It's a big week for American Idol season 11 winner Phillip Phillips, whose debut album, The World From the Side of the Moon, was released on Monday via Interscope Records.
Marking the occassion: a flurry of TV appearances, including ABC's The View, Late Night with David Letterman and the American Music Awards, where the Leesburg, Georgia native rubbed shoulders with the likes of Justin Bieber.
“I saw the Biebster,” Phillips said of his AMA experience. “50 Cent walked by me, and Usher. I can’t believe I am breathing the same air as them.” And the star power didn't stop there -- after Phillips' Letterman appearance, he tweeted that he had spent a good part of the evening being chatted up by rock legend Pete Townsend.
As for his own career, Phillips is already off to a good start, with the lead-off single, “Home,” officially a radio smash, and in a truly you-have-arrived moment: as a mashup moment on the Thanksgiving episode of Glee airing Nov. 29.
Produced by Gregg Wattenberg, who previously worked with Train and O.A.R., Phillips channels his inner Dave Matthews on The World From the Side of the Moon with introspective tracks about relationships and aspirations. Among the highlights: songs like, “Gone, Gone, Gone, “Tell Me a Story” and the album opener “Man on the Moon.”
Critical reviews have been positive and mainly centered on Phillips “potential" in light of the "generic pop that these reality competitions sometimes spawn.”
Read below to see what music critics are saying about the album:
Gary Graff of Billboard compared Phillips' style and tone to Matthews', but also notes that the Idol champ, "Sounds natural enough within that style, more acolyte than imitator, which makes the album one of the more engaging champion debuts in the show's inconsistent history."
Emily Tan of Idolator writes: "Working with a slew of backup musicians to form a full and big sound, including brother-in-law and guitar teacher Ben Neil, some parts of the album unsurprisingly remind the listener of bands like Dave Matthews Band and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. This should make for a fun and high energy live show when he takes the album on the road. Probably taking a tip from Mumford & Sons, 'Gone, Gone, Gone' has that 'jam band you can take with you to the pub for a couple beers' vibe, or perhaps it would fit as a bonfire singalong."
Glenn Gomboa of Newsday praises Phillips’ artistic side, commenting: “As his smash 'Home' has shown, Phillips can't really miss, and his debut offers more like that -- in the catchy 'So Easy' and 'Can't Go Wrong.' "
Grady Smith of Entertainment Weekly gave the record a grade of "B," with an observation that: “Where he doesn't go Mumford, he goes Matthews, as in Dave -- especially when left to his own devices. Many of the more circuitous, brooding songs here are penned by Phillips alone, and they're less compelling than co-writes like the horn-blaster ''Get Up Get Down,'' even if they seem to hew closest to his true taste. But that sonic schism doesn't ruin The World From the Side of the Moon. It's still the most relevant debut album the Idol machine has cranked out in years, and it nicely justifies this particular WGWG's burgeoning career.”
Katie Hasty of HitFix was generally positive, but acknowledged Phillips’ vocal limits: “These are not band-written songs, [and] this collection is shot after shot at the Next Big Single, with a frontman never stepping away from the center. Some melodies will achieve exactly the radio single sound Universal undoubtedly hoped Phillips could achieve. 'Gone, Gone, Gone' has enough BPMs to differentiate it from 'Home' while still dipping into the same pool. Closer 'So Easy' could easily head to Adult Top 40 as 'Get Up Get Down' will leave both Matthews and Maroon 5 shaking that they didn't have first dibs.
Phillips is game for all these, but it's not unfair to say he has some serious limitations, too. Dynamically, his vocals remain pleasant, lightly challenged, but rarely changing. Those performances cause tracks like 'Drive Me' and country stomper 'Cant' Go Wrong' to fall flat. He’s most emotionally expressive on 'Home,' still, and abstract 'Fool's Dance.' "
Kristin Coachman of Blogcritics.org praised Phillips’ style, noting, “From Phillips' signature raspy vocals to his intricate guitar playing and solid songwriting, The World from the Side of the Moon is a legitimate lead in towards long-term success for the Leesburg, Georgia native.”
Jody Rosen of Rolling Stone isn’t as complementary, barbing: “Like his name, Phillip Phillips' music often seems redundant: When we've already got Dave Matthews and Jason Mraz, why do we need another earnestly raspy balladeer with ace acoustic-guitar skills? The American Idol winner is especially hard to take in covers, like his scary-in-the-wrong-way version of 'Thriller' (from the Target deluxe edition). He's far better in originals like 'Gone, Gone, Gone' and his hit 'Home,' which build from folksy picking to hooting power-ballad choruses, a pleasantly popified take on Arcade Fire. Those songs are redundant too -- but the tunes leaven Phillips' overbearing self-seriousness."
What do you think of Phillp Phillips' debut, Idol Worshippers? Leave your review in the comments below.