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Best Phil Collins Songs: 20 Solo Hits That Defined The 80s
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List & Guides

Best Phil Collins Songs: 20 Solo Hits That Defined The 80s

From unassuming everyman to the unlikeliest of global superstars, the best Phil Collins songs managed to conquer the world… against all odds.

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For the majority of the 80s, Phil Collins was inescapable. Not a natural fit amid a sea of flashy MTV megastars, the 30-something Genesis frontman went solo in 1981. Launching a full-on assault on the airwaves, he became one of the best-selling male artists of the decade. With 150 million records sold worldwide to date, the drummer turned singer unequivocally deserves to be recognised as a music icon who defined the 80s like no other pop star. Here is our list of the 20 best Phil Collins songs from across his hugely successful solo career.

Listen to Phil Collins’ greatest solo tracks, and check out our best Phil Collins songs, below.

20: It’s In Your Eyes (1996)

The second single from his 1996 album, Dance Into The Light, saw Phil Collins kick up his heels with a guitar-driven tune in an effort to adapt to the popularity of Britpop. With a melody resembling Any Time at All by The Beatles, Phil Collins even went to the lengths of borrowing Paul McCartney’s left-handed guitar, which he can be seen playing in the music video. However, not everyone was impressed with Phil Collins for posing as a guitarist …

The singer remembers bumping into Noel Gallagher while on holiday in Mustique. Inviting Noel to jam with him onstage, the Oasis songwriter flat-out refused, and Noel’s then-wife Meg criticised Collins, telling him he wasn’t a guitarist and he wasn’t fooling anyone. Despite the embarrassing encounter, Phil remains stoic: “I do feel close to Oasis’s Noel Gallagher,” he recalled, “insofar as he loves slagging me off.”

19: Everyday (1994)

One of Phil Collins’ best songs of the 90s, Everyday was written during a troubled period when his marriage to Jill Tavelman was failing. An easy-listening piano ballad, it saw Phil Collins singing about the relationship coming to an end (“And so the light fades away/Try, try, try as I may/I can’t stop thinking about you/It seems my life’s worth nothing without you”).

Like other songs on his 1993 album, Both Sides, Phil Collins played all the instruments on Everyday, and he was seemingly aware of the impact this record would have on his personal life. “If I’ve done my job properly and written movingly from the heart, I’m fearful that as soon as Jill hears Both Sides, our marriage will implode,” Collins recalled. He was right – the couple broke up in 1994 and divorced two years later.

18: Hang In Long Enough (1990)

Kicking off Phil Collins’ fourth album, … But Seriously, the hip-shaking Hang In Long Enough was released in September 1990 as the record’s sixth single, and reached No.34 in the UK. The music video featured Phil and his band playing the song on an ocean liner, which eventually hits an iceberg and sinks due to the music being too loud.

With cheery synths and Chic-flavoured funk guitar tones, the song owes its appeal to The Phenix Horns – the quartet famous for being the horn section in Earth, Wind And Fire – who imbue it with infectious, danceable energy. This wasn’t the only time The Phenix Horns had played with Phil Collins. They had been close collaborators since his debut album, and had even played with Genesis on Abacab.

17: If Leaving Me Is Easy (1981)

In a demonstration of Phil Collins’ musical versatility, his third solo single, If Leaving Me Is Easy, is a sedate smooth jazz number on which Eric Clapton reportedly played guitar in a drunken haze (though he plays with such restraint, you’d barely notice). Nonetheless, it’s a magical moment of slow lugubriousness.

As one of many songs on Face Value about the singer’s divorce from his first wife, Andrea Bertorelli, Phil Collins appeared on Top Of The Pops to perform If Leaving Me Was Easy, and cheekily placed a pot of paint on top of his keyboard to make a sly dig at Bertorelli for having an affair with a painter and decorator. Easily sailing in at No.17 in the UK, and remaining one of the greatest Phil Collins songs of the 80s, we can be thankful this collaboration between Collins and Clapton wasn’t their last.

16: Dance Into The Light (1996)

When Phil Collins quit Genesis in 1996, he was eager to reassert himself. The UK No.9 hit Dance Into The Light was a Youssou N’Dour-esque worldbeat stomper quite different from anything he’d done before, rejuvenating Collins’ sound with Caribbean percussion and Afrobeat-inspired sunny optimism. “Now that I’m a full-time solo artist,” Collins said of this period, “I’m determined to fly that freedom flag as high as possible and mix it up.”

What comes across most of all in Dance Into The Light is that Phil Collins is feeling much more optimistic about the future than he was on Both Sides, swapping out the maudlin ballads in favour of upbeat, polyrhythmic pop bangers. This late-career burst of brightness and colour would serve Collins well when he was invited by Disney to write the soundtrack album for Tarzan.

15: Both Sides Of The Story (1993)

Both Sides Of The Story is a brave exercise in empathy written just prior to Phil Collins’ split from his second wife. Though it’s obvious the song was inspired by his imminent divorce, Collins implores the listener to understand another’s point of view, whatever the circumstance – whether it’s a homeless man struggling with alcoholism, or a kid from the ghetto toting a gun.

Unlike the angry and embittered songs he wrote for Face Value after his first divorce, Both Sides Of The Story deserves credit among the best Phil Collins songs for being a more emotionally mature expression of the singer’s frame of mind. Instead of lashing out, he couches his regrets and his loss in more philosophical terms. In doing so, not only did this single reach No.7 in the UK, but it revealed just how far Collins’ songwriting had evolved.

14: Don’t Lose My Number (1985)

As if penning an homage to Steely Dan’s 1974 hit Rikki Don’t Lose That Number, Phil Collins reached No.4 in the US with Don’t Lose My Number, a dynamic synth-pop earworm tailor-made for soundtracking long drives in soft-top sports cars. The song revels in the same fun and vigorous spirit of Tommy Tutone’s power-pop anthem 867-5309/Jenny.

However, instead of Jenny being harassed by phone calls, in this song we focus on Billy, a runaway acquaintance who Phil hopes will one day pick up the phone and speak to him. Quite what Billy’s on the run from is never made clear, but it’s possible the song draws on the same classic rock trope established by Bruce Springsteen on Born To Run. Never released in the UK, Don’t Lose My Number remains an underrated classic among the Phil Collins’ best songs.

13: Do You Remember? (1990)

For a man responsible for one of the most iconic drum breaks in history (In The Air Tonight), Phil Collins’ 1990 single Do You Remember? saw him ditch the sticks to create one of his most mesmerising soft rock ballads on a drum machine. “When I wrote this, people were starting to tire of drum machines,” Phil later said, “but sometimes they create a hypnotic effect.”

Kept airy by a tender electronic beat and a memorable refrain, the song’s working title was Lionel, which suggests the success of 80s soul legend Lionel Ritchie had goaded Collins into competing against him as a balladeer. Despite reaching No.4 in the US, Do You Remember? is overlooked by casual fans, tending to be missed out in favour of One More Night. Frankly, it deserves to be played more often.

12: Two Hearts (1988)

While filming scenes for his starring role in the 1988 movie Buster, Phil Collins hooked up with legendary songwriter Lamont Dozier in an Acapulco hotel to write songs for the soundtrack. This collaboration resulted in Two Hearts, a soul-inspired throwback which immediately took its place among the best Phil Collins when it entered the US chart at No.1. (The movie the song featured in, however, fared less well and is remembered today as an infamous box office flop.)

Interestingly, Two Hearts wasn’t the only song Collins composed with Lamont Dozier that day. The pair also co-wrote Loco In Acapulco, which was handed to Motown legends The Four Tops, giving the band their first UK Top 10 hit in several years. Phil Collins even played the drums on that record; for a long-standing Motown fan, it was no doubt a dream come true.

11: One More Night (1985)

The lead single from his 1985 album, No Jacket Required, One More Night was a soft rock ballad so minimalist it’s almost surprising it became such an instant hit. Capitalising on the earlier success of Against All Odds, this downcast slow-burner became Phil Collins’ second US No.1 and saw him pair his soulful vocals with a Roland TR-808 drum machine.

As understated as it is heartfelt, One More Night does have its critics, mostly because its sparse instrumental jars with the romantic longing Collins aims to evoke, but by the time Don Myrick’s sax solo kicks in, it’s clear the track sits among the best songs by Phil Collins as a quintessentially 80s-sounding love song which captures the essence of the era.

10: Something Happened On The Way To Heaven (1990)

Having built a reputation as a hitmaker for Hollywood movie soundtracks, Phil Collins was asked by Danny DeVito to write a song for War Of The Roses, a black-comedy film about a bitter divorce battle. In response, Phil went away and co-wrote Something Happened On The Way To Heaven with guitarist Daryl Stuermer. Upon hearing it, however, DeVito reportedly disliked it and the song was put on the back burner.

Eventually finding its way onto Phil Collins’ fourth album, Something Happened On The Way To Heaven was eventually released as a single in 1990 to provide the singer with yet another Top 5 US hit. As an uptempo slice of R&B, it owes much of its success to the Earth, Wind And Fire horns and Phil’s delightfully uplifting chorus.

9: I Missed Again (1981)

On his second solo single, Phil Collins gave a nod to his 60s soul influences in the Motown drum fill which kicks off I Missed Again, a tongue-in-cheek musing on the angst he felt while going through his divorce. Aware that many of the songs on Face Value were outpourings of hurt and sadness, he attempted to make I Missed Again more amusing and self-deprecating – as evidenced by the music video, on which Phil goofs around playing invisible instruments.

Aside from its humorous intent, I Missed Again is an excellent songwriting composition, showcasing the very best of Collins’ drumming and given much levity thanks to The Phenix Horns. The song ended up reaching No.14 in the UK at the time and provided further proof that the best Phil Collins songs would provide life beyond Genesis.

8: Sussudio (1985)

Ironically noted for being serial killer Patrick Bateman’s favourite Phil Collins song in the novel American Psycho, Sussudio is a synth-funk single par excellence which bore more than a passing resemblance to Prince’s 1999. “It was influenced by Prince, of course,” Phil Collins later admitted, “and was the first time I worked with dance synth programmers.”

By trying to beat the new wave pioneers at their own game, the singer struck it big as Sussudio rocketed to No.1 on the US chart in 1985, forever cementing its status as one of the best Phil Collins songs. The word “sussudio” is essentially a gibberish title made up by Phil as he improvised syllables over a drum machine, though it didn’t stop Collins’ eldest daughter from naming her horse Sussudio after the song. Considering the galloping strides of its tempo, it’s hardly surprising.

7: I Wish It Would Rain Down (1990)

The tremendous power ballad I Wish It Would Rain Down has everything going for it: a full-throated Phil Collins vocal and an exceptional drum performance, Eric Clapton shredding his heart out on electric guitar, majestic bass-playing by Pino Palladino, and backing from a gospel choir singing with unbridled passion. It’s extraordinary to hear all these musical giants at the top of their game.

Peaking at No.3 in the US and No.7 in the UK, this bluesy single was an undoubted highlight on … But Seriously, with its remarkable production work and gargantuan sound easily marking it out as one of the best Phil Collins songs. Aside from Clapton’s incredible guitar-playing, what made I Wish It Would Rain Down so refreshing was to hear Phil Collins make use of a live drum kit once again, abandoning the drum machines in favour of ear-splitting frills and deafening cymbal crashes. A true master at work.

6: I Don’t Care Anymore (1983)

This bombastic single from 1983 may not have been Phil Collins’ biggest hit (it never charted in the UK and only reached No.39 in the US) but it did set the standard for his contemporary rock sound and garnered a Grammy Award nomination for his trouble. With its thunderous drum intro and caustic lyrics, I Don’t Care Anymore again finds Collins targeting his ex-wife as the source of all his woes.

Still smarting from his divorce, the sombre reflection on Face Value had been supplanted by a more wrathful, vengeful tone on his second album, Hello, I Must Be Going! As a result, I Don’t Care Anymore is an almost punky middle finger of a song, culminating in Collins repeating the words “no more” 17 times like a petulant child. It’s not big, it’s not clever, but it is brilliant.

5: Take Me Home (1985)

Inspired by Ken Kesey’s novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the lyrics for Take Me Home were written about a patient in a mental hospital (“I’ve been a prisoner all my life”). While not as successful as other contenders among the Phil Collins’ best songs, this 1985 single still entered the US Top 5 and benefitted from featuring Sting and ex-Genesis songwriter Peter Gabriel on backing vocals.

To date, Take Me Home remains the singer’s personal favourite song, and he usually sings it during the encore of every live show he has played since the mid-80s. Thanks to its tribal-sounding drum machine and gentle synth tones, Take Me Home is a soaring pop ballad with typically transcendent production from Hugh Padgham, exalting it as one of the very best Phil Collins songs.

4: Another Day In Paradise (1989)

The 1989 single Another Day in Paradise got a bad rap from critics for being heavy-handed and moralistic in how it tackled the issue of homelessness, but Phil Collins fans didn’t seem to mind. With another US No.1 single under his belt, this instant classic was a timely dose of social consciousness miles apart from Collins’ dance-pop days.

Horrified by how many people he saw living in cardboard boxes in the US capital of Washington, DC, Another Day In Paradise was written to raise awareness of people’s ignorance to the plight of the homeless. Over the years, Collins has also been known to collect money for homeless charities at his gigs, and even goes so far as to double the takings out of his own pocket. That’s (another reason) why he’s a legend.

3: Easy Lover (1984)

A duet rather than a solo effort, it would be a crime not to acknowledge Easy Lover as the greatest of all Phil Collins’ pop-rock anthems. While he was producing an album for Earth, Wind And Fire singer Philip Bailey, the two singers spent the final sessions recording this awe-inspiring song, which they initially called Choosy Lover. The next day, they sensibly decided to rename it Easy Lover and practically blew open the doors of MTV executives with its sheer brilliance.

“That song doesn’t sound like any particular era,” Phil Collins reflected. “It’s just fantastic. The hip-hop brigade fell in love with me after Easy Lover.” From its booming drum beat to its hair-raising guitar solo, Philip Bailey’s exceptional falsetto elevates the track well above most 80s rockers, earning its place as one of Phil Collins’ best songs despite never featuring on any of his solo albums. It’s truly unbeatable.

2: Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now) (1984)

When film director Taylor Hackford asked Phil Collins if he had any songs for the soundtrack of his new film, Against All Odds, the Genesis frontman had no idea that digging up an old outtake from his debut album would change his life forever. “I’d ignored Against All Odds when I was recording Face Value, viewing it as a B-side at best,” Phil remembers. “Then it becomes my first American No.1, wins my first Grammy and secures my first Oscar nomination.”

Arguably the quintessential 80s power ballad, Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now) is a bona fide classic. It went on to be covered in a duet by Mariah Carey and Westlife, and remains a staple song for wannabe X Factor contestants across the world. Of all of the Phil Collins songs, this one should be regarded as a modern standard which has stood the test of time.

1: In The Air Tonight (1981)

Surfacing in 1981 as Phil Collins’ debut solo single, In The Air Tonight was an immediately revolutionary, era-defining song which hit No.2 in the UK. Later featured in a Cadbury’s TV ad featuring a gorilla on drums, it continues to inspire younger generations for taking a moody, atmospheric lyric to breathtaking extremes by exploding into an earth-shattering drum break. “As for that drum fill,” Phil Collins remembers, “people ask about it all the time. It’s pretty cool, as that gorilla in the 2007 Cadbury’s advert would agree.”

In The Air Tonight was also responsible for popularising the “gated reverb” style of drum production Phil Collins originally pioneered with producer Hugh Padgham while working with Peter Gabriel. Soon enough, every 80s rock drummer would be following suit, so – as remarkable as it may seem – Phil Collins pretty much invented the 80s drum sound. For this reason alone, In The Air Tonight tops our list of the best Phil Collins songs, and remains a testament to his genius.

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