Why “Fastlove” Was a Great Choice for Adele’s George Michael Tribute at the Grammys

If you were watching Adele’s tribute to George Michael at the Grammys on Sunday (Feb. 12) and didn’t immediately recall the song she was performing — even on second take — don’t feel too bad. “Fastlove” was a decent-sized hit for Michael upon its release as the second single from 1996’s Older album, peaking at No. 8 on the Hot 100 in 1996 — but as that LP title would imply, this was already relatively deep into George Michael’s career, long after the peak of his stateside impact. As merely his 19th-biggest Billboard Hot 100 hit, it doesn’t seem to have the legacy of some of his biggest smashes: It wasn’t in Keanu, it has only a fraction of the Spotify plays of a “Faith” or “Careless Whisper,” and its hip-hop-edged dance groove just isn’t the sound that generally comes to mind when we think of George Michael.

Why “Fastlove” for Adele’s in-memoriam performance, then? Well, first off, it’s important to remember that while Older feels like late-period George Michael to U.S. audiences, in the U.K. he was still hitting his commercial stride — in Michael’s home country, the album was certified 6x platinum and spawned a staggering six top-three hits, including the chart-topping “Fastlove.” In fact, in the U.K., George Michael never really fell off: 2004’s Patience was also a blockbuster there, and as recently as 2012, the singer-songwriter was still scoring top 40 hits with one-off singles. To a British artist like Adele — who, as a 1988 baby, might’ve been first exposed to George Michael through his Older era — it makes sense that the song would feel as much like classic material as anything off Faith or Make It Big.

What’s more, “Fastlove” is a great George…