Jheri Curl June: Phil Collins’ “Sussudio”

Okay, okay, I know what you’re thinking: who let this flaccid, schlocky dad-pop interloper into our pristine shrine to the jheri curl and the music it inspired? But just relax, and I’ll explain everything.

After the massive success of Purple Rain in the summer of 1984, jheri curl music went from being a trendy form of R&B to one of the dominant modes of mainstream pop, full stop. Pretty soon, everybody was starting to sound a little jheri-curl–even people who had no business sounding that way. Even people who could never actually have a jheri curl of their own. People like the incurably lame, and just-as-incurably bald, Phil Collins.

Collins was heavily inspired by Prince in the creation of his 1985 hit “Sussudio”–to the point that many critics at the time accused him of directly ripping off the synthesizer riff to the Purple One’s “1999” (personally, I don’t hear it). He also directly employed the skills of Jheri Curl June alum David Frank of the System for the track’s synthesizer, synth bass, and drum machine arrangement and programming–which is either a plus to Collins’ jheri-curl credentials or a minus to Frank’s. In any case, as is made painfully clear by the music video above, Collins brought his own, preternaturally square je né sais quoi to the proceedings, mugging painfully and playing goddamn air bass in front of an inexplicably entertained pub crowd. I know, I sound like I’m coming down too hard on this admittedly catchy tune, but come on people: any grown man who allows himself to be filmed while playing air bass deserves at least some of our contempt.

What “Sussudio” really does, more than anything, is remind us of its era. It is, to a comical degree, an artifact of the mid-’80s, when even middle-aged Genesis members who dressed (and danced) like insurance salesmen could try to be Prince. The song is so ’80s, I almost expect it to put on a pair of suspenders and start lecturing me about how greed is good. It’s so ’80s…well, it was a “personal favorite” of Patrick Bateman, Bret Easton Ellis’ quintessentially ’80s Wall Street serial killer from American Psycho, who can be seen enjoying the song in his own way in this decidedly-unsafe-for-work clip from the 2000 film adaptation:

So basically, the moral of this story is, anybody who unironically enjoys air bass probably has at least one woman’s severed head in his refrigerator. Listen to “Sussudio”–and keep your goddamn hands in your pockets–on the Spotify playlist below:


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