Phillip Phillips: Over the Moon.
Phillip Phillips would probably tell you that he’s had an excellent 2012. After winning the latest season of American Idol back in May, his winning single, “Home”, became a huge and enduring hit in the States, still in the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100. That position, no doubt, was bolstered by the song’s placement during The Olympics coverage about the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team. It’s only the second debut top ten single at Top 40 radio for an Idol winner, the first one being “A Moment Like This” way back in 2002 for first season winner and now superstar Kelly Clarkson. With its folky sound and simple lyric, it’s been one of the leaders during a shift at radio where more left-of-center songs are becoming crossover successes, Phillips being one of them, even if he’s coming from such a mainstream show. So many people can just relate to the song and wanting to be in a place that’s their own. In short, he’s more than just a white guy with a guitar. He can do that and make hit singles that stand out in the market.
The second single off of his recent top 5 album, The World From The Side Of The Moon, will go to radio in early 2013 and the selection is “Gone, Gone, Gone”. The song was co-written by three people: Derek Furhmann, former lead singer of the band Omnisoul (you may remember their minor single from 2005, “Waiting (Save Your Life)”), Todd Clark, and Gregg Wattenberg, who has also worked with Daughtry, Five For Fighting, O.A.R. and Train. It was also produced by Wattenberg.
Now, titles with the same word repeated three times can be tricky. Some have become big hits in the U.S. with a good amount of longevity: “Baby-Baby-Baby”, “Bye, Bye, Bye”, “Fun, Fun, Fun”, “Say, Say, Say”, “Turn! Turn! Turn!”, etc. Some don’t and drop like a rock after they peak: “Blah, Blah, Blah”, “Money, Money, Money”, “Shame, Shame, Shame”, and the list goes on, but that’s a risk that Phillips is going to have to take with this release, which I’m sure he’s hoping ends up in the former category.
(By the way, trivia buffs, Phillips isn’t the first act to include the word “gone” three times in a song title that hit the top 40. Can you name the other? Find out the answer below. Hint: it has to do with the subtitle.)
Some critics have compared this second Phillips single to the band Mumford & Sons and their sound, which it certainly does vocally for the singer, but in terms of the arrangement, it sounds to me like more of something that the John Butler Trio would do. Whatever you compare it to, it’s a solid recording, combining some guitar, building drums, and a few faint strings in the background. Phillips sings about how he’ll be around even in times of danger, like “when enemies are at your door / I’ll carry you away from war.” Now, honestly, I’m not sure how much Phillips bench presses, but I wouldn’t advise picking up someone if they’re much heavier than he is. Nothing worse than throwing out your back, right? Phillips does make the ultimatum, however, that the girl has to do the same for him, and if he trusts in that, than he shall go through with it and protect her. The chorus provides a needed burst of energy, where the singer promises his girl that he’ll love her “long after you’re gone gone gone,” even when she’s been dismissed by other men. He also mentions something about a well being empty, but does anybody really use well water anymore? I mean, does the girl live like way out in the boondocks, because that probably isn’t going to fly for someone with national television exposure. Just sayin’.
Jokes aside, this is already a much stronger release than “Home”, just because it packs more of a punch than that safer lead single. It also cleverly incorporates the line, “Like a drum baby / Don’t stop beating”, amidst the noise of some banging drums. I don’t know if I would use it as a pick-up line, but I’ve heard worse. If you’re already a fan of Phillips, than you’ve heard this song at least a few times already. If you’re not a big fan of “Home”, than perhaps you should give the singer another shot with this release. The hook has a great sing along quality and I can already tell that it’s going to be a superb driving song. Get ready to crank it up on your stereo.
As for whether or not the song will actually be a hit or not, it’ll probably be a mid-charter, and prove those wrong that thought “Home” was a fluke. Once again, it’ll do best at Hot Adult Contemporary radio, where “Home” is still #2. His body of work is already stronger than some of the other works of other similar-type Idol winners (I’m looking at you, David Cook, Kris Allen and Lee DeWyze) but how high it climbs will probably be a matter of how long the folk sound is a relevant trend at mainstream radio. It’ll last through the GRAMMY Awards (where The Lumineers and Mumford & Sons are nominated), but after that, anything can and will change. We’ll just have to see if Phillips finds that “home” is where the chart is. –AFS
(Trivia: Did you guess what other song is long “gone” off the charts, but managed to used the word three times in its title? It’s “My Girl (Gone, Gone, Gone)”, which became the first top-40 hit for Canadian band Chilliwack in 1981. It just missed the top 20 on the Hot 100.)
Think another song should have been the next single? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter: @AdamFSoybel.