Rob Thomas Reveals He Wrote 'Smooth' With George Michael In Mind

At the time when I wrote "Smooth" with Itaal, I had just gotten off the road with Matchbox Twenty on what turned out to be a three-year-long tour. We started in clubs and ended in arenas all over the world. We were tired.

When I got the call that a writer was working on a track for a new Santana album just around the corner from me, in Soho, I thought ‘what a great chance to work on something for an icon’ not having any real expectation of success.

This was going to be my first time writing a song that I didn’t perform on, setting me up as a writer.

When we finished the song, the conversation came around to who should sing it. I don’t believe I was even in the running.  But I WAS in the conversation with Clive Davis and his people about my thoughts on who should. 

My first thought was George Michael. In fact, it was George I had in my head when I recorded the vocals in the first place. If you listen to the melody and the cadence, it’s an attempt to emulate his style in so many ways. 

The trend carried on. My first solo album was a shift from my Wham! to my Faith. My first solo video had pieces of George all over it. Some of the shots, the close up on the boots, the dance, all of it an homage to someone I had admired since I was a pre teen.

My last album cover for The Great Unknown was a lift from the Wham! Bad Boys video and I didn’t even realize it until after I called the president of Atlantic Records and said that was the pic I wanted on my cover. 

It was just ingrained in me.

Because we share the same manager I got the opportunity to spend a fair share of time with George and after my third glass of wine, I would start to gush and he would respond, as he did with everything, like a true gentleman with kind words and insight. 

I’ll never be George Michael, but without George, I’m not sure I would have been Rob Thomas either.​

A version of this article originally appeared in the Jan. 14 issue of Billboard.