Make It Big is the second album from British pop duo Wham!, released in 1984. In comparison to their earlier work, Wham! (George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley) had more control over the album’s production and George Michael would also be credited as a producer. The album was a commercial success, hitting number one in both the US and the UK and spawning four singles, all reaching the top five in the US and the UK.
The music video for single “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” had the duo in shirts that read Choose Life. It would be the first of several hits from the album. Second single “Careless Whisper” is technically a Wham! song as it appears on the Wham! album Make It Big. Later, however, when released as a single, it was credited as Wham! featuring George Michael in North America and several other countries. In the UK and some European countries, the single was credited as George Michael as it became apparant, that at some point in the near future, Michael would be embarking on a solo career. In the UK, the label decided to release this single under Michael’s name (although technically a Wham! song) as that would be a step in the direction of a future solo career. The music video for third single “Freedom” featured the duo while performing a concert in China; incidentally Wham! would become the first Western popular music act to tour China. Fourth single “Everything She Wants” was released as a double A-side with “Last Christmas“; “Last Christmas” would later appear on the next album Music from the Edge of Heaven, that album being released only in North America and Japan.
The title was a promise to themselves, Wham!‘s assurance that they would make it big after struggling out of the gates the first time out. They succeeded on a grander scale than they ever could have imagined, conquering the world and elsewhere with this effervescent set of giddy new wave pop-soul, thereby making George Michael a superstar and consigning Andrew Ridgeley to the confines of Trivial Pursuit. It was so big and the singles were so strong that it’s easy to overlook its patchwork qualities. It’s no longer than eight tracks, short even for the pre-CD era, and while the four singles are strong, the rest is filler, including an Isley Brothers cover. Thankfully, it’s the kind of filler that’s so tied to its time that it’s fascinating in its stilted post-disco dance-pop rhythms and Thatcher/Reagan materialism — an era that encouraged songs called “Credit Card Baby.” If this dichotomy between the A-sides and B-sides is far too great to make this essential, the way Faith later would be, those A-sides range from good to terrific. “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” is absolute silliness whose very stupidity is its strength, and if “Everything She Wants” is merely agreeable bubblegum, “Freedom” is astounding, a sparkling Motown rip-off rippling with spirit and a timeless melody later ripped off by Noel Gallagher. Then, there’s the concluding “Careless Whisper,” a soulful slow one where Michael regrets a one-night stand over a richly seductive background and a yearning saxophone. It was an instant classic, and it was the first indication of George Michael‘s strengths as a pop craftsman — which means it points the way to Faith, not the halfhearted Edge of Heaven.
Video: Wham! – “Careless Whisper”(1984)