The video for pop singer George Michael's new single, "Outside," boldly and lightheartedly addresses his much-publicized arrest and conviction for lewd behavior in a public restroom last spring.
With less than a week to go before Tuesday's release of his double-disc greatest-hits collection, Ladies & Gentleman, The Best of George Michael, the pop singer debuted the video Wednesday (Nov. 4) in a special aired on MTV.
During the interview that preceded the clip, Michael told an audience of his fans and spectators that police committed entrapment in arresting him, since they used an undercover officer who fooled him into thinking he was interested in engaging in a sex act with the singer.
"I got followed into the restroom. I didn't know it was a cop, obviously. He started playing this game -- 'I'll show you mine and when you show me yours, I'll nick you,' " Michael claimed during the interview. Police have said that the singer was arrested after committing an unspecified lewd act in a public area.
Michael took questions from the audience and was open about his arrest and his sexual orientation during the interview, but it was the new video that made the boldest statement on his recent troubles with the law.
Elements of the song seem to be an attempt by the pop star to say that he's not the only person who desires to take their sex life outside the home. Phrases like "I know you want to/ but you can't say yes," as well as the words "all of us" and "all" appearing on the screen at the conclusion of the video, reinforce the point.
Other scenes in the video seem to make light of his arrest and conviction. Partially set in a public restroom that becomes a dance club when urinals disappear and disco balls descend from the light fixtures, the video features Michael dancing in a policeman's uniform while a host of couples kiss in various outdoor locales, including the roof of a building, on board a ship and on a golf course.
It also contains sound clips from a news report aired after Michael's arrest in a restroom of a Beverly Hills park popularly known as a gay cruising area. He was convicted on a lewd-conduct charge May 14, fined $910 and ordered to perform 80 hours of community service.
Michael, 35, has not spoken much about the incident publicly, although three days after the arrest he acknowledged on CNN that he is gay, a fact he repeated in an online chat with fans last summer.
In an interview that preceded Wednesday's video screening, Michael claimed he was set up by an undercover cop, to whom he said he exposed himself after being coaxed to do so.
"Once he got an eyeful, he walked past me and out. As I got back to my car, I was arrested on the street. It's not the first time I've had fun outside my own four walls. It was two undercover cops and a randy pop star. If someone's waving their genitalia at you, you don't assume they're an officer of the law."
MTV, which earlier had balked at airing the potentially controversial video depicting scenes from the arrest, issued a statement Wednesday (Nov. 4) explaining its decision to play the clip.
"MTV has chosen to air the video 'Outside' because George Michael is an artist our viewers care about. They followed the news of his arrest, and we want to give them the opportunity to see his creative interpretation of the incident."
Ellen Aragon, deputy district attorney at the Beverly Hills District Attorney's office, said she had not seen the video yet but that Michael was within his rights to address the situation in a light-hearted way. She cautioned, however, that he should maintain some seriousness about the incident.
"[The video] could, in context, be quite humorous -- without seeing it, it's hard to know how to take it or what to say about it. I would just hope that it doesn't reflect an attitude on his part that the whole thing is simply a lark," Aragon said.
"It's not the kind of thing that we think he should be going around wearing a hairshirt and beating his chest about, and it's not as tasteless as making fun of a serious crime like a murder," she continued. "Nevertheless, I think that the citizens of Beverly Hills don't appreciate their children playing in parks and possibly walking in on men exposing their erect penises to other men, so in terms of our community, we consider it an offense."
A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday in the court to determine if Michael has successfully completed his community service. However, the singer told MTV that he has yet to make arrangements to complete the agreed-to 80 hours of service.
The two-disc set, Ladies & Gentlemen, The Best of George Michael, contains 28 songs from Michael's solo career. None of the work from his former dance-pop duo Wham! is included on the album, though his hit "Careless Whisper" -- which he recorded as a solo effort during the Wham! era -- is one of seven #1 U.S. hits in the collection.
Additionally, the double album includes several tracks previously available only on tribute albums or compilations, including a rendition of Queen's "Somebody to Love" performed with the surviving members of the British glam-pop group during the 1993 tribute concert to that band's late lead singer, Freddie Mercury.
Michael predicted his next album would be more of a "pop album, an uptempo album."
One song that will not make Ladies & Gentlemen, The Best of George Michael is the singer's duet with hip-hop star Mary J. Blige on a cover of the song "As" by R&B legend Stevie Wonder.
Michael claimed during the MTV interview that, after his arrest, the track was pulled from the album. He urged fans to write Universal Records President Jay Boberg and ask him "what his problem with George Michael is."
Calls to Universal Records were not returned by press time.