August 8, 2023

Wham! A Trip Down Memory Lane (2 minute read)

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By Trish Arab

Ever since I was a young child, I have loved music.  I remember being 8 or 9 and purchasing two cassette tapes from a flea market; USA for Africa "We are the World" and Wham! "Make it Big."

I played both tapes to the point that the ribbon almost wore through.  Front to back, on replay, using a purple Walkman that I had gotten for my birthday that same year.

To say that these particular soundtracks were the literal soundtracks of my childhood would be an understatement. "We Are the World" was a compilation cassette that included the title track and nine previously unreleased songs by various artists featured in the song.  My eternal love for Steve Perry was born from this cassette (I regularly say, "One day I will meet Steve Perry and hang out with him at a San Francisco Giants game") and specifically his song "If Only for the Moment" (featured on the B side) and Wham! "Make it Big" was where my eternal love for George Michael  began (I regularly say, "I will never get over his death").

So when I heard that Netflix was dropping a documentary on Wham! with archival footage and unseen interviews, I couldn't wait to watch it.  I'm sorry to admit, I was a bit disappointed,  even though it still appealed to those who aren't die-hard Wham! or George Michael fans it still is an enjoyably nostalgic trip into the vibrant technicolour glow of the 1980s.

Wham! is the story of the pop duo consisting of Georgios Panayiotou (George Michael) and Andrew Ridgeley (the one who wasn't George Michael.) Over four years, Wham! went from being an obscure quasi punk band to one of the biggest musical groups of all time.

As much as I wanted this to be a true behind-the-scenes look at a band that is probably best known for its breakup, most of the actual personal info is skipped over in favour of a focus on their greatest hits, depending heavily on the audience's love for the music, and nostalgia for the decade.  

This documentary was entertaining and easy to watch, but it missed many opportunities.  Clocking in at 92 minutes, it's a lot like the band itself, a bright and fun watch, that's over very quickly. Still, it never gets into the true story of these childhood friends and the struggles they both faced (most famously George Michael in his sexual identity, his addictions issues and legal troubles).

If you're interested in a fun boppy trip down the pop pathway, this documentary is for you.  If you're a true fan wanting to learn more about the complex band that's fire burned brightly and far too quick, you're better off having the sax play you out the door.