Tuesday, December 15, 2015

COLUMN: Collins

We live in a turbulent age. Sometimes, it's tough to stay positive in a world so prone to hostility and confrontation. Hatred can be found just about anywhere if you look for it. The news brings us tales of racism, sexism, homophobia, and ignorance on almost a daily basis. In many places, fighting and violence are the new norm. Heck, they were the old norm, too.

But every once in a while, a threat comes along that must force us to unite. A perfect society should be enriched by cultural differences, not torn apart by them. Only this way can we as a global village unite together and fight to preserve our way of life when something truly devastating is unleashed upon the land. One such threat is upon us now, and it's time we ignored our petty differences in order to rise together and secure a world that we can be proud to one day hand off to our children.

I speak, of course, of the recently announced un-retirement of singer/songwriter Phil Collins.

For far too many years, Phil Collins has plagued our fragile Earth. With his non-stop cavalcade of saccharine love ballads and milquetoast Motown covers, it's a wonder we survived the 1990s with our brain stems still intact. Thanks to some purported hearing loss (maybe he couldn't hear how awful he'd become?) and a desire to spend time with his children, the Collins threat was neutralized in 2011 and a grateful planet cheered.

Sadly, an interview in the new Rolling Stone confirms our darkest fears: Collins rises. Somewhere right now, in a mansion in Miami, he's building a recording studio and plotting his return. Obviously, this could bring about a new dark age in human history. Or worse yet, it could bring back the Nineties, and no one wants that.

When the Rolling Stone interview went public last week, an audible gasp of despair could be heard from sea to shining sea -- with one exception. Listen close, you can hear her cheering somewhere in the background behind that din of booing. It's your great aunt, and she's the only one happy about the return of Phil Collins. It's only a matter of time before Collins springs forth with his legion fanbase of everyone's great-aunts, hell-bent on once again taking over our airwaves with sappy ballads about lost love and social injustice. We must remain vigilant if we're to escape this fate.

Okay, in the interest of journalistic fairness, once upon a time, Phil Collins wasn't so bad. In fact, I'll go as far as to say he was pretty cool. As the founding drummer of the rock group Genesis, he was there for that band's amazing years. But that was when Genesis used to be fronted by Peter Gabriel. Back then, the band would dress up as druids and sing rad songs about snakes and ravens and supernatural castration. ("The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway," people. Check it out.)

But then Gabriel left and Collins took over as frontman. For a while, Genesis were still pretty great, despite taking a much more mainstream approach to things. The "Abacab" era put forth some amazing tunes that still get play on my iPod today. Collins took his first solo turn around this time with the "Face Value" album and the inexplicably amazing and super-creepy "In the Air Tonight." Who among us HASN'T air-drummed to the bridge of that song?

For well over a decade, we all loved Phil Collins. The guy could do no wrong. When the Live-Aid concerts happened, he played at the show in England and then hopped a Concorde to drum for Led Zeppelin hours later in Philadelphia and the whole world cheered. He even played a con man called Phil the Shill on "Miami Vice," and that was the epicenter of cool in the Eighties.

But somewhere along the way, things went a little wonky. "Sussudio" happened. "Invisible Touch" happened. And then, from the mozzerella-filled depths of Cheese Swamp, the ballads sprang forth, each one cheesier than the last. And they were inescapable. For a while in the early 90s, you couldn't turn on a radio or change a TV channel without running into one of Phil's vacuous slow songs predestined to put a quick stop to ANY good time it might possibly encounter. If there is a hell, mine has an elevator playing "You'll Be In My Heart" on infinite repeat.

Rumors ran rampant. Whether true or not, a story hit the press that Collins divorced his wife via fax. His 1994 move to Switzerland was seen by some as an effort to live in tax exile, which would be pretty hypocritical for a guy who once scored a #1 hit with a song about the world's homeless problem. The man we once loved became the pop star we loved to hate. The Guardian called him "un-stomachable" and the Daily Telegraph dubbed him "the most hated man in rock."

And now he's back, most likely to soon grab the brass ring as the most hated man in adult contemporary easy listening. We must remain strong. He could pop up anywhere. I'm foreseeing a new greatest hits album, maybe an exclusive at Target. I'm sensing an in-depth interview with Michael and Kelly. He could even step foot in the iWireless Center. My mom might want me to buy her tickets. My hard-earned money could one day contribute to the theme for "Tarzan 2."

Some people think that Phil Collins isn't dangerous. Some people think that Phil Collins should be legally available for recreational use. Those people are naive. While it's true that there are no documented cases of anyone fatally overdosing on Phil Collins, the truth is that Phil Collins is a gateway artist. What happens to your child when Phil Collins no longer satisfies the need for vapid balladry? Do you want your child moving on to Celine Dion or Michael Bolton? It's all a downward slide; before you know it, you're a (gasp) Richard Marx fan.

Just say no, people. Unless he starts un-sucking, this is one un-retirement I'll be un-enjoying.

No comments: