in The People's Album

For as long as I can remember, this is more or less the image I’ve always had of Phil Collins.   That of a washed up old coot that churned out a bunch of infectious if unbearably cheesy singles way back in the ‘80s, and reemerged in the late ‘90s with the sole intent of snatching Oscars away from Trey Parker and Matt Stone.  But is that a fair assessment of the man and his music?  Well, let’s find out together…

Album: No Jacket Required
Artist: Phil Collins
Release Date: January 25, 1985
Copies Sold In The U.S.: 12 Million

Why Was This Popular?

Because America loves goofy white guys.

Or least they did in 1985, when regular schmucks like Huey Lewis, Chevy Chase, and Larry Bird were all titans of the pop culture landscape.  Meanwhile, Genesis frontman and sometime solo artist Phil Collins served as the Brits’ answer to America’s need for superstars that made it hip to be a square.  And when you combine that with the hook-laden goofball pop songs that Collins had become a connoisseur of, superstardom was practically inevitable.

Which is all a bit hard for me to take in.  Having not been alive when No Jacket Required came out, I’m simply not equipped to comprehend how a dude like Phil Collins became a superstar, all while having his homely mug plastered all over MTV.  And I’m not just saying he’s ugly by pop star standards.  I’ve probably seen mailmen that are more handsome than Phil Collins.

But perhaps I’m getting too far off base, since I don’t think Phil Collins was able to ride such a massive wave of success because the ladies couldn’t get enough of his male pattern baldness.  No, Phil Collins was huge because ‘80s pop music was a haven for synthesizer-driven melodies, pulsating drum-machines, and non-sensical lyrics that were nonetheless catchy as hell.  Phil Collins’ mastery of this particular kind of pop song was simply second to none, though it’s also the reason that his music hasn’t aged particularly well.

Did It Deserve To Be Popular?

This is by no means a great album, since it pretty much exemplifies everything that was so ridiculously excessive about ‘80s pop music.  But on that level, it’s enjoyable if you’re willing to embrace just how ridiculously ‘80s this thing is.  In fact, I could imagine half the songs on this album working perfectly in one of the Rocky sequels’ montages.  That’s how ‘80s it is.

Of course the most well known song on No Jacket Required and one of Collins’ signature hits is “Sussudio”, a song that I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone speak highly of.  Which is probably well deserved, since it’s a pretty shitty song.  And it’s shitty in the most frustrating way, because it’s the kind of song where if you let your guard down while listening to it, you might find your toes tapping and your head starting to bob before you realize, “Wait, no.  This sucks.”

Perhaps my biggest problem with “Sussudio”, and a lot of this album, is the overabundance of horns.  It’s the kind of horns where they’re so squeaky clean that you can’t even tell if it’s an actual brass section, or just some stupid-sounding brass synthesizer bullshit.  Either way, it’s terrible and I don’t know why people in the ‘80s thought that piling brass on top of already over-produced pop songs was a good idea.

Would I Pay Money For This?

Despite the outdated production on No Jacket Required, I’d still say it can be kind of fun if you’re in the right mood.  And despite “Sussudio” being the most famous single on the album, No Jacket Required does feature a much more rock solid hit single in “Don’t Lose My Number”.  Then there’s also “Take Me Home”, the one Phil Collins song that I will completely and utterly sincerely admit to liking a lot.  So maybe I could see some scenario in which I’d buy a used vinyl copy of it or something, but I can’t imagine spending more than about three dollars on what is ultimately an ‘80s timecapsule.

Next Time On The People’s Albums: I try to remember what the late ‘90s were like, as I “Push” myself to listen to Matchbox 20’s Yourself Or Someone Like You.