The song’s refrain-“don’t bring me down!”-makes that clear. He doesn’t want to hear how your day went-hell, he’s had a hard day himself. He just wants to fuck. “Say yes, ’cause it’s what we do best” he purrs, and it’s a pretty irresistible offer.
To further outline the Prince influence, the last minute or so of “Hard Day” finds George singing in a sped up voice, ostensibly singing in the role of his own lover. Barely months before “Hard Day”‘s release, Prince introduced a character called “Camille” on his monumental album Sign ‘o the Times. Camille was a barely-disguised pitch-shifted version of himself. There’s no question that George set his sights on creatively and commercially emulating one of the few pop artists who, like him, was capable of writing, playing and performing everything on a record. “Hard Day” isn’t a ripoff, but it is certainly an homage. And a damn good one, too.
“Hard Day” was the beneficiary of a remix by Shep Pettibone¹, who was one of the go-to club mixers for most of the ’80s. The album version of “Hard Day” is good enough, but Pettibone amped up the drama (and the bass) for nine full minutes of dance floor delight. Sensing that “Faith” (the song) wasn’t going to gain any traction on Black radio, Columbia released “Hard Day” as a 12″ single at the same time and watched it peak at #21 on Billboard‘s Hot R&B singles chart at the same time “Faith” was leading the pop list. Here’s the remix for your comparing, contrasting, and dancing your ass off purposes.