George Michael says pop is 'dead' as he plans exit

Two decades after bursting on to the music scene as the talented half of Wham! and more than 70 million sales later, George Michael yesterday said he was quitting the pop world.

Two decades after bursting on to the music scene as the talented half of Wham! and more than 70 million sales later, George Michael yesterday said he was quitting the pop world.

The singer said a candid film about his life would be his swan song and that living in the headlines was "unbearable".

Speaking after his documentary's premier at the Berlin Film Festival, Michael, 41, said: "I just thought it was very important to explain myself before I disappear. I truly believe that there's a life for me that is not this one."

Michael also took a swipe at the current state of pop. "That genre is just dead as far as I am concerned," he said. "Radio is now completely aligned with television which has never been my forte. Nobody wants to hear about politics or any kind of strong ideas in pop any more."

His documentary, George Michael: A Different Story, traces a rags-to-riches journey that made Michael one of the biggest-selling artists of the 1980s and 1990s but one which was not without tragedy.

During the 100-minute film he speaks frankly about losing a lover to Aids, the death of his mother, of the infamous lewd act in a Beverly Hills public toilet and the media fury over his anti-Iraq war stance.

Speaking yesterday he admitted he was unsure what his next move would be but that he wasn't planning on turning his back on music completely. "Perhaps it [the future] will mean writing for other people," he said. "I have an ambition to write a truly contemporary musical, not necessarily even for the stage, but for the screen ... I have got to find ways to make music and enjoy it the way I used to."

The documentary is likely to appeal to fans as much for its insight into life as a celebrity as it is for revealing some of the truth about the notoriously publicity-shy star. "It's never suited me very well, the business of media and celebrity," Michael said. "Now I just find it unbearable." His meteoric rise to superstardom, first with Wham! and then as a solo artist, was complicated by the fact that he was gay while widely believed to be straight.

"I thought, 'Oh my God, I'm a massive star and I think I may be a poof. This is not going to end well'," he said in the film.

Michael outed himself after being charged with lewd behaviour in a toilet in 1998, although he lost his Brazilian boyfriend, Anselmo Feleppa, to an Aids-related condition in 1993. "I remember looking at the sky and saying: 'Don't do this to me'," Michael said.

Ballads like "Careless Whisper" and "Faith" propelled him to the pinnacle of the music world. Michael's 1987 album, Faith, yielded six number one singles in the US market and he has amassed a fortune of £80m. But he has also had fallow years, such as when he fought a losing legal battle against his record label in the early 1990s.

Elton John appears in the documentary and takes a swipe at Michael's reluctance to tell the world that he was gay. "To be busted in the toilet is not the best way to come out of the closet," he said.

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