I miss Leo Sayer.
Do you remember Leo? He was a pop star in the late 1970s and early 1980s, with a string of number one hits in the UK and the USA. Songs like You make me feel like dancing and More than I can say. He was one of the biggest music stars in the world. And he was ugly.
Remember Barry Manilow? Barbara Streisand? Bette Midler? Billy Joel? Bette Midler?
These were all pop stars. Back in the 70s and early 80s you could be funny looking, plain-looking, awkward or even downright ugly and still be a pop star. It was obviously not a disadvantage to be good looking, and I’m not saying there weren’t a plethora of gorgeous singing stars back then, but if you were an uggo, you at least had a shot. Jim Croce, John Denver, Tom Petty – none of them became famous because of their looks. If you had put all of the stars named above together in one room, it would have looked like the cast of the muppet show assembled for a photoshoot. You’d have big noses, floppy hair, coke bottle glasses and spandex stretched by flab to its breaking point. It would be awesomely awkward.
Here’s some of today’s pop stars: Beyoncé, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry, Bruno Mars, Selena Gomez. Notice anything different?
Where are today’s ugly pop stars?
Today, in order to become a famous pop singer, you have to be more of a model than a muppet. This is why I miss Leo Sayer.
Look at Leo. He was scrawny and his shoulders sat up too high on his torso, making him look as if he was perpetually shrugging. His most noticeable feature was the enormous pile of curly brown hair that sat on top of his head. He looked like a fuzzy lollipop, or a pez dispenser character wearing a wig. He had no personal charisma. He wore suspenders. He was a bad dancer. And on top of all of this, his songs were terrible. No, I’m not nostalgic for a song like You make me feel like dancing, which is a cheesy, pandering, over-produced and not in the slightest bit challenging or original.
So, given all that, why do I miss Leo Sayer? Because I pine, not for his music, but for his authenticity. He was awful, but there was no pretending that Leo Sayer was anything other than what he was – a cheesy man singing cheesy songs for people who like cheesy music. Today, pop stars aren’t allowed to acknowledge that they are cheesy. They’re not meant to be relatable. Their every move is perfectly blow-dried, stage-managed, gym-sculpted, choreographed and auto-tuned.
It must be a lot of work going to the gym every day to perfect your physique, coordinating your instagram postings with your social media guru, meeting with set designers, fashion consultants, dance choreographers, carefully-chosen tattoo artists, publicists and music video directors. It makes me tired just looking at how hard Mariah Carey works to make sure every image of her on her website has her cleavage lit and arranged just right.
It took more than 50 writers and dozens of technicians and producers to help Beyoncé’s create her album Lemonade. Justin Bieber has a famously large entourage that carefully manages his image, his clothing, his tattoos … his everything. And the result is still music that is no better, and no less cheesy than the songs of Leo Sayer.
So bring back Leo Sayer. He makes me feel like dancing. These modern pop stars, they make me feel like I don’t go to the gym often enough.