http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/ea6e40ae8003bbe6be0a0ff972aee4517c120806.jpg But Seriously

Phil Collins

But Seriously

Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 2 0
January 11, 1990

Phil Collins is a perfect example of the contemporary English megastar. He's personable, photogenic, witty, quotable and damn near ubiquitous, thanks to concurrent careers as Genesis frontman, solo singer-songwriter and sometime actor. Better still, he backs up that public image with precisely the sort of light, expressive voice and catchy, upbeat melodies tailor-made for American radio. As a result, Collins would seem to have everything a pop star would want, with one exception: respect. As far as the pop establishment is concerned, Collins is a lightweight, a fluff merchant, a man whose music rarely strays beyond such tried-and-true topics as love, longing and broken hearts.

That's an image he tries to put behind him with ... But Seriously, an album that avoids frivolity at all costs. Sure, there are romantic numbers, the usual tales of love gone wrong, but from "Colours," an earnest objection to apartheid, to "Heat on the Street," a muddled warning against political hypocrisy and urban unrest, the album's greatest energies are focused on social, not personal, problems. Instead of turning each tune into a short sermon, however, Collins puts his pop smarts to work and tries to make his point the same way he'd sell any other song idea — first by folding it into an easily rhymed lyric, then by wrapping it in a catchy but understated melody.

When it works, as it does in the homelessness tune "Another Day in Paradise," the album can be wonderfully involving. Trouble is, ... But Seriously just doesn't work often enough. What helps "Paradise" make its point is the way Collins personalizes the issue, homing in on that twinge of guilt most of us feel while trying to ignore street people, then grounding it with a naggingly effective hook. But none of the other songs manageès that immediacy. Whether in the "apartheid is bad" message of "Colours" or the "gosh, I still love you" sentiments of "Something Happened on the Way to Heaven," Collins seems mired in generalities and abstractions; there's nothing particularly personal about these songs, and that leaves the album annoyingly vague on the issues it raises, as if being concerned were somehow enough.

Worst of all, there's none of the simple, uncomplicated joy that has marked Collins's previous efforts. "Hang in Long Enough" may open the album with Collins's signature swirl of brass and percussion, but apart from the jazzy "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning," Collins seems to prefer the more somber colors provided by his synths. Maybe that's a part of the new, socially aware image ... But Seriously is meant to introduce. But frankly, Collins was a lot more fun — and effective — when he was frivolous.

Album Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Wake Up Everybody”

    John Legend and the Roots | 2010

    A Number One record by Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes in 1976 (a McFadden- and Whitehead-penned classic sung by Teddy Pendergrass) inspired the title and lead single from Wake Up!, John Legend's tribute album to message music. The more familiar strains of "Wake Up Everybody" also fit his agenda. "It basically sums up, in a very concise way, all the things we were thinking about when we were putting this record together in that it's about justice, doing the right thing and coming together to make the world a better place," he said. Vocalists Common and Melanie Fiona assist Legend on this mission to connect.

    More Song Stories entries »