It took me an even longer time to decide who would be next to test on my Last-o-Meter. And after a lot of great movie and book reviews, I wanted to pick someone who I didn’t have good strong feelings for. The best place to start is one of my least favorite shows on television, American Idol. Granted Idol has produced Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson, and Carrie Underwood (all of whom I love), but for the most part I find it truly annoying because it cranks out a helluva of a lot of milque-toast, mediocre talent. One of the most recent of those talents is Philip Philips, who won season 11.
Yes, that is his real name, and he is a folky, country, rock-ish artist. When I first heard his hit song, “Home,” I honestly thought it was a Mumford and Sons or Avid Brothers song… oops. I just feel like he sounds like every other guy with an acoustic guitar. BUT maybe… JUST MAYBE I’m a little quick to judge, and he really is a true talent that will last. Let’s just see, shall we?
To start my Philips education I went to YouTube to look up his American Idol auditions, as those (as far as I know) are not auto tuned at all. For his initial audition, he sang Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.” Although I can not deny the fact that the boy can stay on pitch and has passion, I found myself making stank faces the entire time. He kind of stayed in this zone where you were worried that he would either start coughing up blood, from all of the growling, or go out of key. His speaking voice sounds NOTHING like his singing voice. It’s like night and day, which leads me to believe that he’s adding a lot of vocal affectations in order to have that in vogue sound.
Then, he picked up his trusty guitar… like any good Southern boy. He sings MJ’s “Thriller.” OK, I DO admit that it was a really cool take on the song. It’s like The Civil Wars’ version of “Billie Jean.” And his guitar playing was pretty darn good, but that’s where it ends. Again, something about his voice just isn’t on the nose for me. I love a good growl and an imperfect voice, but I just feel like he pushes and tries a little too hard. It’s like he’s painfully smushing himself into this box that the indie hipster kids love so much nowadays.
Philips also writes his own music, which is great… if you can write great music. Now, don’t get me wrong, he’s not writing Rebecca Black type music, but it’s just all stuff I’ve heard before. It sounds like the stuff that the boys in college would write to get into girls panties. There, I said it. Philip Philips wants to get laid. And for sweet young girls (tweeny boppers) who want a sweet southern gentleman, Philips is like the Country Barry White. But he ain’t foolin’ me… if you’re gonna sing, write, and play like you have some substance, then, damn it, you better have something I’ve not heard before.
OK, just to show that I’m not just here to just rip him to shreds, I will give Philips props for his live performances. He is consistent. He sounds pretty darn close to the record, and I know that he is singing live. I pulled up his performance of “Home” during the AOL Sessions. He is playing acoustic by himself… literally, no one else on stage with him, and he doesn’t sound bad. It’s not a concert that I would like to see, but I can see that the boy does deliver on some level. I will say too that he always needs to keep a guitar in front of him. A. He really is a good player. B. He is SO STRANGE when he doesn’t have something to do with his hands. He looks like he’s either being tickled to death or being electrocuted. Performing live is one of his better attributes, but still not enough to keep me engaged for an entire show or even an entire song…
Quality of Songs
I don’t hate folk/country; I just like other genres better, namely pop, rock, and R&B. And so, it’s a little difficult for me to listen to other genres, unless the song is of the utmost stellar quality. That’s not the case with Philips. Granted he did not write his two biggest hits “Home” and “Gone, Gone, Gone,” but I’m sure since he wrote most of his debut album that he had a little something to do with picking these songs. Again, they’re not bad… they’re just not good. And I feel that he’s riding on the coattails of the other folk artists right now, like Mumford and Uncles or The Avid Stepbrothers. Just not enough for me.
Originality and Style
Nope… just nope. I know that this southern sweetheart is from Podunk, GA, and he has been around nothing but country. But even in a genre that is as boxed in as country, you can still innovate. Look at The Jane Dear Girls. No seriously, look them up. I know that some of our readers might not be country fans, but these girls are so kick ass, that you don’t need to be. They are two sassy girls that blend southern rock, bluegrass, and country together to make a fantastical mix somewhere between The Dixie Chicks and Dolly Parton. And that’s the moral of the story here, they blend. There’s not really anymore new ideas or genres out there. What makes a great artist is a unique blend of different elements. And to be quite honest, I’ve heard QUITE enough of the folk/country/rock genre, thanks to Mumford and Daughters and The Avid Nephews.
I think that Philips looks like every other dude out there: white, with a cute little smile, wearing flannel and jeans. He’s a cute kid, but there’s nothing really special that makes me remember him. In fact, when I told most people that I was reviewing Philips for my feature, most of them said, “Philip Who?” Exactly. When most people hear his songs on the radio, they just assume that it’s Mumford and Mothers or the Avid Sister Wives. I did see his interviews, and he’s a quietly charming kid, but I just don’t see the pull. I think he’s just a kid who got lucky, being in the right place at the right time, at the height of this folk/country phase.
Being a singer/songwriter in the Nashville music scene, I’ve been to my fair share of open mic nights, writers rounds, and songwriter showcases. And every time I go to one of these things, I see the same exact thing: good looking, young guys with their acoustic guitar singing sweet songs about love and the ladies. And all of them are wearing flannel, jeans, and cowboy boots. Ugh, if I have to hear another song about how a girl’s smile lights up a room in a southern drawl, I will scream. I can only handle one artist singing sweet love songs, and that is Bruno Mars... but maybe that’s because to counteract songs like “Just the Way You Are,” he has naughty dirty songs that Prince would be proud of, like “Gorilla.”
Anyways, I know that Philips is young, but I don’t think that he will stick around long enough to develop into an unique artist. I think once this trend with Mumford and Nieces and The Avid Kissing Cousins dies out, so will Philips. But it’s alright cutie patootie, there’s always Celebrity Apprentice. One day, he might write some more mediocre country songs for the next up and comers, find a nice girl to marry, have a couple of kids, and open up a guitar shop. And then be on another Reality TV show when he needs more money… maybe Dancing with the Stars will still be on the air twenty years from now.
Agree? Completely disagree with me? Have another artist that you would like for me to dissect? Or, would like me to review a new album? Comment below and let me know. I’m here for you… kind of…