"Freedom '90" (also known simply as "Freedom") is a song written, produced,and performed by George Michael, and released on Columbia Records in 1990. The "'90" added to the end of the title is to prevent confusion with a hit by Michael's former band, Wham!, also titled "Freedom".
It was the third single taken from Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1, "Freedom '90" was one of a few uptempo songs on this album, it was also a major hit and went to #8 in the US. The song is referring to George's past success with Wham! but also shows a new side of himself as a new man, who is more cynical about the music business than he had been before. Michael refused to appear in the video and let a group of supermodels appear instead, lip-syncing the lyrics.
George Michael performed the song during the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics.
The video featured the fiery destruction of the three iconic items from Michael's 1987 music video "Faith" that had come to symbolize his public image: his leather jacket, Wurlitzer jukebox, and guitar. Each occurrence of the word "freedom" during the song's chorus is accompanied by a shot of one such item burning or exploding. Additionally, whereas "Faith" had opened with a jukebox phonograph needle touching a vinyl record, "Freedom! '90" opens with a compact disc player's laser beam reading a CD.
"Freedom '90" was 6:30 long, but a shorter version was made available for radio consumption cutting down the intro and the bridge. The addition of the year to the title was to distinguish the song from "Freedom", a #1 hit in the UK for Wham! in 1984 (#3 in the US in 1985). It was the second US single from the album Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1, and had contrasting fortunes on each side of the Atlantic—it peaked #28 on the UK Singles Chart, but was a major success on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, reaching #8 and selling over 500,000 copies to earn a Gold certification from the RIAA. It remained in the Billboard Top 40 for 12 weeks in late 1990 and early 1991. In Canada, Michael achieved another charttopper.
"Freedom" was covered in 1996 by English singer Robbie Williams, who released it as his debut solo single after leaving boy band Take That. It reached number two on the UK Singles Chart, 26 places higher than George Michael's original. It was not included on any of Williams' albums until 2010, when it was included on his greatest hits album In and Out of Consciousness: The Greatest Hits 1990–2010. The single had sold 280,000 copies by the end of 1996, being certified Silver by the BPI. Williams had left Take That the previous year and therefore could identify himself with much of the sentiment in the song, although he did not use the line "we had every bigshot goodtime band on the run boy, we were living in a fantasy" in his version. The music video shows Williams dancing in the sea and in a field, celebrating his separation from his former group. Williams later admitted that he had not even recorded the song by the scheduled date of filming and instead mimed to George Michael's version of the song.
^"At some point in your career, the situation between yourself and the camera reverses. For a certain number of years, you court it and you need it, but ultimately, it needs you more and it's a bit like a relationship. The minute that happens, it turns you off ... and it does feel like it is taking something from you." Deevoy, Adrian. "Strictly No Admittance: The privatisation of George Michael." Q, September 1990.
^Joel Whitburn, The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits (8th Ed. 2004)