Hall and Oates could've easily followed the protocol established on their breakthrough Voices, done nothing else, and watched 1981's follow-up Private Eyes scale the charts. Yet the duo continues to press forward, further refining the era-defining stylistic mélange that propelled them to mass stardom a year prior. The creative and artistic peak of the all-time best-selling male duo's output, Private Eyes delivers relentless pop bliss and functions as an instruction manual that, as Rolling Stone opined, still teaches "the way to make rock girls, disco girls, and new-wave girls scream together."
For the first time, listeners can get inside the songs' internal mechanisms by experiencing first-hand the vast surfeit understated sonic effects. Well-appointed tones now grace the array of guitars, pianos, basses, and voices placed against synthesized backdrops. Each member's singing also claims enhanced intimacy and balance.
Advancing their rhythmic support and melodic symmetry, Hall and Oates give extra space to their still-underrated backing band, affording the material a muscular punch and organic warmth crucial to their success and ability to transcend the largely artificial era. While the tandem's peers often relied on robotic mechanisms and now-dated keyboard noises, Hall and Oates wisely merge the period's savvy sounds with tried-and-true soulful instrumentation.
Reflecting the album's infallible level of quality control, no song disappoints. The three Top 40 singles – the title track, "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)," and "Your Imagination" – feature clever elements such as hand-clapped choruses and staccato piano lines. The distinctive traits complement the duo's hallmark harmony vocals and add R&B flavors to already-scintillating pop concoctions. Yet Private Eyes' pleasures advance well beyond the radio singles.
Whether witnessed via the taut tension of "Some Men," reggae-splashed "Tell Me What You Want," or Motown homage "Looking for a Good Sign," the group's blend of dance vibes, electrifying hooks, keyboard loops, and sleek beats epitomizes seduction, style, and swagger. Private Eyes is an 80s juggernaut that hasn't lost a step. Utterly classic.