Sunday, January 21, 2018

"I Want Your Sex," But Who Wants A Good Chuckle?

If, after the dissolution of Wham!, George Michael had intended the record-buying public to begin taking his music more seriously, I'm not sure "I Want Your Sex" was exactly the way to go.

I like "I Want Your Sex," but not because I think it's a particularly good song. I like it because ... well, because it is hilarious.

First of all, the title is hilarious. No one says, "I want your sex." Seriously, who says that? One might say, "I want sex," or "I want your body," but no one would say "I want your sex." I don't know if it's incorrect English, but I do know that it's something no one says. It would be like saying, "I want your aerobics," or "I want your finance." "Sex" is not a thing that belongs to a person. One does not "possess" sex.

Or perhaps what we have here ... is George Michael ... completely redefining ... what sex is.

Most people know "I Want Your Sex" from its inclusion on Faith, but the song actually made its first appearance on the soundtrack to Beverly Hills Cop II, which my family purchased in the summer of 1987, and which is how I initially became, well, "exposed" to the song's many charms. To be fair, I haven't revisited the soundtrack album since then, but from what I recall, the quality of the Beverly Hills Cop II soundtrack bore about the same relationship to the original Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack as the quality of the actual Beverly Hills Cop II movie did to its predecessor. Who can forget James Ingram's "Better Way," Corey Hart's "Hold On," or The Jets' "Cross My Broken Heart"? The Pointer Sisters were the only act to return for a second tour of duty, this time contributing "Be There," which probably wasn't as "there" as "Neutron Dance" was. I remember being extremely enamored with Bob Seger's "Shakedown," which became the #1 hit that probably even Bob Seger doesn't remember having, but I heard it again a few years ago and I can't say I entirely agree with the assessment of my seven-year-old self. I remember my brother and I deciding to perform "dance routines" to each song on the album in our tiny living room. Somehow or other, I got the short end of the stick and had to come up with a routine for "I Want Your Sex." Our father rolled his eyes as he viewed it and said, "I don't know if this is such a great idea." I managed to half-heartedly trudge my way through all four minutes and forty seconds of squeakiness.

I assume the sound at the start of the song is a synthesizer, and not, as I'm tempted to believe, two banana slugs copulating, but I could be mistaken. The squeaking noises continue throughout the piece, as if someone was standing in the corner continually squeezing mud between his hands, and recording it. The verse flirts with a decent melody, but I feel like that sense of musical decency goes out the window once the chorus shows up. The bridge is actually somewhat promising, and suggests that a very exciting, passionate, anthemic chorus is on the way:
I swear I won't tease you, won't tell you no lies
I don't need no bible, just look in my eyes
I've waiting so long, baby, now that we're friends
A man's got his patience, and here's where mine ends
And then suddenly, we hear a very bored, dispassionate George Michael, in a supremely unexciting lower register, speak-singing the words "I want your sex," followed by, I believe, a long string of farting noises. This is where his patience ends? You'd think he could have waited for something a little better, you know? To me, this song is about as sexy as a night out at Hooter's, but hey, maybe it works for you.

Right around the end of the second chorus, things truly start to get weird. Follow along with me if you can:
  • 2:23: Just business as usual, until George pauses after "I want your," only to unleash an emphatic "sex ... sex! Ow!"
  • 2:28: The squeak returns with a vengeance, and we're treated to a solo by what sounds like an ... "imitation Asian gong" synth setting?
  • 2:49: A cluster of sped-up Georges attempt to sell the listener on the myriad benefits of sex, helpfully explaining that "it's natural" and "it's chemical," when suddenly they are interrupted by another, regular-speed George who apparently is finding the sped-up mini-Georges' approach much too subtle and simply grunts "Let's do it!"
  • 2:54: The pitch-altered Georges continue, as if we weren't already convinced, adding "it's logical" and "habitual," and once again unaltered George chimes in with an impatient "Can we do it-uh?"
  • 2:59: The chorus of Georges is clearly running out of selling points, pointing out that "it's sexual" (I think we knew this already), but then pivoting into a different pattern with "but most of all, sex is something that we should do," which is followed by an unexpectedly deep-voiced man who I assume just crawled up from the basement of whatever S&M castle we've somehow found ourselves trapped in, adding "Sex is something for me and you." Who would have thought!
  • 3:07: Now we arrive at what might arguably be the "climax" of the interlude. The gathering of Georges, by this time appearing at a mixture of pitches, surmises that "Sex is natural, sex is good/Not everybody does it, but everybody should/Sex is natural, sex is fun," then a lone George pokes his head in to point out that "Sex is best when it's" ... and finally deep-voiced George finishes the thought with an emotionless "one-on-one." "I see," said the blind man.
  • 3:47: The comparatively tranquil bongo jam that follows is broken up by, if I'm not mistaken, George dry heaving repeatedly in the left channel ("hu-ah!"), which is invariably followed by another George in the center channel chanting "sex," and all the while, lead vocalist George explains to the object of his affection that "I'm not your father/I'm not your brother/talk to your sister" and then he really kicks it into Whitney Houston territory with " I am a luv-ahh-ahh! Whoooo-hooo-hooo-euh!" which he finally punctuates with a James Brown-ish "Ow!" and the immortal "C-C-C-C-C-C-Come own-ah!"
  • 4:23: After a little rap (a genre to which George was no stranger, of course), he really lays it all out with "Don't you think it's time you had sex! With! Meee-ayyy-uh!"
  • 4:38: Finally, the piece comes to a fitting conclusion with a last "Mmmm have sex! With! Meee-ayyy-uh!" as the man praying to the porcelain goddess reappears to add another (completely necessary) "hu-ah!" while George ties a nice little ribbon around the whole enchilada with one more "C-C-C-C-C-C-Come own-ah!"
Naturally, George sat in the studio, listened to the playback, and concluded, "You know what? I think the world needs two more versions of this." "Rhythm Two: Brass In Love" manages to be more tasteful and yet, in my opinion, more boring. It's sort of what I imagine would've happened if George had asked Phil Collins to do a remix version. The addition of horns feels gimmicky. I mean, if he wanted to bring a Stax/R&B feel to the piece, he shouldn't have kept using the same crappy drum machine from "Part 1." "Rhythm Three: A Last Request" might actually be, from a purely musical standpoint, the most palatable version, with some decent keyboard work, some noirish trumpet, and the drum machine setting from Gregory Abbott's "Shake You Down," but again, I feel it lacks the comedic edge of "Part 1."

The video was rather "controversial" in its day but, watching it now, I kind of have to wonder, "For what?" Too much stubble? Naked feet being doused with water? Excessive use of red blindfold? This thing is 50 Shades of Tame. From Wikipedia: "The music video, directed by Andy Morahan, featured Michael's then-girlfriend Kathy Jeung to emphasize that he was in a monogamous relationship; at one point, he is shown using lipstick to write the words 'explore' and 'monogamy' on her back." Two questions: 1) His ... girlfriend? Just how serious were they? I mean, if he's not that interested in her, maybe we can trade? 2) "Monogamy"? I'll tell you the first thing that pops into my head when I hear this song: monogamy! It's so obvious! How could anyone miss it? Final thought: what do you think he did with that red lipstick once the cameras stopped rolling? Professor Higglediggle's take:
With his contribution to a reductive, Dionysian symbol of post-blockbuster disjunction (Beverly Hills Cop II), Michael sought to subvert the symbolic capital of monogamy through the interpretive framework of libidinal electro-funk. His declaration "I don't need no bible" serves to sever the act of lovemaking from its codified familial purpose, while his question "What do you consider pornography?" forces the listener to situate her/his (re)conception of the procreational drive in stark opposition to Puritan mythos. Michael's experimental usage of lipstick does much to undercut his circuitous effort to establish a sexualized element of play, however, subtly reinforcing the codified status of female marginalization at the hands of the cosmetics industry and highlighting his partner's lack of sexual agency.


Herr Zrbo said...

I believe at the 3:00 mark he's saying "It's sensual", so it's not quite as redundant as you think.

Little Earl said...

LyricsMania backs up your interpretation, so ... I concede the point. Funny that I never heard it as "sensual." I guess that shows where my naughty mind is at. Still, we're not exactly talking about his most impressive set of lyrics here.