"Freedom! '90" (also known simply as "Freedom!") is a song written, produced, and performed by George Michael, and released on Columbia Records in 1990. The "'90" added to the end of the title is to prevent confusion with a hit by Michael's former band Wham!, also titled "Freedom". The song's backing beat is a sample from James Brown's song Funky Drummer.
|Single by George Michael|
|from the album Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1|
|Released||30 October 1990|
|George Michael singles chronology|
|Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 track listing|
It was the third single taken from Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1, though released as the second single from the album in the United States and Australia. "Freedom! '90" was one of a few uptempo songs on this album. It was a major hit and peaked at number 8 on the United States Billboard Hot 100. The song refers to Michael's past success with Wham!, yet also shows a new side of himself as a new man, who is more cynical about the music business than he had been before. Michael refused to appear in the video and allowed a group of supermodels to appear instead.
By 1990, Michael had grown weary of the pressures of fame, telling the Los Angeles Times, "At some point in your career, the situation between yourself and the camera reverses. For a certain number of years, you court it and you need it, but ultimately, it needs you more and it's a bit like a relationship. The minute that happens, it turns you off ... and it does feel like it is taking something from you." As a direct result, he advertently decided not to appear in photo shoots and music videos, saying, "I would like to never step in front of a camera again."
Although he relented and decided to film a video for his new song, he still refused to appear in it. Instead, inspired by Peter Lindbergh's now-iconic portrait of Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Tatjana Patitz, Christy Turlington, and Cindy Crawford for the January 1990 cover of the British edition of Vogue, Michael asked the five models to appear in the video. While it was not uncommon at the time for models to appear in music videos, usually such models played the love interest of the singer, as with Christie Brinkley's appearance in her future husband Billy Joel's "Uptown Girl" video, or Turlington's appearance in Duran Duran's "Notorious" video when she was 17 years old. For "Freedom! '90", the five models would not portray Michael's on-screen girlfriends, but would lip sync the song in his place.
Evangelista took some persuading before agreeing to appear in the video, saying, "He thought it would make us into a big deal, that it would be good for us. I was like, 'Please, we're here. We've already arrived!'" After speaking with Michael, she was convinced, and rearranged her schedule. In a 2015 Vanity Fair article, Evangelista reflected on her decision positively, saying, "Little did I know that to this day, when someone meets me for the first time, they bring up that video. That's what they remember. So yeah, George was right." An initial disagreement over their salaries was resolved when Annie Veltri, who represented Crawford, Evangelista, Campbell, and Patitz at Elite Model Management, made it clear that all of her clients would receive the same compensation—$15,000 a day.
The video was directed by David Fincher, having directed videos by Madonna, Billy Idol, Aerosmith, and Paula Abdul (who choreographed George Michael's Faith Tour). His team for the multi-day "Freedom! '90" shoot included Camilla Nickerson, who went on to become a Vogue contributing editor, as the clothes stylist, hair stylist Guido and makeup artist Carol Brown. The video was shot in a vast building in the London Borough of Merton that Nickerson says exhibited "a grandeur and a Blade Runner feel". Video was shot by cinematographer Mike Southon.
The 92-sketch storyboard called for each model to film on separate days, with the exception of Evangelista and Turlington, who appear in a scene together. Each model was assigned a verse to lip-synch, while for the song's chorus, Fincher envisioned the three iconic items from Michael's 1987 music video "Faith" that had come to symbolize his public image: his leather jacket, a Wurlitzer jukebox, and guitar, exploding in a ball of flame, except the leather jacket, at each occurrence of the word "freedom" during the chorus. Before the chorus, the leather jacket was simply ignited and burned. Whereas "Faith" had opened with a jukebox phonograph needle touching a vinyl record, "Freedom! '90" opens with a compact disc player's laser beam reading a CD.
Nickerson envisioned a "low-key street style" for the wardrobe, which she characterizes as "a sort of undone beauty", in contrast to the prevailing "vampy, larger-than-life" direction in which the fashion industry, typified by models doing film work, was moving at the time. The black sweater worn by Evangelista was from Nickerson's own closet, and the studded biker boots worn by Campbell belonged to Nickerson's boyfriend. Most of the wardrobe budget, however, went to the 60-foot-long linen sheet used by Turlington, the nature of which was specified by Fincher. Guido looked to each model's personality to devise hairdos that would effect a sense of their "true beauty". Evangelista was up until 3:00am the night before the shoot dying her hair platinum blonde, which reflected the cool-blue lights of the set, while Campbell's hair was curled and pulled up with a headband for a 1960s "tough chic" in order to highlight her movement for a shot in which she dances solo. Patitz's hair was framed with soft curls and Turlington's was gelled back to exploit her statuesque form as her character crosses the screen trailing the linen sheet. Brown also tried to bring out each model's personality with makeup, saying, "Cindy was the sexy one; Christy was the cool, classic one; and Linda was the chameleon. She could do anything." Following Fincher's instruction that Crawford's makeup look "completely trashed, as if she'd been in a steamy atmosphere," Brown did Crawford's makeup, and then oiled it down by covering her with glycerin. Crawford spent most of her time topless and sitting in an empty bathtub, resting on an apple box so that enough of her would be visible.
The video premiered a few weeks after the shoot, and went into heavy rotation on MTV. Reflecting on the video in 2015, Crawford stated that, at the time, they perceived themselves to simply be making "a really cool video," but that in retrospect, the video exhibits a dark humor: As MTV had altered the music industry so that physical beauty was now necessary to sell music, the video used five beautiful faces in lieu of the song's vocalist to poke fun at this.
Formats and track listingsEdit
7" single (UK) – (Released 30 October 1990)
- "Freedom! '90" – 6:29
- "Freedom" (Back to Reality Mix) – 5:01
CD single (USA) – (Released 15 December 1990)
- "Freedom! '90" – 6:29
- "Fantasy" – 5:01
"Freedom! '90" was 6:30 long, but a shorter version was made available for radio consumption. The radio edit was made by removing the upbeat in several portions of the song and cutting straight to the upbeat. The addition of the year to the title was to distinguish the song from "Freedom", a number one hit in the UK for Wham! in 1984 (number 3 in the US in 1985). It was the second US single from the album Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1, and had contrasting fortunes on each side of the Atlantic—it peaked number 28 on the UK Singles Chart, but was a major success on the US Billboard Hot 100, reaching number 8 and selling over 500,000 copies to earn a Gold certification from the RIAA. It remained in the Billboard top 40 for 12 weeks in late 1990 and early 1991. In Canada, Michael achieved another chart-topper. As of October 2017, the single sold 83,000 copies in UK.
Charts and certificationsEdit
Uses in mediaEdit
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- It was used at the very end of the 2007 film I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry as it was sung by actor Peter Dante.
- It was used in the trailer for the film Keanu.
- It was featured in the pilot episode of the television series Arrested Development.
- It was performed as a lip sync song by Zachary Quinto in the show Lip Sync Battle with Cindy Crawford recreating her bathtub scene from the video.
- It was performed in 2017 by Anna Kendrick as "Beca Mitchell" featuring The Barden Bellas in the movie Pitch Perfect 3.
- ”The Gang” performs a dance number to it in the It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia season 7 episode “The High School Reunion Part 2: The Gang’s Revenge”.
Robbie Williams versionEdit
|Single by Robbie Williams|
|Released||12 August 1996|
|Robbie Williams singles chronology|
"Freedom" was covered in 1996 by Robbie Williams who released it as his debut single after leaving Take That. It reached number 2 in the UK, 26 places higher than George Michael's original, and had not been included on any of his albums until 2010, when it was included on Williams' greatest hits album In and Out of Consciousness: Greatest Hits 1990–2010. The single had sold 280,000 copies by the end of 1996, being certified Silver by the BPI. Williams had left Take That the previous year and therefore could identify himself with much of the sentiment in the song, although he did not use the line "we had every bigshot goodtime band on the run boy, we were living in a fantasy" in his version.
The music video shows Williams dancing in the sea and in a field, celebrating his separation from his former group. Williams later said that the song had not even been recorded by the scheduled date of filming and instead mimed to Michael's version of the song.
- "Freedom" (Arthur Baker Mix)
- "Freedom" (Instrumental)
- "Interview – Part One"
- "Freedom" (radio edit)
- "Freedom" (The Next Big Genn Mix)
- "Freedom" (Arthur Baker's Shake And Bake Mix)
- "Interview – Part Two"
|Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)||19|
|Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)||16|
|Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)||16|
|Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)||7|
|Germany (Official German Charts)||10|
|Italy (Hit Parade Italia)||8|
|Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)||10|
|Netherlands (Single Top 100)||12|
|New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)||39|
|Scotland (Official Charts Company)||1|
|Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)||8|
|UK Singles (Official Charts Company)||2|
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- Lip Sync Battle on Spike (10 June 2016), Zachary Quinto performs George Michael's "Freedom! '90" (with Cindy Crawford) | Lip Sync Battle, retrieved 28 December 2016
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