As we gear up for the 12th American Idol season here at BlindedBySound.com, I thought it was high time I get down to some long awaited and accidentally neglected Idol business: namely reviewing the debut album from last season winner's winner, Phillip Phillips. Propelled by the mega hit "Home," The World From The Side Side Of The Moon has soared beyond all expectations (well mine at least). It debuted at #4 on the Billboard 200 and has reached 596,000 in sales. It's not that I didn't find him to be a charming, talented young man; it's more that he won American Idol. That title doesn't ensure success or high album sales like we were tricked into believing after Kelly Clarkson's win and subsequent meteoric rise following the show's first season.
Phillips' debut effort is fairly standard and not wholly bad. It's one of the better albums we've seen come out of the Idol camp in years, from a male contestant at least. It's a lot of what you'd expect with a jammy, bluesy feel and a whole lotta rasp. PP's idol is Dave Matthews and if that wasn't abundantly clear last season, you won't walk away from this album not knowing that. My copy of the CD has 15 songs including a live version of "Home" and a sloppy, ill-advised, nearly unrecognizable version of Chris Isaak's sultry "Wicked Games." It's worth noting that Phillips wrote or co-wrote 10 of the songs and while the songs penned without him are the strongest of the bunch the others show him to have promise as a songwriter. At 22, the only place to go is up from here.
"Man On The Moon" leads us off and it starts with some sexy groaning and strumming, leading into lyrics encouraging us to stay true to ourselves and not to let our lives waste away. The unofficial song of the 2012 Summer Olympics "Home" is next and, despite Phillip discounting it in many interviews as too poppy and not his style, it fits in quite nicely. I actually wish the entire album was more this Mumford & Sons/Fleet Foxes flavor and less the Dave Matthews/JJ Grey feel.
While this song and its message "Just know you're not alone/I'm going to make this place your home" might be schmaltzy it's catchy and definitely a feel-good tune. The next song "Gone, Gone, Gone" is the album's second official single and another strong showing not written by the 22-year old. The lyrics "When life leaves you high and dry/I'll be at your door tonight if you need help, if you need help/I'll shut down the city lights, I'll lie, cheat, I'll beg and bribe to make you well, to make you well" don't mince words or leave anything to the imagination. This is clearly a person Phillip feels deeply about and implores of her to do the same for him should he need it. It really picks up in the chorus "Like a drum my heart never stops beating for you, And long after you're gone, gone, gone/I love you long after you're gone, gone, gone."
The next three songs: "Hold On" (written solely by Phillips) , "Tell Me A Story," and "Get Up Get Down" have strong Dave Matthews brushstrokes all through them especially the latter which PP was a co-writer on. This is where the album turns into not just an undercover Dave Matthews lovefest but a full blown, unabashed one. "Hold On" is exactly as its title suggests - a song to get you through a dark period. Where "Story" is pretty forgettable, "Get Up" is a darker, dirty Southern rocker with a good amount of grit to it and it's fairly enjoyable.
The next few songs are much of the same but, unremarkable. The writing is solid and the themes are pretty sweet, loving and uplifting. Where my attention was recaptured was when the Phillips original "Hazel" starts up and it's simple yet intricate playing with his sensitive good guy lyrics layered throughout. "I know you've moved on without me girl, but I still think how the time it moves so fast...but, it all stopped when you said 'not for now'" are good breakup lyrics no matter what end you're on and kick me in the gut each time I hear it.
The "Wicked Game" cover is next which I encourage you to skip unless you have some self-loathing issues to work out. The live version of "Home" closes us out and is the perfect bookend to this 15 track jam-fest with a bit of an identity crisis. Upon my first listen to the disc I heard flashes of brilliance and some fun tunes, that sound just like a young Dave Matthews was singing them (am I beating a dead horse yet?) and thought to myself "This is exactly the album I wanted previous winner Lee DeWyze to do." His voice isn't unique but it's good and not a copy of an artist who isn't even currently relevant. But enough about that guy, my advice is if you like a good Southern rocker, whether you've been a Phillip Phillips fan or not, you won't be disappointed with this freshman outing by someone almost too good to be labeled a former Idol winner.