This week, we’re listening to “Michael You’ve got a Lot to Answer For”, the 9th track off of Medazzaland. For many, this remains a difficult song to digest. The prophetic tune was released as a part of the Medazzaland album just a month before the death of Michael Hutchence in 1997. As the band began to tour in support of the album, Simon found the song too difficult to perform, and cut it from subsequent set lists. The band has performed it occasionally over the years since, as a tribute.
I came over your place today in a roundabout sort of way Nothing holding me just the company gentle killing of the afternoon Don't ever try to be anymore Michael you've got a lot to answer for You unlocked some of the doors to my soul And I don't see you for awhile thinking of you will make me smile You never bother me with responsibility misbehaving in candlelight Don't ever try to give anymore Michael you've got a lot to answer for You got me waking up right to the world Trust you to get caught up in somebody's war you'll come out of it all intact I'm sure Just remember what friends were put here for Michael you've got a lot to answer for and I know that you're gonna call if you need me When you need me, if you need me
There are some songs that are just too sentimental to review. “Michael” is probably on that list somewhere. A perfect example of what happens when someone really does not know the future, Simon wrote this thinking of his friendship, it was released, and less than a full month later, Michael Hutchencewas gone, leaving behind more questions than answers. As typical, I suppose. With that in mind, I have a difficult time wrenching myself away from the sentimentality.
I am not unbiased, nor am I a stodgy, uncaring, unfeeling, music writer. The longer we’ve gone on writing the blog, and doing the reviews, the more I realize I don’t want to be any of those things. There is some gallantry to be had with being willing to admit bias. I’m here to wave that particular flag. Wildly.
Here’s what I can say: the song is beautifully done. Even if there weren’t ever a Michael Hutchence, or (for me) an INXS legacy, the song is gorgeous. From the bits of string, orchestrally woven throughout, they work to propel and flow the song forward even during its most wistful moments. The guitar carefully and delicately laced the vocal verses together. The song also includes the most graceful production I’ve ever heard on a Duran album. “Michael” was written, recorded, and finished with a thoughtful, yet fragile, hand.
Lyrically, the song hits wherever it hits you. For me, especially most recently, the song strikes a rare emotional, painful, personal, chord. It is funny how we review songs just as I need to hear them. Simon’s voice sounds warm, contemplative, perhaps slightly melancholy, but also genuine. Without the typical self-assured bravado that accompanies almost any other Duran Duran song in their catalog, it feels and sounds to be among the most truthful, simple, and personal songs the band has ever recorded.
With every song we review, I ponder the same question. How do I review it? Do I review it about how often I listen to it or want to hear it? Do I just review for quality? Do I take context into consideration? Artistic endeavor? Like Buried in the Sand, it is hard to really separate any of those ways of looking at a song. Much like the song I just mentioned, it is an emotional one, for sure. It is not a song that I choose to listen to frequently as a result. Not only do I think about the tragic loss of Michael Hutchence but I also think about how fragile relationships and friendships can be. It tugs on many, many heart strings. But it is fair to judge it based on the fact that it makes me terribly sad to listen to it? Of course not.
In thinking about quality of the song, musically, I struggle to think of a song that is more beautiful. In some ways, I wish that I could bottle the wonder of the instrumentation and musicality. The instruments along with the production allow for such a soft feeling. When I hear it, I find myself thinking of soft meadows with gorgeous wildflowers under the warm sunlight. It is almost peaceful and, yet, lyrically, it isn’t quite there. Even the title shows the concern that Simon had for his friend. Simon is not at peace. There is an undercurrent of worry throughout the lyrics while still feeling confident that his friend would be fine, trusting that everything would be okay. Even in typing those words, I completely understand the incredible level of grief Simon must have felt in hearing about Michael’s passing. It makes perfect sense, then, why the song was taken off of set lists. Singing it and, even, hearing it must have been incredibly heart-wrenching.
While I adore the instrumentation and can appreciate the lyrics, I don’t know that I view this song as flawless. Yes, I really do appreciate that there wasn’t a lot added, production wise, and that the song could just live and be on its own. Additionally, I do admire how vulnerable Simon was being with the lyrics to the song. After all, it is hard to really name very many songs that Simon is so open about himself and his feelings. We could probably easily come up with what would be a short list. Then, I think about the context of the time. By the time Medazzaland came around, there were even less songs that touched on Simon’s personal experience, that we know of. Then, add the fact that John left during this album. I could almost sense how raw Simon felt at the time. I think his vocals showcase that. They feel emotional. They feel like someone in pain. I’m not sure that I would consider them the best vocals ever but I do understand where they are coming from, I think.
When I think about this song, which feels pretty pure, and compare it to some of the other tracks on this album, which are filled with effects and pushing the artistic envelope, I struggle to understand the album as a whole. No, I don’t think that this is a perfect song but I admire the heck out of it due to the beauty in the concern.