‘Praying for Time,’ George Michael

Praying for Time Video

What makes a song a guilty pleasure?

Think about it. Think about a song that you really like, but would shrink in horror if anyone knew. Would your friends laugh at the fact that you cry to Bread’s “If,” dance to Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up,” or belt out “Today!” every time you hear Neil Diamond’s “America”?

You love it, but because of some stereotype, bad video or obscure law of pop culture, it is a Song Not To Be Liked. It’s like being caught in your driveway wearing bunny slippers.

I somehow feel a need to defend my guilty pleasures: “I like Air Supply…no, no, wait, don’t leave! Here’s why! I was young! It’s sentimental!” But when it comes to George Michael’s “Praying for Time,” I don’t care what people think. They can joke about “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” (which is pure pop genius), make jokes about restroom sex, and recall Michael’s obsession with his five o’clock shadow and his ass. Doesn’t matter.

‘Praying for Time’ – a change

“Praying for Time,” the first track from Michael’s second solo album Listening Without Prejudice Vol. 1, was a departure from the pop fluff that got him famous. He wanted to get away from the Wham! image that had somewhat been perpetuated with his first album, Faith. This album was more reflective and somber, and “Praying for Time” laments the injustices of the world – hunger, hate – and wonders why we say, “I may have too much, but I’ll take my chances, ’cause God’s stopped keeping score.”

The music, slow, grand and apocalyptic, is subtle in its chord changes, modulating one note at a time, but it features marvelous phrasing due to lingering strings and pounding drums. And Michael’s voice sounds inhuman, overproduced and full of echoes, as if he is singing from another dimension.

I will always feel a need to explain my DeBarge collection by claiming that it’s a reminder of the good ol’ days. But I still play “Praying for Time” without apology. Music that is beautiful needs no explanation.

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  1. AMD

    The only guilt I’d feel at liking a song would involve Michael F. Bolton. But I’m in no danger there. But if I did, I don’t think I’d be able to admit it.

  2. Barely Awake In Frog Pajamas

    I thought it was stunning the first time I heard the song and the video was so different from anything on MTV at the time.

    Actually, I thought the entire album was gorgeous.

  3. jb

    I remember playing “Praying for Time” on the radio when it came out and thinking two things: first, that it was a momentum killer–that its slow, measured tempo tended to bring the radio show to a dead stop. (Listening again, I think I was probably wrong about that—it’s way livelier than “Father Figure,” speaking of momentum killers.) Second thought: This is so different from what people are expecting from George Michael that it probably won’t be a particularly big hit.

    On the subject of guilty pleasures: “Freedom ’90.”

  4. JeffWhatley

    I loved this album and I still have it. I just transferred it to my ipod when I was converting my CD collection. Yes, it was a little too self-serious, but it showed the real depth of his talent and his voice never sounded better. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to last and he almost went the way of Amy Winehouse. It also reminds me of my last quarter of college as it came out in late summer/early fall 1990. I was just about to graduate, so it brings back some wistful/ambivalent feelings for me as well.

  5. My hmphs

    Very true, Jeff. It’s one of those albums that doesn’t have a weak track.

  6. Jackon Kelly

    There wasn’t actually a video for this song…he refused to promote himself during this time which is what broke down the reelationship with Sony. He didn’t even appear on the cover of the single or album and only Freedom 90 had a video…in which he didn’t even appear.

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