Boy George – Il Adore
As the lead singer, chief songwriter and the undoubted creative force behind Culture Club, Boy George became one of the most iconic and commercially successful artists of the 1980s, scoring seven UK top 5 singles in a little over two years between September 1982 and October 1984. He enjoyed a similarly meteoric rise and ubiquitous media presence in the US during the brief period dubbed ‘The Second British Invasion’ – the MTV fuelled chart-assault by the likes of A Flock of Seagulls, Duran Duran and Billy Idol which began in the summer of 1983. It turns out the world’s brief infatuation with The Boy was living proof Andy Warhol was definitely on to something with that 15 minutes of fame thing. Unfortunately for George, using Warhol’s theory, alarm bells started ringing after about 30 seconds and things started spiralling out of control towards the end of 1986.
Clean and refocused after a brief spell in rehab, George launched his solo career with the no.1 single, Everything I Own, in March 1987 and his debut album, Sold, spawned three more top 30 singles before the end of the year. But then, in terms of chart success, Boy George just couldn’t get arrested – although in terms of actually getting arrested…no problem!
I could dedicate an entire Into the Popvoid Summer Special to the multiple near-misses and nowhere-nears Boy George released as singles between 1988’s Live My Life and 1995’s Same Thing In Reverse, a period which was particularly musically schizophrenic and saw George crack the Top 40 on only a handful of occasions – once solo, with the Pet Shop Boys assisted The Crying Game (record company marketing team’s interjections included here in brackets: “Okay, that works…what’s next George?”), twice as part of Jesus Loves You (“Can we re-think the name, the lyrics…oh, and maybe release something else completely…what you got?) and most successfully, reaching No.15 in 1990, with E-Zee Possee’s Everything Starts With an E (“Oh, dear! Do you know if Sony are looking for anyone at the moment?”). It would seem the record-buying public just couldn’t see past the clown make-up and acknowledge there was actually a gifted vocalist and sophisticated song-writer hiding under all the wigs and frocks.
Aside from the stately, Bobby Z produced Don’t Cry (no.60 in October 1988) and L.A. and Babyface-mimicking club track Don’t Take My Mind On A Trip (no.68 in March 1989) there was the stark and emotionally raw, Il Adore.
Clocking in at an epic six minutes, this career-high ballad documents a mother’s sorrow as she recalls the life of her dying son and acted as a timely lament for everyone who’d been touched by the AIDS epidemic throughout the previous decade. Uncharacteristically subtle, drenched in lush, cinematic strings and boasting some of George’s most heart-breaking lyrics, Il Adore enjoyed an extended life as the emotional climax of George’s Taboo musical but it could have easily served as the end-credits theme to a Richard Curtis film and become the enormous hit it truly deserved to be. On the other hand, it was 1995 so there was just as much chance of it getting mutilated by a Ben Liebrand or Todd Terry remix and turned into unlikely Ibiza anthem. Hey, don’t knock it…a hit’s a hit.
Entered chart: 01/07/1995
Chart peak: 50
Weeks on chart: 3
Who could sing this today and have a hit? Confessional lyrics – tick. Soaring vocals – tick. Sweeping strings – tick. Surely this could easily sit quite comfortably as the closing track on Sam Smith’s second effort, ‘Still Lonely (But the Royalties Help)’.