Song 55: Phil Collins, “I Wish It Would Rain Down” (1989)

phil c but seriously

This was another one I first heard on the school bus. Why, as a third grader, was I obsessed with a midtempo song, sung by a 38-year-old bald man, about a very adult-sounding relationship? We may never know, but again, I was a very old young man. (The only age-appropriate thing about this memory is that my friend Brad and I had a joke about the album’s title: we’d rename it “Butt Seriously” and then laugh for a solid five minutes. Ha ha. Butts.)

Furthermore, why, as a 33-year-old, do I still like this song? “In the Air Tonight” is a much cooler Phil Collins song, and “Against The Odds” is a better written one. But I always come back to “I Wish It Would Rain Down.” One thing I like about it is an element that it shares with Bob Dylan’s “Queen Jane Approximately”: a moment when the bass stays on the fifth and different chords are played on top. I explained that a little bit in my “Queen Jane” post last month, so I won’t go into it much here. But in the case of “I Wish It Would Rain Down,” it’s the moment when Collins sings “rain down”: the bass note is playing something different from the chords. It gives the chorus a little added drama.

I had never seen the video for “I Wish It Would Rain Down,” and hoo boy. It is a big bowl of ridiculous. The great Jeffrey Tambor has a speaking role, as does Eric Clapton, who says of Collins’s character, “He used to be the drummer in a really good band, and when the singer left, he took over.” (Just like how Peter Gabriel left Genesis, so Phil Collins took over, get it? GET IT??? Ugh.) You are a pretty good guitar player, Eric Clapton, but you will not be winning any Oscars anytime soon. (Unlike “Billy” Collins, who wins an Oscar in his imagination, before the big twist ending.)

The rest of …But Seriously (heh heh, butts) is typical ’80s schlock: the pandering let’s-care-about-the-homeless track “Another Day In Paradise”, and the nostalgia-mining “Do You Remember” (whose video features time travel and a producer saying “Your root beer float’s here, and there’s a phone call for you”–the eighties!!). But there’s something subtle about this track, which is a strange thing to say about a song in which Phil Collins basically sings gospel. I’m not sure I can explain it any better than that: a song I like features Phil Collins singing gospel. Musical taste is a very personal thing.

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