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The Top 15 Wham! Songs That Will Instantly Transport You Back to the 1980s

You won't believe the mistake that sparked the idea for "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go"

In 1981, two talented 18-year-old friends from England, George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley, burst onto the music scene with a fresh sound that combined pop, soul, and dance elements that instantly connected with audiences. They soon became the duo known as Wham! and took the world by storm.

The teenagers promoted themselves as hedonistic youngsters, proud to live a carefree life without work or commitment. This was reflected in their earliest singles which, part-parody, part-social comment, briefly earning Wham! a reputation as a “dance protest” group.

Their debut album, “Fantastic,” released in 1983, showcased several hit singles, including “Young Guns (Go for It!)” and “Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do),” laid the foundation for their meteoric rise to stardom. However, it was their second album, “Make It Big,” released in 1984, that truly catapulted Wham! into global superstars.

George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley Wham!, 1983Ian Dickson/Shutterstock

“Make it Big” spawned their biggest hit and an eternal anthem of the 80s, “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” along with the soulful ballad “Careless Whisper” and the upbeat “Freedom.” The infectious rhythm, George Michael’s soaring vocals, and the irresistible energy made the record an instant classic.

In 1985, Wham! became pioneers of another sort: They launched a groundbreaking tour of China, becoming the first Western pop act to perform in the country. The tour was a massive success and cemented their status as international icons.

Wham! In concert in Peking, China, 1985Graham Wood/Mail On Sunday/Shutterstock

George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley decided to part ways and disband Wham! in 1986, and Michael went on to achieve tremendous success as a solo artist, leaving an enduring musical legacy before his untimely passing in 2016. After Wham! Ridgeley moved to Monaco and tried his hand at racing, before moving to LA to try acting and ultimately released a solo album and published a memoir called Wham! George & Me in 2019.

Looking back at the legacy of Wham!

The release of Netflix’s documentary, Wham!, has ignited a sense of nostalgia for the 80’s pop era of our youth. The film, which combines present day interviews with Andrew Ridgeley with existing footage of George Michael, effortlessly captures the magnitude of this duo and just how influential their time was as a music group.

What sets the film apart is the fact that the stories of the past aren’t just told through footage and interviews, but with the addition of something even more personal: scrapbooks. Andrew Ridgeley’s mother was the mastermind behind them, and began putting them together when her son formed his group.

“I thought, oh, he’s gonna have two or three scrapbooks,” said Simon Halfon, an executive producer of the film.“There were like 50 or more of them, and they were meticulous in detail.”

In addition to the intimate details the scrapbooks provided, the film also went into the more public elements of their career, from touring China to earning international recognition and success across American music charts.

With how much success the duo experienced, it’s hard to believe that Wham! lasted only a mere four years, and even harder to believe that they called it quits amongst such a successful time. However, with George Michael envisioning something different for his sound and his future audience, it was time for Wham! to call it quits.

Director Chris Smith recalled in an interview with NPR, “I think George was struggling to sort of stay within the confines of what Wham! was, you know? And I think Andrew, being so close and being such a good friend, had sort of understood that.”

The film sheds light onto the early days as childhood friends and origin of the band, from the time the two were in school together as children, to the very peak of their career as one of the biggest pop groups in the world.

To help transport you back to the vibrant, more simple days of the 80s, here are 15 of Wham!’s most iconic songs that you can’t help but sing along to.

Wham Song #1: “Careless Whisper” (1984)

One of Wham!’s most easily recognizable songs, the saxophone riff on “Careless Whisper” elicits an almost Pavlovian response. Immediately, the year is 1984 and all is right in the world. Off the album “Make It Big,” the song was an enormous success and reached number one status in almost 25 countries. The lyrics tell a story of cheating on a partner, and the inability to get back to that same point again after the damage has been done. Its jazzy sound set it apart from a lot of other pop music at this time, earning it the acclaim that it has received and continues to receive all these years later.

Wham Song #2: “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” (1984)

Also off the “Make It Big” album, the story behind this 80’s pop hit might surprise you! The inspiration for this tune came from a note scribbled incorrectly by Andrew Ridgeley. What he meant to leave was a note for his parents that read, “Wake me up before you go.” When he accidentally wrote “up” twice, he decided to add in an extra “go” on the end. Inspiration struck and the hit came to be what we lovingly know it as today — one of Wham!’s greatest songs. Its uptempo beat makes you want to get on your feet!

Wham Song #3: “Last Christmas” (1986)

Maybe not the most versatile of Wham!’s songs, the fact still remains that it’s one of their best known. By the beat and tone alone, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell that this is a song about heartbreak around the holidays. Alas, George Michael’s swoony vocals tell a story of a romance of Christmas past. The holiday hit has since been covered by everyone from Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift to Gloria Estefan.

Wham Song #4: “Everything She Wants” (1984)

“Everything She Wants” is another 1984 hit, telling the story of a man who feels trapped in an unhappy marriage and learns that his wife is expecting a baby. What should be happy news leaves the narrator feeling as though he’s in a situation he can no longer get out of. This emotional hit is a favorite amongst many.

Wham song #5: “Freedom” (1984)

Written and produced by George Michael, “Freedom” is one of Wham!’s songs that had chart success in both the US and UK. George Michael’s vocals carry this song, where he begs a woman for her love and affection. He sings, “I don’t want your freedom/I don’t want to play around/I don’t want nobody, baby/Part-time love just brings me down.”

Wham song #6: “Club Tropicana” (1983)

“Club Tropicana” was written by both George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley, and strayed away from themes of social or political issues. Instead, it played into the club scene that the group often took part in.

Wham song #7: “I’m Your Man” (1986)

Released not too long before Wham! officially split, the song was a clear indication that George Michael was ready to move into a different demographic of listeners.

Wham song #8: “Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do?)” (1982)

“Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do?)” was the official genesis of Wham! It took inspiration from “Rappers Delight” and communicated a vibe of youthful freedom that appealed to their younger audiences for years to come.

Wham song #9: “Young Guns (Go for It)” (1983)

Luck played a big role in the success of this song. When a last minute cancellation occurred on BBC’s Top of the Pops, Wham! was asked to fill in. This television appearance put them on people’s radar and gave them even more recognition than they had.

Wham song #10: “The Edge of Heaven” (1986)

“The Edge of Heaven” came after the announcement that Wham! would be going their separate ways. Their final hurrah came in the form of an album called The Final and a farewell concert at Wembley Stadium in London.

11. “Bad Boys” (1983)

The first Wham! song to break into the US charts, “Bad Boys” tells a common story of teen rebellion and youthful conflict with your parents at such an age.

12. “Where Did Your Heart Go?” (1986)

“Where Did Your Heart Go?” is actually not a Wham! original — it’s a cover of the song by Was (Not Was).

13. “If You Were There” (1984)

“If You Were There” is a tune of reassurance from George Michael, singing the song to his girlfriend, providing her the comfort that despite the fact that girls might pursue him when she’s not around, he’s faithful to her and only her.

14. “Battlestations” (1986)

“Battlestations” tells another story of a relationship on the rocks, fleshing out a companionship in which there is constant fighting and bickering, rather than any real love or peace.

15. “A Different Corner” (1986)

“A Different Corner” is one of the more vulnerable songs by George Michael, written during a particularly low point in his life. Regardless of such, the song topped the UK charts.

Keep reading for more classic 1980s hits!

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Aerosmith Songs, Ranked: Rock Out to 12 Essential Hits by “The Bad Boys From Boston”

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