Calling a long-anticipated album—one that had been at least five years in the making and pushed back on two occasions thanks to bouts of depression—Patience feels, on the face of it, like an extremely George Michael move. And true enough, under the hood, this expansive, 70-minute fifth (and, exactly as Michael himself intended, final) studio album can feel like a sonic buffet, encompassing various eras, musical styles, and thematic preoccupations. In practice, this means we get both the effervescent, anti-Blair and -Bush satire of the Human League-sampling “Shoot the Dog” and the lovestruck, floor-filling soul of “Amazing.” But Patience’s long gestation (stoked and heavily informed by the death of Michael’s beloved mother and his continued rage at the conflict in Iraq) only yields a more rounded, eclectic, and messily human artistic statement. “Freeek! ’04” nods to thrusting, futurist R&B while the autobiographical “Round Here”—with its hushed, nostalgic world of football matches and church halls—points to an artist unafraid to show the many sides of his character. Patience shows that getting to that point of creative clarity and confidence was, in many senses, completely worth the wait.

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