Recently Added: Phil Collins

We’re back with another installment in “Recently Added,” and today’s featured artist is Phil Collins (whose work I’ve spotlighted here before in a “Questions and Answers” entry). Collins is, in my opinion, one of the best singer/songwriters in pop music, but critics by and large don’t seem to agree. However, he has enjoyed great popular success, both as front-man for the 80s lineup of the British band Genesis and as a solo artist into the 90s. A master drummer, he wrote with a profound sense of rhythm, yet also had a keen ear for melody. His lyrics are often criticized for being overly sentimental, and maybe there’s some truth there. But I feel that more often than not, he made things work that would just fall apart in a less skilled artist’s hands. Having loads of talent always helps.

One of the most touching performances I added to my ipod recently is this acoustic rendition of a song he wrote in Genesis called “Since I Lost You.” It was written with his band-mates as a reaction to the tragic accidental death of their guitarist Eric Clapton’s little boy. Here Collins shares the story in his own words:

Some other recently added gems include “Strangers Like Me,” (from Disney’s Tarzan soundtrack), two rare B-sides (“High Flying Angel” and “It’s Over,”) and “Hero,” a collaboration with David Crosby. “Strangers Like Me” instantly caught my ear, first for the rhythm and second for the fresh chord changes, while “It’s Over” is a gorgeously sparse, introspective reflection on lost love. I love the way the bagpipes come out of nowhere in the middle of the quiet piano. “High Flying Angel” blends poignant lyrics about death with an exciting, fresh soundscape. But it’s “Hero” that I really haven’t been able to get enough of lately. Its exact inspiration is a mystery, but the lyrics seem to be telling the story of a father who has failed his family in some profound way. It powerfully and poignantly captures a man’s deep-seated desire to be the hero his family needs, like the hero of his child’s storybooks. I don’t toss around the phrase “great song” too often, but I’d say this one qualifies:

And the reason that she loved him

Was the reason I loved him too

And he never wondered what was right or wrong

He just knew

He just knew…

Collins’ versatility comes through even just in this quick sample, and there’s a lot more where it came from. Even if you write Christian pop, you can learn a lot from studying this guy’s craft. Just look at what he does with melody, rhythm and chord structure. This is what good pop music should sound like.

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