- Artist: Phil Collins
- Album: ...But Seriously
- Release: 9 October 1989
- Genre: Rock (Soft rock)
- Label: Atlantic / Virgin
- Writer: Phil Collins
- Producers: Phil Collins, Hugh Padgham
I'll be honest with you, this isn't the sort of song that easily lends itself to the type of reviews I specialise in. I guess the best I can do is start off the way I always do: with looking at the lyrics.
She calls out to the man on the streetSo, it's a song about homelessness. Alright, that is a serious problem, even in the first world. Heck, North Korea and the like would gladly take the opportunity to remind us that these problems are rampant in the US and its allies, gleefully ignoring the fact that such conditions are even more widespread in their own country - and to an even worse extent! ...But I digress.
"Sir can you help me?
It's cold and I've nowhere to sleep.
Is there somewhere you can tell me?"
He walks on, doesn't look backAnd here's the problem. The man whom the homeless woman is pleading to doesn't care, or acts like he doesn't care about her plight. You have to admit, this sort of thing happens all the time; we tend not to give much aid, physical or otherwise, to the needy because it wouldn't be convenient to us in the short term. Now, I'm not going to make any statements saying you shouldn't give change to the homeless on a regular basis, but I'm just trying to see it from as many points of view as possible.
He pretends he can't hear her
Starts to whistle as he crosses the street
Seems embarrassed to be there
Oh, think twice, it's just another day for you and me in paradiseHere's where the song starts to get a little... preachy. The chorus tells us that this is not a one-off occurrence, but takes place every day in the cities we live in. The same cities in which our lives are so good. ...Right? My point is, I think this song is trying to guilt-trip the listener into taking action to help the needy, a crime Collins has been guilty of before. Fun Fact: David Crosby (a.k.a. Melissa Etheridge's baby daddy) provides backing vocals on later repetitions of the chorus.
She calls out to the man on the streetI don't know about you, but I'm seeing a glimmer of hope in the second verse. She has the willpower and determination to keep trying to walk, no matter how badly her blisters are acting up and preventing her from doing so. That's so anime of you! ^_^
He can see she's been crying
She's got blisters on the soles of her feet
She can't walk but she's trying
You can tell from the lines on her faceAnd whatever hope is built up within the second verse is trashed by the third. So all things considered, my opinion on the lyrics is... two-sided. On the one hand, I will give genuine credit to Collins, for writing about the plight of the homeless. Seriously, bear in mind that there are many, many worse topics to base a song around. On the other hand, I don't entirely appreciate the way he goes about it. The modus operandi this time around seems to be Glurge, a device defined by TVTropes as "A story or message that is intended to be heartwarming or inspiring, but instead comes off as cloying and heavy-handed". Bear in mind that Collins himself has handled this subject matter much more subtly, in the Genesis single "Man On The Corner". But if I didn't know better, I'd say this song is trying to make you feel guilty by telling you that tragedy can take place in the settings we take for granted in our gifted lives.
You can see that she's been there
Probably been moved on from every place
Cause she didn't fit in there
So why do I not only not feel guilty when listening to this song, but continually take great pleasure in doing so? It's gotta be the music. Many parts of the song use these synth-keyboard bells layered on top of an acoustic guitar track, effectively giving us two melodies at once. Combine that with the echoing drum sound Collins is famous for, and it's just a beautiful sound. Striking this balance between electronic and live instrumentation is something nobody seems to bother doing anymore, and I guess that's part of what attracts me to whatever sub-genre this is from: it has a creative edge without being over-produced. This single won the award for Record of the Year at the 1991 Grammys, and I agree whole-heartedly. (With that in mind, I might even forgive them for the time they nominated Soulja Boy Tell'em, may his career burn in Hell.) Whilst my decision to call it my favourite song of all time is largely a personal preference, I wouldn't put it past you if you get turned on to it as well.
Lyrics: 3 out of 5
Music: 5 out of 5
Performance: 5 out of 5
The Call: 4 out of 5 (B)