George Michael has topped Smooth Radio’s All-Time Top 500 chart for the fourth year in a row with his Careless Whisper.
Michael wrote the song in 1984 when he was just 17 years old and it reached the number one in 25 countries.
Now obviously those who listen to Smooth Radio are not representative of the public as a whole but this still represents a significant achievement. In case you’ve forgotten, here’s the song:
The whole song is based on the following sequence of four chords: Dm7 Gm7 Bbmaj7 and Am7. Without the extensions, this would be a fairly simple sequence of Dm Gm Bb Am, but the sevenths provide the lush jazz/R&B feel which is essential to the success of the piece. Although Careless Whisper is 38 years’ old, the same combination of a minor key with lots of major and minor seventh chords is very contemporary (see Minor Keys Dominate Global Top 20).
Perhaps the most memorable aspect of this song is not George Michael’s singing, which is great, but the sax riff:
This riff puts an E alongside the Dm7 (adding a 9th), a C on top of the Gm7 (adding an 11th), creating lots of dissonance and tension. It’s a fabulous riff.
So that’s why I think Careless Whisper is a classic.