Sometimes the Clothes Do Not Make The Man: George Michael’s Iconic “Freedom ’90” Thirty Years Later

Scenes from the “Freedom ’90” music video (Photo Credit: Screenshots of the video via George Michael Official YouTube Channel)

Update 10/30/2020: The George Michael Official YouTube Channel premiered the “Freedom ’90” music video in 4K at 1:30 PM ET.  The standard definition video in this story has been replaced with the 4K version.

Anyone who watched MTV during the year 1990 will recall the music video for George Michael’s “Freedom ’90.”  As the second single off of Listen Without Prejudice Volume 1, “Freedom ‘90” entered the Billboard Hot 100 at #53 during the week of October 27, 1990, and would stay on the Hot 100 for 16 weeks, peaking at #8 on December 22, 1990. The meaning of the song itself is thought to be a critique of his celebrity status.

Weary of fame, Michael refused to appear in any music videos or photoshoots for Listen Without Prejudice. The inspiration for the “Freedom ‘90” music video came when Michael saw the January 1990 cover of British Vogue, which featured a black and white photo of Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Tatjana Patitz, Christy Turlington, and Cindy Crawford photographed by Peter Lindbergh.

The inspiration behind the music video (Photo Credit: Peter Lindbergh via British Vogue)

Tapped to direct the video for “Freedom ’90 was David Fincher, who previously shot the music video for Madonna’s “Express Yourself.”  Also cast for the music video was model John Pearson and fashion photographer Mario Sorrenti.  The video would feature the seven lip-syncing the words to “Freedom ‘90” while icons associated with Michael like the Wurlitzer jukebox and his leather jacket would be consumed by a ball of flames near the end of the video. Cindy Campbell reflected on the message of the video in an interview with Allure in 2015:

“Looking back, the message was clear. MTV had changed the face of music—all of a sudden it mattered what musicians looked like. The video had a dark humor. It was saying, If you have to be beautiful to sell music now, let’s just put five beautiful faces in there. But when we were doing it, it was just, hey, this is going to be a really cool video.”

Thirty years later, the video is not only one of the most iconic videos of Michael’s career but also in pop culture. In April, Crawford appeared on Naomi Campbell’s interview series, No Filter with Naomi on Campbell’sYouTube channel, and the two models talked about filming the music video.

To launch his website, Mr. Feelgood, John Pearson also brought the five supermodels together to discuss their memories of shooting the “Freedom ’90” music video. Tatjana Patitz reflected on Pearson’s question to the models on the video’s lasting impact:

“It represents an era in pop culture, and it was at the height of the early ’90s when the fashion, film, and music industries blended together. MTV was huge at the time with all the incredible music videos.”

Meanwhile, Sony Music UK is marking the 30th anniversary of “Freedom ‘90” by launching the George Michael TikTok channel.  In a statement for the launch, Heidi Boston-Thompson, head of Digital Marketing & Audience Growth at Sony Music Commercial Group, said:

“The TikTok community is aligned with so many of George Michael’s values. George championed individualism, activism and friendship. His songs will always be relevant, and we love nothing more than seeing new generations discovering the meaning alongside the iconic music. We’re delighted to bring George’s unique soul to the platform to inspire future creations.”

According to Sony, the George Michael TikTok account will feature archived interview footage, performances, and video excerpts ‘reimagined for TikTok’s community.’

@georgemichaelofficial

Finally George Michael’s music has arrived on @tiktok! Celebrating George’s career, humour, heart and individualism. #GeorgeMichael #FYP #Music

♬ original sound – George Michael

You can watch the music video for “Freedom ’90” below as well as outtakes from the video, which were pulled from the vaults after Michael’s death in 2016.

Let us know your thoughts on the iconic music video 30 years later in the comments or on our social media accounts.

 

Sources: Billboard, Vogue, Allure, Naomi Campbell Official YouTube Channel, Mr. Feelgood, Sony Music UK, George Michael Official TikTok Account, George Michael Official YouTube Channel, The Atlantic

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