Could George Michael's latest single and video, "Shoot the Dog," actually be a shot in the foot?
Never one to shy away from controversy, Michael has outdone himself with the animated clip, his first foray into the world of political satire, in which he takes on President George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Queen Mum.
In the song, Michael criticizes British foreign policy at least when it comes to dealings with the Middle East as being too closely aligned with that of the U.S. The video depicts Bush as an idiot and Blair as his lapdog, literally (see the video). Critics are already predicting that the song and video which shows Michael astride a nuclear missile could end the pop star's career.
In an exclusive interview with MTV News' Kurt Loder on Wednesday (July 3), however, Michael defended "Shoot the Dog" and said that his lyrics and imagery are being misinterpreted.
"People are looking at the song in context of an attack on America, as opposed to an attack on Tony Blair," Michael said from his vacation home in France. "And really, my attack is that Tony Blair is not involving the British in this issue. He's perfectly happy staying up to watch the World Cup and enjoying the Jubilee, all things I'm perfectly guilty of, but there's a serious discussion about Iraq which hasn't taken place. We don't know what Saddam Hussein is capable of, the British public has no idea."
Though the song is about some very serious topics, Michael addresses them in such a tongue-in-cheek and (in some cases) sexual way, that the overall mission of the song a call for discussion and debate has been missed. Critics are focusing on the depiction of Blair and his wife Cherie in bed with Bush (in a visual homage to Genesis' video for "Land of Confusion," which featured then-President Ronald Reagan in satire), as if Blair and Bush were gay lovers. And though Michael is the one who's openly gay, he comes on to Blair's wife in the video, telling her he's available, while the prime minister is busy with global politics ("Cherie, baby ... stay with me tonight/ Let's have some fun while Tony's stateside").
The message, Michael says, is that Blair has been remiss in some of his homeland duties, and that the British are feeling just as threatened by the situation in the Middle East as Americans are.
"We're all still obviously very much vulnerable right now, both countries, with their relationship with the Middle East and Al Qaeda," Michael said. "Britain is now a target, we're effectively a possible target, as a warning to America."
Despite lyrics that seem to refer to September 11th, Michael said that he wrote the song beforehand, and out of respect to those who suffered any loss in those attacks, he never intended the single or video to be released in the U.S., to avoid any misunderstandings.
"The incident was so appalling, and the shock was so fresh," he said, "that I think it would have been totally disrespectful, because the song was really about the West and the fundamentalist world. It wasn't about any one event."
Jennifer Vineyard, with additional reporting by Kurt Loder