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"WHAM!" Review

 The British pop duo Wham! (with the explanation point, as Deadpool explained) has a reputation slightly above Rick Astley's, mostly thought of "that silly pop thing George Michael was in before he went solo." The saxophone riff from "Careless Whisper" became the basis for the "Sexy Sax Man" prank videos which themselves were parodied by Saturday Night Live. So what can a Netflix documentary do to rehabilitate their image four decades later? Plenty.

 WHAM! is a tightly-focused recounting of how 12-year-old Andrew Ridgely befriended the new boy in school, Georgios Panayiotou - who rapidly gained the nickname "Yog" which stuck for life - in 1975 and they became besties who started writing songs together, formed WHAM! in 1981, and after some shaky early efforts, caught a break and then rocketed to the top of the charts, becoming global pop stars before deciding to split to free Michael to go solo after less than five years.

Bolstered by the archivist quality scrapbooks kept by Ridgely's mother tracing her son's career, WHAM! buzzes through their meteoric career with very few distractions. Even Michael's closeted status is handled matter of factly as an element of his and Ridgely's friendship with archived audio narration from Michael discussing how being a teen girl's pinup idol meant coming out publicly would be bad for business in the 1980s. It's also refreshing that no new interview footage or "music experts" opining about the group and it's meaning are loaded on top to tell us What It All Meant. It's just the duo and selected close family and associates contemporaneously telling their story.

 What WHAM! does best is correct the record for most people that Ridgely was just a lucky sod who rode Michaels' coattails until he was shaken off. I'd known that it was Ridgely who helped a young, shy, pudgy Cypriot boy get a sense of style and nurtured his musical growth, but because Michael blossomed like a nuclear blast during WHAM!'s brief run then released what was almost a greatest hits record with his debut, Faith (which had six of its nine tracks become hit singles), while Ridgely's musical career was effectively over with WHAM!'s end, his contribution to forming the group has gone mostly unappreciated.

Because WHAM! is intended to begin and end with the group itself, other than a title card mentioning how many records Michael sold as a solo artist, not much more of their lives or that their backup singers, Pepsi and Shirley, went on to UK pop stardom themselves is mentioned. Even Michael's death in 2016 is reserved for a post credits memorium.

So break out your neon leg warmers and big text message t-shirts and flashback to the Eighties for pure pop fizz.

Score: 8/10. Catch it on Netflix


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