Wham! is a British pop duo that took the Eighties by storm. That was about a decade before I was old enough to enjoy pop music but I certainly experienced a Wham! deep dive in my late teens.
Their music was influenced by funk and soul and their popularity was partly due to resonating strongly with youth culture at the time.
Here are 21 of my favorite Wham! songs.
Top Wham Songs
“Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”
Easily one of the most recognizable Wham! songs, “Wake Me up Before You Go-Go” dropped as a single in the UK circa 1984. “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” was Wham!’s first Number 1 hit in the US and UK. It eventually went Platinum in the States.
The song was originally inspired by a note Andre Ridgeley left for his parents. He intended to write “wake me up before you go,” but accidentally wrote “up” twice so he added an extra “go” just for kicks.
Freedom was released as a single in 1984. It spent three weeks as Number 1 on the UK charts making it their second Number 1 hit on the singles chart.
Freedom also reached Number 3 on the US charts. The album Make It Big featured the song and coincided with its run as the tenth biggest selling single of 1984. Freedom was written and produced by George Michael.
“Last Christmas” cemented Wham!’s legacy. This song was originally released as a single in 1984. When Last Christmas first dropped, it peaked at #Number 2 on the UK charts competing with Band Aid’s wildly popular “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”
It finally got its chance to shine recently when Last Christmas spent two weeks at Number 1on the UK charts in 2021. “Last Christmas” is currently Wham!’s most-streamed song on Spotify with over 800 million listens.
“Club Tropicana” is the second song ever written by George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley. It offers a satirical take on the cheap packaged vacation economy.
Peaked at Number 4 on the UK charts, Club Tropicana withstands the tests of time and sits as Wham!’s Number 3 most-streamed song on Spotify.
“Everything She Wants”
“Everything She Wants” is composed of straightforward, and rather spiteful, lyrics set over a moody drum beat. This single was released alongside “Last Christmas” and reached Number 2 on the UK charts.
It did hit Number 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. George Michael himself claims this is his favorite Wham! song and continued to perform it during his solo career.
“I’m Your Man”
“I’m Your Man” is a stand-alone single that never made it onto an album. This track became Wham!’s third Number 1 on the UK charts and peaked at Number 3 on the US charts. “I’m Your Man” addresses more mature themes than Wham!’s previous discography.
It’s clear George Michael is looking to solidify his place beyond the youth scene. This song is one of the last singles as Wham! split six months after its release.
“The Edge of Heaven”
“The Edge of Heaven” dropped in 1986 after the announcement of Wham!’s impending break-up.
This single is noticeably edgier than most of Wham!’s discography. It speaks to Michael’s aims to break into a more mature era. The song is Wham!’s fourth Number 1 hit in the UK and ranked within the Top 10 on US charts.
“Young Guns (Go For It)”
Releases in 1982 this was Wham!’s first hit. “Young Guns (Go For It)” debuted at Number 73 on UK charts.
After the band’s performance on British music show Top of the Pops, the track skyrocketed to Number 3. Wham!’s appearance on Top of the Pops was purely coincidental, they were filling in for a last-minute cancellation but surely jumpstarted their career.
“Bad Boys” is one of the most endearing songs from Wham!. One of their early hits, this song tells a simple story of a misbehaving teenager and concerned parents.
The music video features a rebellious Michael dancing with his leather-clad friends in the streets. It peaked at Number 2 on the UK charts and was the first Wham! song to make it on the States’ Billboard Hot 100 at Number 60.
“Wham Rap” is the epitome of good vibes and communicates the band’s connection to youth culture in their early years. The track encourages listeners to be themselves and do what they enjoy regardless of societal pressure.
This is the band’s first song. Michael was heavily inspired by “Rapper’s Delight” which shows in the beat. The single peaked at number Number 8 on UK charts.
“Where Did Your Heart Go?”
“Where Did Your Heart Go?” is a cover, but it’s an excellent one. It was originally written and performed by American band Was (Not Was) in 1981, but didn’t see significant success in the charts until it was covered by Wham! in 1986, when it hit No.1 in the UK.
The cover is relatively faithful to the original, but George Michael did make some structural changes, replacing a chorus with a saxophone instrumental. The resulting track is a restrained, emotive and brooding soft rock ballad.
“If You Were There”
In this upbeat pop track from Wham!, the protagonist urges his girlfriend to have faith in him and believe that he would never cheat on her. Even though other girls have a habit of chasing after him and trying to turn his head, he is insistent that he will always stay faithful.
He tells her that if she was there, she would know that he is always thinking of her and being conscious of how he behaves around other women without her. The track’s catchy chorus and sincere vocals make it an irresistible offering.
“Heartbeat” is an ode to being young and in love. This Wham! track describes an idyllic end-of-summer scene in which the protagonist and his friends sit in the sun and pretend not to hear the school bell ring. He is content and happy with his summer love – until another girl comes along and turns his head.
He knows that it will all end in tears, but he can’t help being captivated by her and her beauty and pleads in vain with his heartbeat to calm down and return to normal. The track has a slightly 60s doo-whop feel which lends it a charming innocence.
This science fiction-tinged track has a futuristic sound, but Wham! describe an issue that’s as old as time. The couple described in “Battlestations” can’t help fighting, and the protagonist feels like she is constantly picking fights with him and disrupting their relationship. “Now we spend more time in battle than we ever do in bed,” sing the duo.
The track opens with an answering machine message, which the protagonist later references as he explains how he hates listening to the machine when he’s trying to get in touch with his lover. He feels so disconnected from her that he even resorts to reading her diary.
“A Different Corner”
“A Different Corner” was written by George Michael whilst Wham! were at their peak but he was at a low point in his personal life. Overwhelmed, overworked and finding himself at the end of a relationship, he went into the recording session feeling very vulnerable, something which comes through in the recording.
The gentle ballad is the most honest song Michael felt he had recorded so far and one in which he was able to get very personal. It took him roughly 14 hours to write and record from beginning to end.
“Like A Baby”
“Like A Baby” has a relaxing smooth jazz vibe that makes it the perfect easy listening song. It actually has quite a sad meaning, however, as when the vocals kick in Michael sings about a love gone wrong.
He understands that his lover has to leave and that this relationship isn’t right for them anymore, but he asks them not to tell him why. He tells them that he would love to be able to keep on loving them and that they’ve left him crying like a baby. His vocals are emotional and restrained, which serves to make the track even more moving.
“Blue (Armed With Love)”
“Blue” was the B-side to one of Wham!’s most successful singles, “Club Tropicana”. It’s a semi-instrumental dub track which originally appeared on the record as an incomplete track, as the duo only had 11 hours to put it together. However, during their Club Fantastic tour in China they ended up performing a more complete version of the track.
“Blue – Live In China”, a live recording of this new, more polished version ended up being included on the album Music From The Edge Of Heaven. It also become the B-side to another one of Wham!’s biggest hits – “Last Christmas”. The track is a slow burn that takes Michael to some deeply introspective places, as can be heard in his live vocals.
“A Ray Of Sunshine”
When you just need a good dance, “A Ray Of Sunshine” is the perfect track. Wham! sing about heating up the dance floor in classic 80s fashion. There’s some bragging about how much money they make and how they could easily break any girl’s heart, because it’s an 80s dance track, but for the most part this is a classic feel-good anthem.
“Love Machine” is another cover, originally sung by Motown group The Miracles. Wham!’s version samples the original, but turns it into more of a teen 80s pop anthem. It’s a song about being immensely attracted to someone, to the point where they’re the only one you want or think about. “I’m just a love machine/And I won’t work for nobody but you,” sing the duo in this endlessly upbeat track.
“Careless Whisper” was first released on the 1984 Wham! album Make It Big. Its famous saxophone riff is now infamous in pop culture and the track has inspired too many covers to count. The track is about a man who dates two girls at the same time and imagines what might happen if one found out about the other. He realises that if that happened he would never get to dance with the first girl again.
“Nothing Looks The Same In The Light”
“Nothing Looks The Same In The Light” is a sultry love song in which a man watches his lover sleep. He knows they were meant to be moving slowly but he can’t help falling for her entirely. He worries that in the morning, she might change her mind and they’ll part ways. It’s a tender and vulnerable track and Michael’s whispery, breathy vocals are beautiful.
Caitlin Devlin is a music, entertainment and lifestyle writer based in London. When she’s not creating playlists for Repeat Replay, she’s reviewing gigs and interviewing artists for Ticketmaster UK and thinking about what her Spotify Wrapped will look like this year.