Gear Up: Is The New Fender Steve Lacy People Pleaser Stratocaster The People’s Choice?

July 7, 2023

Enigmatic and Grammy award-winning popstar Steve Lacy has been dubbed a new kind of Guitar Hero by fans, peers, and even GQ. From his start as a teenager with R&B group The Internet, his guitar prowess and musicianship have had him work with Kendrick Lamar, Solange, J. Cole, Blood Orange, Mac Miller, Vampire Weekend, Foushee, and others. Recently stepping into the spotlight with his album Gemini Rights, Steve’s music, unique style, and personality have made him a social media darling. So it’s not a big surprise that Fender, who has recently been tapping into the next generation of musicians, was interested in working with him. In May, Fender released the People Pleaser Strat, Steve Lacy’s artist signature guitar. We have been putting it through its paces and are here to see if the People Pleaser lives up to the name.  

The Guitar

The People Pleaser seems to be the newest physical manifestation of Fender’s drive to create guitars with nods to the past for modern players creating the music of the future. A business plan that, if it works, will bridge the gap between traditional and modern guitarists. The most prominent example of this in action on the new Strat is the Chaos Burst finish. At first glance, it looks like the typical Sunburst, but upon closer inspection, the striking pink-purple addition lets you know this isn’t your dad’s guitar. Being made in Mexico and the Player Plus Pickups might give the impression it’s a tweaked Player Plus strat, although the specs remind me more of the American Professional series. It features an Alder body with a comfy modern deep “C” glossy neck. The 9.5” radius maple fingerboard is a good in-between for the vintage 7.5” or the 12” on the Player Plus. Add narrow-tall frets and the neck aims for that Goldilocks spot between a little curve to help fretting but a little flatter to help with embellishing. To add some personality, the fingerboard has pearl dots and double 6 dice inlays for the 12th fret marker. It also has a custom neck plate with a Steve Lacey sketch and a checkerboard pattern back plate. It also comes in a vintage-style hard case with a cool green interior, a nice touch for this price point. 


The Sounds

The People Pleaser comes with a trio of Player Plus Noiseless single-coil pickups. The Player Plus pickups have received rave reviews for their clarity, responsiveness and variety of tones. These are no exception. The guitar has excellent resonance and presence. And the versatility of the pickups shines through, giving you everything from R&B to Rock. It has that chimey, clean neck pickup or that quacky 4th position that makes a Strat a Strat. But the Chaos Fuzz Circuit sets this guitar apart from any other Strat. 


The People Pleaser is not the first guitar to get an internal fuzz circuit. There have been a few, including some boutique builders, who have done it. Even Fender toyed with it back in 1989 when Japan Fender made the Heartfield RR 9. So how does it work? The usual Strat electronics feature the typical 5-way switch and 3 knobs. The advanced electronics in the SSS configuration of Player Plus and the American Professional would allow for a pseudo-semi-wide-range humbucker or activating all three pickups by manipulating the tone knob that would activate the neck pickup in positions 1 and 2. For the People Pleaser, the button in the tone knob activates the fuzz circuit and gives you a bit of a boost in volume. That tone button then controls the volume of the fuzz, and the first tone knob now controls the tone of the fuzz. An internal fuzz can seem a little gimmicky, but it’s a cool addition for those who want to jump into a solo sound quickly. So it does the fuzz thing. But it took me a little bit to figure out how to get it where I wanted it. Once I did, pleasantly surprised. I was worried that a fuzz called chaos would sound like bees and crickets reenacting West Side Story but while it can get there, it didn’t sound out there. With a little tweak, there was Hendrix, and a little more, there was Prince. Positions 3 and 4 with the fuzz engaged through a tube amp sounded great. And also, it sounded good through my Vox Pathfinder. So yes, it does well with Solid State amps too.

The Verdict

The People Pleaser Stratocaster is a cool guitar that shows that Fender is looking for ways to move creativity forward by giving players more tools at their fingertips. I like the design, and the unique aesthetic choices make it fun. There are so many Strats on the market, and a sunburst to me screams old school, so the pink gives it a little something. I like the mesh of vintage and modern specs and think it makes for a good-feeling guitar. I love the Player Plus Pickups. They are bright, articulate, spanky, and very versatile. I am not a fan of the glossy neck. My guitar tech and I hate the butt trust rod adjust.  That is a vintage spec I could have done without. I also would have personally preferred locking tuners over vintage-style ones. But if there is a key reason you’re buying the People Pleaser over another Strat-style guitar, it’s the fuzz circuit. Now if the fuzz is worth it depends on the circumstances and your perspective. I think the Chaos Fuzz gives you some usable tones and sounds cool for what it is. But to me, what sets a fuzz circuit apart is not only the distortion but the control that can be achieved. Does it clean up well? Can you still back off the guitar’s volume and get a nice driven clean? How much control do the controls give you? After messing with the guitar for a while, I learned how to draw out some of the tones I wanted. But for me, it was easier to dial in on a pedal. That might not be a matter of function so much it is familiarity. So do you see the People Pleaser as a moded American Professional with a free fuzz circuit, or is it a Player Plus with vintage and modern specs and a fuzz circuit? Or does it matter because you already have a fuzz pedal? I have 3 fuzz pedals, and I kept returning to this part of the review because I wasn’t sure if I’d rather have the internal circuit or the pedal. And if the choice was based on utility, novelty, or comfort? To be honest, I’m still straddling the fence. Ultimately, if you’re journeying into fuzz, a Fuzzmeister, a Steve Lacey stan, or a guitarist that wants something a little different, the People Pleaser has more than enough to make you stand out amongst the tons of S-style guitars on the market. Available at



Price: $1399

Body: Alder

Body Finish: Gloss Polyester

Neck: Maple

Fingerboard: Maple

Neck Finish: Gloss Urethane

Neck Shape: Deep “C”

Scale Length: 25.5″ (64.77cm)

Fingerboard Radius: 9.5”

Number of Frets: 21

Fret Size: Narrow Tall

Nut Material: Synthetic Bone

Nut Width: 1.685″ (42.8 mm)

Bridge Pickup: Player Plus Noiseless™ Strat®

Middle Pickup: Player Plus Noiseless™ Strat®

Neck Pickup: Player Plus Noiseless™ Strat®

Controls: Master Volume, Master Tone, Fuzz Output Volume

Switching: 5-Position Blade: Position 1. Bridge Pickup, Position 2. Bridge and Middle Pickup, Position 3. Middle Pickup, Position 4. Middle and Neck Pickup, Position 5. Neck Pickup

Configuration: SSS

Bridge: 6-Saddle Vintage-Style Synchronized Tremolo with Bent Steel SaddlesAdjusto-Matic with Anchored Tailpiece

Tuning Machines: Vintage

Case: Vintage -Style Hard Case