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George Michael’s “Let Her Down Easy” is pleasant though not an essential

4 February 2014 28 Comments
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In an interview almost two decades ago, international superstar George Michael claimed that he enjoyed singing other people’s songs more than he enjoyed singing his own songs. That is fairly odd given the gifted songwriter that George Michael has been for a little over 30 years. His repertoire includes songs that are highly unlikely to ever disappear from the radio airwaves anywhere in the world. His penchant for singing songs of other musicians has manifested itself in a number of ways over the years. The first was his “Cover to Cover” tour which features songs from his “Faith” album and songs by other musicians (e.g. Culture Club, The Doobie Brothers ). In 1999, he released “Songs from the last Century” – an album of covers produced by the great Phil Ramone. In recent years, he has released a series of covers of popular and little known songs (most of which are not featured on actual studio albums). Noteworthy examples include “Edith and the Kingpin” (by Joni Mitchell) and “For the love of you” (by The Isley Brothers).  The last few years have also yielded some less than stellar attempts at covers – which include “True Faith” (by New Order) and “You And I” (by Stevie Wonder). Regardless of what we feel about George Michael’s take on many of these songs, the one thing we absolutely have to give him credit for is his remarkable ability to bring great songs out of obscurity and breathing new life into them by adding his vocal stamp to them. He doesn’t typically cover songs that have been done and redone by several artists. This is something he did particularly well on his Symphonica tour – a tour that took him all over Europe playing alongside live orchestras in every city. Some of the relatively obscure songs (at least with regard to the limited American mainstream) that he brought to life on this tour include “F.E.A.R” (originally performed by Stone Roses frontman Ian Brown), “Idol” (originally performed by Elton John), and of course his new single “Let Her Down Easy” (originally performed by his former label-mate Terence Trent D’Arby).

“Let Her Down Easy” is thematically one of the most unusual songs in pop music. It is sung from the perspective of a father making a heartfelt plea to the man that has either taken or is planning to “take” his daughter’s virginity.  The lyrics are far from subtle.

In her strawberry eyes
The way she sees you signifies
That she’s susceptible to your velvet lies
But if you must lay her down
May a butterscotch glow be her dressing gown
And please do not lead her on when you leave town
Even though there’s nothing I can say
Its just human nature any way

George Michael was never a “run of the mill” artist in any sense of the world – not stylistically, not visually, and certainly not lyrically. Hence, it is no surprise that he was drawn to the track and feels the need to perform a cover version of it. His decision to record “Let her down easy” is well within the realms of his multi-faceted and distinct personality – both as a person as well as an artist.

The song is a sparsely produced ballad that features a piano, light string arrangements in parts, and George’s achingly beautiful vocals. Like a fine bottle of wine, George Michael’s vocal ability only seems to get better with time. More importantly, through his vocals he is able to capture both the beauty of a father’s concern and the sense of helplessness he feels as he tries to communicate with this man that is most likely going to hurt his daughter.

It must be great for an artist that has multiple attributes which people consider to be his core competency. George Michael is one of those gifted few that enjoy this luxury. In our post on “veteran acts returning with new material in 2014”, we highlighted George Michael as one of the artists to look out for in 2014. We could not help but hope that he would indulge the songwriter in him as opposed to just the vocalist like he has on his new Orchestral album “Symphonica” (slated for release in March 2014). While “Let Her Down Easy” might not rank among the best covers he has recorded over the years, it does deserve merit and serves as a good sneak preview of what listeners could hope to hear on “Symphonica”. We just hope this is not ALL George Michael has to offer us this year. In 2012, he spoke about an album of new material that was one of his most commercial (if not his best). We hope this album sees the light of day in the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, here  is a full-length video clip of George Michael’s “Let Her Down Easy”.

STAR RATING: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

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28 Responses to "George Michael’s “Let Her Down Easy” is pleasant though not an essential"

  1. Frannie says:

    His voice is gorgeous. I’m glad to see it hasn’t detoriated with age and drugs like some 80’s artists. The song itself is a little bland fro me. He has relied recently a little too much on slower and ballad material for my taste. I hope he does an original new album with a few more uptempo things. Not hard core EDM stuff, but pop/dance songs like Fast Love or Amazing where are two of my favorite tracks by him.

  2. @Frannie: His voice is absolutely amazing. He’s got the ballads down to a science but it his production sensitivities on the uptempo tracks that have depleted a little over the years. I didn’t even think “Amazing” was a perfect track – despite its killer chorus. I am still hoping for another “Fast Love”, “Outside”, or a “Too Funky”. I too hope he does not go down the EDM route in an endeavor to sound commercial. Some other folks that are from the 80s that still have great voices today are Simon Lebon (Duran Duran), Limahl (Kajagoogoo), Clark Datchler (Johnny Hates Jazz) and Morten Harket (a-ha).

  3. Frannie says:

    People always criticize artists for going EDM, but there are some artists who actually like that type of music and do it for that reason not to be commercial. Madonna is a perfect example because she has always loved clubs and electronic music. But I”m not sure George Michael has the same love for clubs and electronic music so I don’t think it would suit him. There was talk he was going to do a house record. There was one track he did with this dj Marc Vedo who is known for his work with Boy George called Every Lover in the World. I’m not sure if it was ever released but it really did nothing for me even though I like some house/EDM stuff. It’s not that house/EDM is bad necessarily, it’s that I don’t feel it suits George Michael at all. He’s always been more of a conventional pop singer/songwriter than Madonna.

  4. Frannie says:

    I agree with you that Simon Le Bon still has a great voice. I have to admit that I haven’t listened to those other singers you mentioned. I loved Duran Duran’s last album All You Need is Now with Mark Ronson. I heard they are making another album with him so that’s something to look forward to. This is probably an unpopular opinion, but I also really liked Red Carpet Massacre. I know people are biased against Timbaland, but it really wasn’t as different as people think. It still sounded like Duran Duran with a modern sensibility. Unfortunately, it was sort of ignored but I still enjoy listening to it.

  5. Funkster says:

    Thank you for the article. Really interesting to read you. Talking about George, I love him singing covers, besides his own music… Because he makes a brilliant covers. I may confess, I was grown on Stevie Wonder’s music and never believed anyone could make it better…I’m sure Stevie is proud by George! Same like other artists he ever covered..George makes absolutely NEW songs from covers. And I love the fact he rarely covers songs that have been done and redone by several artists.. Though Feeling Good is good exception. He makes a new masterpieces from old songs and shows them up in the new light… As it was done with Sting’s Roxanne, I never could imagine George Michael will blow new life in that song with new color and feeling (I mean musically)… Sometimes it’s a new discovery for new generation. And how proud the original author should be, that his song is living? That’s one more talent of him, to make good covers… And it’s obvious he loves to do that… His own songs Careless Whisper, Last Christmas etc… We could hear those covered by other artists too… Isn’t that fact makes him proud? I’m sure he’s proud…
    I’m also looking forward for his new music and ready to wait as long as it needs. But I’m just happy to know he’s back, he’s alive after all 🙂

  6. @Frannie: I actually preferred Madonna when she had a more orchestral sound. That being said, electronic Madonna grew on me a little but did not grab me as much as the earlier Madonna did. I agree that George Michael’s forte is conventional pop. I feel like going down the EDM route is him sacrificing one of his competencies (i.e. production) – even though he has slipped a little with production on his uptempo tracks of late. “White Light” was a great song but you could tell that he it was nothing like his older upbeat tracks. Instead, from a production standpoint, it sounded like most other modern dance tracks. The version of “every other lover in the world” was a remix and not the original. I am hoping the original is far superior.

    “All You Need Is Now” was a great album. Mark Ronson really understands the band. The chorus on the lead single is brilliant. Unfortunately, the verses paled in comparison and almost felt like they belonged on another song. “Red Carpet Massacre” had potential but I really don’t think Timbaland was the right producer for them. He did a grand job on “Falling Down” – a song I consider a modern Duran Duran classic. But songs like “Skin Diver” and “Box full o’ honey” were very poorly produced and the unfortunate thing is that those songs are pretty brilliant at their core. I would love to see Mark Ronson rework them someday. I used to be biased against Timbaland but I quite like what he has done on Justin Timberlake’s “20/20 Experience”. Thanks always for the comments.

  7. @Funkster: Thank you so much for taking time to read the article. George undoubtedly makes other people’s songs his own – and for the most part, he does it very well. I actually think his best covers are NOT on “Songs from the last century”. I find that folks that try to record cover versions of George MIchael’s songs usually do a lousy job. I think what they fail to capture is the magic of George’s vocals and that is where the problem lies in covers of George Michael songs. It has been 10 years since “Patience” (scary thought!) so it really would be nice to see an album worth of new material as opposed to revisiting old territory.

  8. Funkster says:

    @Radio Creme Brulee: what about December Song? Do you like it?
    Oh bless, we all are waiting for any new album of George… I hope he has something new to produce as soon as he thinks the best time for it…

    And you’re right about his best covers. I’d love to have them recorded from Cover 2 Cover. I love his versions of Play That Funky Music, Ain’t No Stopping Us Now and so many more… Looking forward for Symphonica album, because I love Going To The Town cover, also wish there would be Russian Roulette (another fav).. but no luck for that one… Maybe because he thought that live version has more power then studio, or just something with copyrights etc.. I have no idea… But so pity many good covers weren’t released..

  9. @Funkster: I LOVE December Song. It is hands down one of the best George Michael songs in recent years. We play it every year on high-rotation around Christmas time. The one song from “Cover to Cover” that absolutely needs to get recorded is “Victims”. I mean, I like the Culture Club version but the one by George Michael is like a shot right through the heart. I would be very surprised if there were any copyright issues. I cannot think of anyone holding back George Michael from releasing their songs – especially since they are the ones getting a good share of royalties through the sale of Symphonica.

  10. Funkster says:

    @Radio Creme Brulee: oh yes Victims, of course definitely… I would add Desperado too… So beautiful… I’d love also all Stevie Wonder’s tribute album by George Michael, since he covered them many.. but that’s too much to dream lol… All is good actually.. I think I might be grateful for what we have…

    Thanx for your opinion about December Song, I so LOVE it too… and wish George would write more such amazing songs… I believe he can..
    It’s been really a pleasure to talk to you, thank you, best wishes to you xxx

  11. @Funkster: “Knocks me off my feet” is another one that should have ended up on an album. It is amazing how much of his material cannot be bought. Did you mean “Desperado” or “Desafinado” (I love this one!)?

  12. Funkster says:

    @Radio Creme Brulee: I mean Desperado, it’s been performed at C2C tour as well… Desafinado is great too and it was released with Astrud Gilberto, which is wonderful.
    “Too Shy To Say” is very beautiful also… and “Knocks me off my feet” is knocking me off totally, because I’m blowing away when George sings Stevie songs… It’s been rumored he did “Ribbon In the Sky” too, I’d give my soul to hear it.. Also love “Another Star” from 25Live tour.. Well you name it, all those Stevie songs George did amazingly… I’m very grateful for “Blame It To The Sun” with Ray Charles, it’s just classy as it is… Stevie Wonder tribute album would collect all those songs he ever did, I can’t even chose which one I like better, because George Michael made them all brilliant…

  13. Claudia says:

    First of all I enjoyed reading this preview. I am a longtime fan of Yog (=George Michael) since I was 10, 11 years old. He has never been out of my mind since. To be honest, I never really had an idol until George came into my life. I grew up with black music and Elvis Presley, and my first album I got for my birthday, when I also had my first tapemachine, was, believe it or not, Stevie Wonder (Signed Sealed & Delivered). I remember I played that album over and over. However, my second album, was.. Wham! Fantastic (on vinyl) & Make It Big (on cassette); here’s where my love for George was born. Listening already to other artists made me realize that I do like certain songs but that I have always “missed” something. I think this is how my philosophy in creating music is finally confirmed that whatever George touches, it turns to gold, in other words, and that counts especially for covers, whatever he does always sound but better. His voice, the rhythm, style, it exists always of great quality. A few examples: They Won’t Go When I Go (first time I heard it I thought: wow… the song is finsihed now), Russian Roulette, Roxanne (much, much better, with great respect for Sting anyway) but what to say the cover he has done You Spin Me Around (original: Dead or Alive). I am very happy that he’s back and that he’s introducing a full quality package of memories of what we, the lovelies and George, has experienced altogether. I really can’t wait until it’s released. Let’s hope that this is not all what he has to offer and that he’s coming back with a new pop album in the foreseeable future just as he promised us in twitter. I may say that, as I have met him, and also knowing him over the years that my love for him is only growing, and still. George is a very sweet, honest person. He’s very special! What he can do to music is exceptional. Let’s hope he keeps creating them and most important of all: that he’s still enjoying it! xoClaudia from Rotterdam, The Netherlands

  14. Kerry says:

    Oh I was in love George Michael when I was about 10 and played Wham’s make it big album back to back but never cared for his solo stuff. He definitely still has the voice. It would be good to hear fresh material. I note people saying that Simon Le Bon still has a great voice. It was not so great when I saw DD in Manchester a few years back. Most disappointing gig I have ever been to. In fact the only disappointing gig I have been to!

  15. @Funkster: I did not realize Desperado was part of the C2C tour. “Knocks me off my feet” is super-sexy. “Ribbon in the sky” is my second favorite song by Stevie Wonder (my first one being “My Cherie Amour”). I would love to see George Michael record these. I think our next post about George Michael should be about his “missed opportunities”.

  16. @Claudia: I am so glad you enjoyed reading the review. George Michael is my musical idol too. Meeting him back in 2004 was a dream come true. “Make it big” seems to have aged really well. It still holds up as a significant milestone in pop music. He also does great justice to other people’s songs in the form of interesting covers. My only issue is that the best ones are NOT on actual albums. I envy all you folks in Europe that got to watch him in Symphonica. That must have been such a unique experience and a truer celebration of his legacy than 25Live – which only celebrated the big hits and not the precious rarities of his illustrious career. We will continue to feature all aspects of his musical legacy on our radio station – and NOT just the hits that everyone knows. Thank you so much for your comment and please do give our radio station a spin when you get a chance.

  17. @Kerry: As I had mentioned in one of the earlier comments, “Make it big” holds up very well as an album. The only other album of his that holds up as a cohesive unit is “Older”. He’s had plenty of fantastic solo songs though. His voice today is probably better than it used to be in the late 80s. It is a shame to hear that Simon did not please with his voice in Manchester. He must have had a bad day. I saw DD in Chicago almost three years ago and Simon really nailed the vocals. I am DD returns with a new album this year – and hopefully Mark Ronson is the one producing it! Thanks as always for engaging in our discussions here!

  18. JP.M says:

    Hi Pranav, I am happy for all the fans of Goerge waiting this for a very long time! I also like this great artist, thank you for this nice article and soon, good weekend, JPaul (blog daybydaykimwilde).

  19. @Jean-Paul: Great to hear from you – as always! I am looking forward to some of the tracks on Symphonica and also new material from George Michael before the end of the year.

  20. sandy says:

    Thank you for the article,George is the best singer, singer has a unique voice and magical!

  21. @sandy: Our apologies for the delayed acknowledgment of your comment. We’re glad you liked the article. George is a personal favorite of ours.

  22. Modernaire says:

    I had no clue GM had released anything and yesterday I was in a store and they had a Soft Rock radio station on in Los Angeles and I heard what was very close to one of my all time favorite songs – Let Her Down Easy by Terence Trent D’Arby.

    But I thought hey! That’s George Michael isn’t it? I wasn’t too sure and then I confirmed it because he is also one of my all time favorite singers!

    I was happy! For Terence! He’s going to get paid and his song and work a second chance! Symphony Or Damn was, IS, TTD’s masterpiece, a simply brilliant album.

    And I was also joyfilled to hear GM give TDD’s some love and respect and props for that song.

    HOWEVER… it was a little dull. I kept singing it in my head as TTD sung it and GM’s version is a little dull… the original is much more dramatic, the ending is absolutely gorgeous and if you envision the song it can bring a tear to your eye – Terence’s original version that is.

    Its interesting how even someone as talented as GM is, his voice and phrasing has changed though, how even a cover of a song 20+ years old now, doesn’t fully capture the beauty of the original. Could it be the recording methods have also sucked the life out of songs even as subtle and soft as GM’s version?

    On the other hand though, it was a great surprise to hear this song again, AS A COVER by GM! But I still LOVE the original. People must seek it out, way more soulful and the ending, oh the ending…!

  23. @Modernaire: My sincere apologies for the delayed acknowledgment of your comment. I am actually surprised that a terrestrial radio in the US actually played anything by George Michael post “Freedom 90”. It seems like George has been banished from the American airwaves ever since – which is why the average American has no idea that George Michael had a great career beyond the 80s. I have to admit that while I am not a huge fan of either version, I prefer George Michael’s rendition of it. The song by TTD that I love is called “Delicate”. Once again, my apologies for the delayed acknowledgment of your comment.

  24. Joe Jones says:

    I didn’t know this version of Terence Trent D’Arby’s song. TTD was always very under rated, and probably a victim of his own ambition in some ways.

  25. @Joe Jones: We actually really like this version of the song. As far as TTD is concerned, are personal favorite by his is a track titled “Delicate”. It is from his “Symphony or Damn” album. Just out of curiosity, how did you discover our radio station?

  26. Damein says:

    I love all of George especially when he blends his songs with covers .. the Back To Reality mix on the ‘Don’t let the sun go down on me’ cd single was brilliant and still gets me going .. ‘Go to the City’ is of course absolutely flawless .. ‘Shoot the Dog’ is a massive staunch trip .. I don’t know what I’d like George to do next but I need something funky and something poptastic but he’ll do what he feels which is why I love her .. always wished he had locked himself away with Prince at Paisley Park for an album .. maybe he could still hang out in Minnieapolis for a few months to see what happens .: but I’m wishing hard for that one .. and to top this year off, we lost the demanding Pete Burns .. all my stars are going

  27. @Damein: Thank you so much for your comment! I have to confess I have not heard the Back to reality mix. I need to check that one out. My only issue with Flawless was the length of the song on the album. It started to feel a bit repetitive by the third minute. I’ll admit I wasn’t much of a fan of “Shoot the dog” but loved his performance of the song live when I watched him in concert at Wembley Arena in 2006. I agree that it would be great to see George do something uptempo at this point. I still think he has it in him. He’s incredibly gifted. I know things are not going well for him but I hope he bounces back. The Pete Burns story feels like a really sad one. I feel like there was so much potential there. The guy really had something. I’ll confess to being only a casual fan of Dead Or Alive’s “You spin me round” – but songs like “Far too hard”, “Hooked on love”, and “Then there was you” by Dead Or Alive will never get old for me. We continue to feature those songs regularly on our radio station. Incidentally, how did you discover our radio station? We would love to know.

  28. renee says:

    Not one here has mentioned that the ‘girl’ in video is a lookalike of Brooke Shields while the ‘guy’ is a George Michael lookalike. Coincidence or more to GM desire to recreate this rendition in 2014? Just curious…

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