This is the artistic standard represented on The Second Decade (Reunion Records), an ambitious project that for the first time collects in one place Michael's most popular songs from 1993-2003. It's a 15-track album celebrating the past, including a new version of Michael's signature song, "Friends." It's also a record looking forward, courtesy of two new songs, which reflect Michael's distinctive pop sound.
It's Second Decade, though, that shows a shift in Michael's artistic perspective. Not one to rest on laurels, Michael discovered new creative wells inside himself during this period. The music tends to be more organic than it was in the early '90s, rich with acoustic guitar and piano instrumentation, and the lyrics more personally vulnerable. He attributes the change to the inspiration of his family, Debbie, his wife of 22 years and their five children. "Your priorities change when you get older and have kids. You find out what's important," he says. The era's pop-driven songs, like "I'll Lead You Home," "Missing Person" and "Love Me Good," tap again that Lennon & McCartney-like songwriting relationship Michael uniquely shares with longtime co-writer Wayne Kirkpatrick. Adding to what was merely a bubbling under instrumental repertoire, this season also brought about Freedom, Michael's epic, and overdue, orchestral composition. "That album is my favorite thing I've ever done. I think it's the truest reflection of who I am as a musician," he says.