Producer Nile Rodgers has admitted to feeling “uncertainty” about working on George Michael’s new single.
Fantasy, a remix of a 1980s outtake, premiered on Radio 2 on Thursday.
Rodgers’ confession came in response to a fan who expressed “mixed feelings” over the song’s release, eight months after Michael’s death.
“You SHOULD have mixed feelings,” he said on Twitter. “No one’s heart was dragged through emotional ambiguity more than mine.”
Rodgers said he approached the remix with “tears, uncertainty, happiness & #LOVE”.
Fantasy sounds vastly different to the version that was released as a b-side in 1990, and later as a bonus track on 2011’s deluxe version of the Faith album.
The tinny 80s production of the original has been completely overhauled in favour of a slinky funk groove, featuring Rodgers’ choppy guitar rhythms and championing Michael’s soulful harmonies.
On first listen, it appears some of the vocals are alternate takes to the previously released version.
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But while it is refreshing to hear Michael’s voice on the radio again, the track still feels more like an offcut than an undiscovered gem.
The decision to create a new “hook” from speeded-up samples of the star’s vocals also feels like a rare mis-step for Rodgers, whose production credits include Madonna, David Bowie and Duran Duran.
“Fantasy was originally meant to be on Listen Without Prejudice and was intended to be one of the singles from the album, but somehow it got lost in the ether,” Michael’s manager David Austin told Radio 2’s Chris Evans in a letter, which the broadcaster read out on his breakfast show.
While working on a reissue of Listen Without Prejudice before his death, he revisited the song and decided it could become a single.
“George phoned up Nile Rodgers, his good pal, in early 2016 because the two of them have always spoken the same musical language, and Nile has reworked the record.”
News of the single emerged on Wednesday as Michael’s sisters Melanie and Yioda posted an update on his official website, saying they will carry on his musical legacy “exactly as Yog would have wanted”.
Fans embraced the track, and many tweeted about “listening with tears” in their eyes.
But some were less enthusiastic, saying the track sounded “unfinished“.
Michael, who rose to fame in band Wham!, died last year from heart disease and a build-up of fat in his liver.
His body was found by his partner, hairdresser Fadi Fawaz, at his home in Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, on Christmas Day.
During his career, Michael enjoyed seven number ones on the UK singles charts, including Careless Whisper, A Different Corner, Jesus To a Child and Fast Love.
The 53-year-old had 23 top 10 hits, including Faith, Father Figure, Outside and You Have Been Loved.
The Fantasy remix will feature on a deluxe version of Listen Without Prejudice Vol 1 / MTV Unplugged, which is set for release on 20 October.