Phillip Phillips

Collateral

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Widely acknowledged as one of the finest of the American Idol winners, Phillip Phillips suffered the shrapnel from arriving too late in the show's run to turn into a true superstar. He came storming out of the gates with "Home," his coronation song for taking the crown in the eleventh season of American Idol in 2012, but once his 2014 sophomore set Behind the Light stiffed, he became embroiled in a lawsuit with 19 Entertainment -- another sign that he was hobbled by appearing on Idol late in its run, when all of the management contracts were ironclad. The suit was eventually settled out of court and Phillips switched labels, re-emerging in early 2018 with the valedictory Collateral. Not surprisingly, given the turmoil that arrived after Behind the Light, Phillips is in a sober mood on Collateral. That's not to say he doesn't indulge in lighter moments on the album: the heavy-footed stomp "Love Junkie" is played for grins and the soulful punch of "Don't Tell Me" isn't weighed down by somber intentions. Nevertheless, the overall impression of Collateral is one of an earnest artist seizing an opportunity to relaunch his career, so he's pouring his heart out without a care as to whether he looks foolish. Sometimes, that means Collateral can be a little stiff -- Phillips wants to be taken seriously, so he whittles away the levity -- but songcraft is song, whether he's attempting a delicate acoustic ballad ("Part of My Plan") or creating an accidental tribute to the sound of Seattle ("My Name," which splices Chris Cornell with Alice in Chains' "I Stay Away"). With the assistance of producers Dave Cobb, Nathan Chapman, and Ryan Hadlock -- a team that covers the singer/songwriter's bases from Los Angeles to Nashville -- Phillips winds up with an accomplished record that may exist slightly outside the confines of commercial music in 2017, but it's so assured in its intention and craft, Collateral overcomes such niggling nitpicking.

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