Did You Know George Michael’s ‘I Want Your Sex’ Song and Video Caused One of the Biggest Social Controversies of the 1980s? [VIDEO]
In 1987, George Michael was the biggest superstar on the planet and he caused one of the biggest controversies ever, simply by using one word that’s practically common place in today’s music.
Along with 1982’s “Sexual Healing,” by Marvin Gaye, George Michael’s “I Want Your Sex,” marks one of the first times a song with the word “Sex” became a chart topper. By now, you all know it as a catchy little 80’s pop song, with lyrics that are practically child-like compared to some of today’s songs.Even at a time when stars like Madonna were getting famous singing “Like A Virgin,” radio was not quite ready for a song with the word “SEX” in it.
Controversy exploded worldwide when the BBC banned the song from play in 1987. Some US radio stations refused to play the song until 9 p.m., or opted to play a toned-down version, using the word “love” instead of “sex.” Legendary radio personality and host of American Top 40 Casey Kasem refused to say the name of the song during his show, calling it “the new George Michael single.”
You have to keep in mind; this song was released at a time when the entertainment community and the media were talking a lot about AIDs. Some critics accused Michael of carelessly promoting casual sex at time when advocacy groups were trying.
Michael countered by claiming the song was not about casual sex at all, but about one commitment, love and passion. He released an official statement during the height of the controversy:
“The media has divided love and sex incredibly. The emphasis of the AIDS campaign has been on safe sex, but the campaign has missed relationships. It’s missed emotion. It’s missed monogamy. ‘I Want Your Sex’ is about attaching lust to love, not just to strangers.”
I remember Michael back then, l in his mirrored aviator glasses, leather jacket and signature 5 o’clock shadow making all the rounds on the talking head shows of the day, defending the so-called controversial lyrics. He even filmed a safe-sex “PSA” that MTV required to be played before the video.
Eventually the controversy gave way to the sheer popularity of the song (or perhaps the controversy fueled the success of the song), which went on to become one of the biggest hits of the 80’s. It peaked at #2 on the U.S. charts and #3 on the British charts, clearing the way for a flurry of singles off of ‘Faith’. It sold more than 10 million copies, and to this date has sold nearly 30 million copies worldwide.
Some credit the song with opening the airwaves up a broader spectrum of lyrical material. A few years later, the Divinyls “”I Touch Myself” and Coulor Me Badd’s “I Wanna Sex You Up” hit the airwaves with little or no real controversy. In addition, Prince, who had often been forced to relegate some of his racier song material to b-sides, wound up charting big with sexually-laced songs like “Cream” and “Gett Off”
And by today’s standards, the song seems tame and kind of silly, if you think about it. Seriously, if Eminem busted out lyrics like “I want your sex, come Oon,” people would probably just giggle. I doubt after two decades of hits like this or this or this or this , anyone would even bother to bat an eye.
But the bottom line is, it’s a great song, off one of my favorite records (yup, I still them records) ever. Check it out here and judge for yourself. I dare you not to do a little dancing (come on, it’s Friday!)
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