(Note: This blog post underwent small revisions on January 11 and March 22, 2019.)
I can’t believe it. I spent a year researching George Michael’s work to write an essay, and missed this. It isn’t his only advert, either, but it’s the one people respect as his better work.
The commercial aired on the American Music Awards, broadcast in January 1989. That was at about the time the popularity of the Faith album ran its course and GM was slowing the promotion of his music in the U.S., although he won two awards during the ceremony.
This video may be more about promoting new music than advertising Diet Coke, although the Coke brand must have benefited greatly. It features a song which was released the following year, titled Crazyman Dance.
You can find the lyrics to Crazyman Dance online. Along with the Diet Coke piece, I’ll include a link to a YouTube audio-only post of this song.
If you read the lyrics, be aware of the time frame. During the previous year, Mr. Michael had begun to feel unwelcome in the U.S., due to backlash over the success of the Faith album — a soul album by a white artist. Later, he also spoke about feeling overwhelmed by his popular success as a solo artist at an early age.
Crazyman Dance may be more about external stress than a brain chemical-induced mental illness. It can be argued that the lyrics are from the point of view of a man who adapts to overstimulation by losing himself. New York City can be an excellent metaphor for that.
At any rate, the Diet Coke commercial allowed a new piece of music to be promoted in the United States when GM was not touring in the country. The song is brilliant, and meets the high standard of the artist’s usual genius. Listen to it.