Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Why Phil Collins Is Overrated

I have a problem with Phil Collins. Not Phil Collen, the man who single-handedly carried Def Leppard's guitar work through most of the 80's and 90's, but Phil Collins, the man who wrongly carries the brunt of the blame for ruining Genesis in the 80's. I don't dislike all of Phil Collins' end products. He's a rather funny man, and his work with Genesis, while encumbered by Tony Banks' domineering need to turn the once insanely inventive progressive rock band into a mediocre 80's synth-pop rock band, was still pretty good. Plus, he's a highly energetic and fairly emotive singer. I'll give him all of that.

My main problem is with his solo work. Okay, Phil Collins is this amazing drummer who has repeatedly proven his chops with each subsequent Genesis, Peter Gabriel, etc. album on which he played drums. Why, oh God, why does 95% of his solo songs have drum work that sounds as if it was produced entirely on an 80's Casio? All of his music is synthesized. This man is reputable for being able to play drums, guitar, bass, piano, brass, woodwind, etc., but all of his music could just as easily been made with the same instrumentation as was used on the original Super Mario Bros. game for Nintendo, only with his voice crooning and screaming over it.

Speaking of his voice, what the fuck happened to your voice, Phil? Remember back in the days of A Trick of the Tail and Wind and Wurthering, when you could sing? (Those are the first two Genesis albums after Phil Collins took over vocal duties after the departure of Peter Gabriel in the mid-Seventies. Yes, Genesis existed before 1980. They were quite a bit better back then, too. You should really check them out.) "But Phil Collins is such an emotional singer!" you might cry out from the very depths of pop music hell. So what? So is Bruce Dickinson, and he can hit more than three notes with his voice.

Finally, there comes his lyrical prowess. Every solo album he releases can be summed up as follows: If each had only ten songs, eight would be sappy love songs, one would be a social commentary or anthem of personal triumph over tragedy, and the other might be a fun, party song, but only if it isn't the ninth sappy love song. Even his first two real stabs at solo songwriting for the Miami Vice soundtrack, "I Don't Care Anymore," and "In the Air Tonight," which were long-thought to be some heavy and prolific songs about frailty, failure, and regret, turned out to simply be written about his divorce. More sappy love songs. Thanks, Phil.

Do I hate Phil Collins? Absolutely not. I don't even really detest his solo albums too much, and his work with Genesis is undeniable. My only problem with Phil Collins is that I don't think he's the "musical genius" that some people have built him up to be. He's a decent singer, an amazing drummer, (apparently when not drumming for himself, though), and an almost indomitable performer. But as a songwriter? Eh. To place him up against a jury of his peers: Peter Gabriel is an incomparably more talented songwriter, singer, and performer, and even Ray Wilson's last solo outing, The Next Best Thing, was more impressive of an album than anything Phil Collins has produced by himself in the last twenty years.

So thank you, Phil Collins, for marking your name on twenty-four years of synthesized crap. Enjoy your retirement.


Blogger AGlowingMind said...

You've forgotten to mention Mr. Collins' crowning achievement: Frauds! Man, I love that movie.

9:06 PM  

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