Earlier this month came George Michael's first posthumous release of music since his untimely death in December of last year in the form of Fantasy, a reworking of an old track from the early '90s, produced by Nile Rodgers. Despite a flurry of articles in prominent news outlets announcing this fact, very little has been heard of the single since and it only debuted at number 85 in the UK Singles Chart. This is even more surprising given the morbid but seemingly true adage as put by Elton John that "the best thing to happen to your records is for you to die", in reference to the late David Bowie, who sold over two million records in the fortnight after his death. To add insult to injury, Boy George has suggested to quality of Fantasy is not up to scratch, tweeting "Would he have been happy? Knowing how studious he was?".
In the midst of this unwarranted anti-climactic reaction to the new record, I have been contacted several times by some of Michael's more devoted fans, or "lovelies" as he called them and as they like to be referred, asking me to write something positive about it. As a big Michael Jackson fan, I have been made hugely cynical about posthumous releases, following the ceaseless cashing in on his vault of unheard tracks in a manner that does not do such a great artist justice (with the exception of "Love Never Felt So Good"). I wouldn't, therefore, have been comfortable to write anything vaguely promotional about Fantasy if I felt the track wasn't brilliant.
The fact of the matter is, however, that reworking old tunes posthumously can sometimes work well, as proven, for example, by the superb Real Love and Free As A Bird by The Beatles, who, together with Jeff Lynne, built on some old John Lennon demos to create two wonderful records. Fantasy is one such case. To those who have heartlessly criticised Nile Rodgers' excellent work on it, please bear in mind that Michael commissioned this in the first place. Rodgers has even been forced to defend the track on social media, saying "You SHOULD have mixed feelings. No one's heart was dragged through emotional ambiguity more than mine. Tears, uncertainty, happiness & love".
As someone who is undoubtedly a big George Michael fan but by no means obsessive enough to laud anything put out in his name regardless of its quality, I think Fantasy could comfortably be placed in his greatest hits compilations and deserves to sit atop both the UK Singles Chart and the Billboard 100. What's so good about the track is that, in spite of being written and recorded in the 90s, Rodgers' work on it makes it sound fresh and relevant. The groove is now utterly infectious, far more so than on the original track The disco legend obviously has a signature sound and the guitar playing on this has similarities to both Chic and his later work on Daft Punk's Random Access Memories, but Michael's incredible vocals are high enough in the mix to make this record patently unique. Maybe the single hasn't received enough radio play, maybe the mixed reaction on Twitter put people off or maybe everyone was hoping for some of the new songs Michael had been working on over a reworking. Nonetheless, Fantasy sounds better than almost anything you hear these days in the pop charts and I urge anyone reading this to buy or stream the record to help give one of Britain's finest ever singers a final big hit single.