"Home" by Phillip Phillips
“The World From the Side of the Moon,” Phillip Phillips (19 Entertainment/Interscope)
Just when it seems the “American Idol” judges have completely upstaged the contestants, along comes the debut from the most recent winner to remind us what the show is supposed to be about.
Not that Phillip Phillips fits the traditional concept of a pop idol — he’s too down to earth for that — or that his debut, “The World From the Side of the Moon,” is without faults. But the humble singer and his endearing release are a welcome addition to the pop landscape.
Or rock landscape. Or maybe it’s some kind of folk/Americana landscape.
Phillips hasn’t been rolled down the same assembly line that made an incomprehensible mess of his predecessors, however. Unlike previous “Idol” contestants who have been shaped and reshaped by producers aiming for every demographic, Phillips mostly sounds natural and distinct in his groove. His voice is raspily appealing and his delivery methods make him something of a new generation cross between Dave Matthews and Jack Johnson, though he sounds more like he’s channelling Rob Thomas in Santana mode on the vibrant, horn-prodded “Drive Me.”
First single “Home” eclipses everything by most “Idol” alumni. As the song escalates from a soft country foundation into a Mumford & Sons mod-rock sound, it features a beautiful melody and simple lines like, “Know you’re not alone, cause I’m gonna make this place your home.”
“Home” isn’t a fluke: Phillips takes a confident, yet casual, stroll through the oomphed-up arrangement of “Get Up Get Down,” and the down-home charm of “Can’t Go Wrong” hinges on a big, fresh-sounding chorus. On the other hand, Phillips weaves timeless raw soul into the heart-tugging “A Fool’s Dance” and even throws in a bit of wailing.
The material does sometimes fail him with hokey lyrics and formulaic structure. And the production also occasionally lets him down, with some of the tracks feeling too cobbled together — as when an ill-fitting chorus is shoehorned into the mix, for example, or when overproduction produces a muddy effect.
Yet there’s nothing particularly bad on “The World From the Side of the Moon,” and Phillips’ delivery always shines.
And at age 22, he’s likely got plenty of time to improve.
Rating (five possible): 3-1/2