I know literally nothing of Haircut 100. I first heard about them in a Billboard chart book I had growing up, and that’s as far as it got. I don’t know what they sound like, as I think they were one of those UK bands which just never translated to a North American audience. So I had no idea what to expect from their leader’s first solo record, but it seemed to be a big deal in the UK at the time so I took a listen.
Full disclosure: I do not like sophisti-pop, both in its actual sound and the idea that these musicians making it are just oh so sophisticated. I think you could make the case that much sophisti-pop is just 1980s UK lounge music that, for whatever reason, somehow managed to take hold of the popular imagination (in the UK only, pretty much). I mean, it’s all style over substance – a nice set of clothes dressing up not much of anything – and it’s a particular style that really, really doesn’t translate from a particular time and place.
But it turns out that Heyward is a pretty great songwriter. His songs aren’t just catchy enough, but they are more, um, musically sophisticated (sorry) than the other sophisti-pop songs I’ve been subjected to. His lyrics are also decent for the most part, and certainly compared to his contemporaries in the genre.
Additionally, though the arrangements are slick as fuck (they have to be, don’t they?) they are at least organic enough to not sound completely, 100% ’80s. (Yes, there are plenty of ’80s cliches here, but they are buried or in songs which have instruments doing things that were okay in other decades.)
And Heyward himself is a compelling performer, whether I like this kind of music or not. He’s very confident and he’s a pretty good singer and he just sells it so well. I wanted to hate everything about this once I figured out what it was and at least some of that has to do with his performance.
Not my thing, but the best example of this genre I’ve ever heard.