- The Magazine
For the Arkansas-born Fancy Hagood, Southern Curiosity (★★★☆☆) is both a reinvention and a return to roots. While it’s technically a debut album, it comes from an artist who has toured with the likes of Ariana Grande and Meghan Trainor, not to mention come out with a Top 40 single himself. Already on a roll playing fast and loose with definitions, Fancy Hagood has also billed his debut as a coming-out album, explaining that while he came out as gay years ago, he is now fully ready to fully embrace his identity and Southern Curiosity is the product of that. While the record might stretch the definitions of both debut and coming-out, it succeeds as both, delivering a unique and compelling brand of queer, Southern pop-country.
Having left Top 40 pop behind, Fancy has developed a sound that is distinctly his own, albeit one with a slick, polished, and undeniably pop sensibility. Soaring, soulful ballads like “Either,” “Good Man,” and “The Answer” lean heavily on piano and strings and invite comparisons to the likes of Sam Smith and Calum Scott. His nods towards country music and the south are more subtle, often coming in the form of flourishes like the gospel organ and choral lines in “Don’t Blink” or the lofty, grinding electric guitars in “Another Lover Says.”
Subtle as those elements are, Southern Curiosity does have a distinctly southern, Americana feel to it that owes much to Fancy’s plaintive, drawling vocals. His voice is strong and expressive throughout, lending a lot of emotive weight to the album’s more melancholy tracks. Where it really shines, however, is on tracks like the rollicking “Casanova,” when his voice crackles with passion through an incredibly fun, stomping ode to the lovers we know are bad for us.
Like Fancy himself, Southern Curiosity is a distinctly queer product of the south. The album is full of reminiscing, yearning, and the feeling of quiet alienation, but Fancy allows his magnetic personality and wry humor to shine as well. Its best moments come when he captures the multifaceted, often messy nature of being gay in the south, whether he is recalling the innocence of kissing another boy under the bleachers on “Either,” recalling with an audible smirk his meeting “a man who smelled of leather” on Mr. Atlanta, or tapping into an honest insecurity, as he does on the refrain to “Casanova,” pleading with a man, “Sing me a love song, mister / Tell me I’m beautiful.”
As Fancy sings on the title track that closes out the album, “Say what you want about the life I’m livin’ / Don’t give a damn what you think about me.” In tying up Southern Curiosity with a sort of declaration of self, belted out over piano and gospel choir, Fancy nails down what makes his album so appealing — not only his queerness and Southern-ness, but also the ease with which he inhabits his own skin, an easy-looking self-assurance that has helped shape him into the bold artist behind this promising debut.
Southern Curiosity is available to stream and purchase starting Friday, April 9.
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