Phil Collins’ sixth studio album was released in October 1996. It was Collins’ worst-received and worst-selling album to date. As of this writing, the album is certified Gold in the United Kingdom and United States.
I have to be honest. I’m perfectly aware that at this point I have progressed beyond the period in Phil Collins’ career where I expect to find anything even remotely worth listening to. Both Sides was mostly a bummer, and from what I can tell, Dance Into The Light was a critical and commercial dud upon its release.
Judging by its title, I’m actually hoping that this is a forgotten gem, a brilliant concept album about a cheerful Doctor Kevorkian-esque figure. I’m trying not to get my hopes up, though, because if Phil Collins had actually released a rock opera focusing on euthanasia, I feel as though I would have already heard about it.
Dance Into The Light
This music video opens with Phil Collins literally dancing up a shadowy staircase into scary red light. He continues to dance while he begins to encourage everyone listening to “dance into the light” and “brush off the cobwebs of freedom”. By the time he starts crooning about the “train coming to carry you home” and the fact that “now we’re here, there’s no turning back”, the whole thing starts to feel a little less Kevorkian and a little more Jonestown. Are the colours at play in the video the same colours as the different flavours of Kool Aid that Reverend Phil has on offer? Perhaps.
“Dance into the Light” has a cheesy, goofy rhythm and is objectively a very bad song.
That’s What You Said
The title is unfortunately not the set up for a great series of sexual innuendo jokes. It’s just a boring love/heartbreak song. Sonically, “That’s What You Said” marks a bit of a departure for Collins, perhaps owing to the time period. This song sounds like a conscious attempt to ape REM, albeit very poorly. I can just imagine Phil Collins sitting around furious about the alternative music explosion, deciding that he wants to write some material that sounds young, and then picking the one alternative group full of people as old as him as the one he’ll emulate.
Anyway, this is bland and limp, but not completely unlistenable.
Embarrassing white person stabs at “world music” peaked in the 1980s and should have died there. “Lorenzo” is a fairly egregious example of this phenomenon, with Phil singing from the perspective of someone growing up in East Africa. I should concede that these lyrics were not penned by Collins himself, but I’m not sure that makes the song any less problematic. The song itself is a torpid slop pile of tribal drums and faux-uplifting choral vocals. Just awful.
A man who looks like Powder’s drunk uncle should not be singing “I’m going back to East Africa”, unless he is singing it in the context of “I’m going back to East Africa to face legal and financial repercussions for the big game trophy hunting that I’ve done there with my rich buddies”.
This song is not about Lorenzo Lamas. Strike three.
Just Another Story
Phil could have called this song “Just Another Story In Paradise”, as the verses bear a resemblance to that classic tune that is difficult to ignore. And, as with “…Paradise”, this is a “story-song” about sad people and the sad things that they do and oh my what is wrong with our world?!
It is impressive that in the mid-90s, Collins was still pedaling music that sounds so buried in the 1980s. This must have sounded dated as hell in 1996. In 2017, it just sounds like boring horseshit.
For those of you hoping that this song is a caper about a police squad that spends its days enforcing love laws, you’ll be sorely disappointed to learn that this song seems to just be about Phil Collins being sad about love things that have happened to him in his life. It would be better if it were about Phil Collins going to Love Jail for crimes against Sussudio.
This tune goes back to the REM-meets-urinal puck sound palate of “That’s What You Said”. I have to admit that – while terrible – this vibe is the best that this album seems to have on offer so far.
Wear My Hat
As a balding man, I’ve been waiting anxiously for Phil to write a song about coping with hair loss. We could all use a little bit of advice about our insecurities, and I must begrudgingly admit that Phil Collins is a very successful bald man.
This song is not about hair loss, though. It seems to be about wooing a girl, set to a tune that I would have titled “Shitty Labamba”. Peppiest song on the album so far, though.
It’s In Your Eyes
While I wouldn’t call “It’s In Your Eyes” captivating or even good, it is nonetheless a competent stab at middle-of-the-road guitar pop. Like a cheesier Goo Goo Dolls, if they were fronted by your embarrassing drunk uncle and playing on the back of a flatbed truck in the parking lot of the local guitar store that only sells Gibson knock-offs.
That’ll probably be the most positive thing I write in this post. This really isn’t going so well.
Oughta Know By Now
This sounds much more in line with the Phil Collins that we know and … know. Super-gated drums prop up a slinky groove that sounds like what the executives at K-mart would have marketed as “sexy”. When Phil takes it to the chorus and groans “All I’m tryna do is I’m tryna get next to you! Let me in! Let me in! Let me in!”, I can’t help but think “Now this is some Phil Collins and wow, I feel gross and scared!”
Pretty tasty guitar solo about mid-way through, and I’ve gotta admit that this might be both the best song and the most disturbing song on this album. 1996: The year that Phil Collins became a Marilyn Manson-caliber shock rocker.
Wait, he finally said that he’s wanting to be let into a girl’s heart. Okay, I misread this whole thing. Still gross.
Take Me Down
The opening of this track sounds has a “come on down” game show shuffle to it. That’s kind of ironic, because game shows hold the possibility of winning something, and nobody wins while listening to a mid-90s Phil Collins record.
I barely remember what this song sounds like and I’m still listening to it.
The Same Moon
Phil is singing about girls a lot, it seems. This was maybe still cute in the 1980s, but we’re deep into what must be his 40s at this point and he’s still writing like a lovesick little bald puppy.
Decent chord progression with actual minor chords about halfway through leads to some mild interest, but this still sounds like someone singing over the demo song on the world’s blandest Casio keyboard.
Fun fact: You can start to sing Savage Garden’s “Truly Madly Deeply” over top of this song, and it makes this song much better!
River So Wide
Rather than rail against the fact that this is another failed attempt to graft “world music” influences to the side of a rickety AOR pop-rock boat, I’d like to take this opportunity to say that Phil Collins is a terrible lyricist. This is written like an 8th grader’s prize-winning poem about how fighting with each other is bad.
No Matter Who
Well, this just sounds like a parody of a sitcom theme song. Fuck this record.
The Times They Are A Changin’
I guarantee you that Phil Collins decided to record this cover as he sat trembling in his easy chair following his first viewing Alanis Morissette’s video for “You Oughta Know”.
“Blimey,” he thought. “This bird is so angry, even though I’ve been peddling my tunes of positivity and human connection for fifteen years. Why haven’t I reached her?”
Determined not to be left behind in this strange new world, Collins decided to voice his support for progress by being an old white man recording a cover of a song written by an even older white man. To make it extra cool, he put some bagpipe in it. The Scots are typically on the bleeding edge.
This is despicable.
This is easily the worst Phil Collins album that I have heard thus far. The closest that this album gets to having a good song on it is a very bad cover of an already existing pretty good song. From what I understand, this album was his first solo outing after having finally left Genesis, which he had been fronting since the departure of Peter Gabriel. All of that extra time off… really didn’t pay off here.
All of the “African” music on the album plays terribly, and makes it seem as though Phil witnessed Elton John’s involvement in The Lion King‘s soundtrack and got very jealous. The craziest thing is that his gambit seemed to pay off, as he was tapped to do the Tarzan soundtrack later on in the decade. I’m sure that Tarzan is chock full of really stellar “white dude showing the jungle how to music” material, but I’m not going to cover that soundtrack because I care about my personal well being.
The bottom line on Dance Into The Light: Boring, dated and limp, this album utterly ignores the compelling Collinsverse developments of earlier Phil Collins releases and squanders the dark potential of a Phil Collins euthanasia concept album.