Phil Collins got his start by backing bands as a drummer. He’d go on to front Genesis, have a solo career, and land seven No.1 singles in the United States. His most significant work appeared between 1982-1990.
During the 1980s, Collins would have more Top 40 singles in the United States than any other musician. Some of his best songs continue to receive significant airplay today.
Collins learned how to play the drums at age five. He also attended drama school at a young age, allowing him to secure parts as a child actor.
Collins joined Genesis in 1970, before the age of 20, as their drummer. He became the lead singer in 1975 when Peter Gabriel left the group.
What Are the 10 Best Phil Collins Songs?
Phil Collins recorded eight studio albums that have over 183 million global units sold. He is only one of three musicians, with Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney, to sell at least 100 million records in a band and as a solo musician. His best songs include “In the Air Tonight” and “One More Night.”
Collins won numerous awards during his career, including eight Grammy Awards, six Brit Awards, two Golden Globes, an Academy Award, and six Ivor Novellos from the British Academy of Songwriters.
He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1999. In 2003, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Collins is also in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, getting inducted as a member of Genesis in 2010.
You can also see his work in the movies Balto and The Jungle Book 2, where he supplied the voices for some of the characters.
Phil Collins came back into the spotlight after a viral video of two teenagers
who heard the drum solo from “In the Air Tonight” and were shocked by the work.
His ten best songs provide an authentic glimpse into the man, the myth, and the legend who celebrated his 70th birthday in 2021.
List of the 10 Best Songs by Phil Collins
Although Collins had several hits while working with Genesis, most of the attention he receives comes from the solo efforts produced in the 1980s.
This list of the ten best songs by Phil Collins focuses on his solo work only.
This song made it back to the bestseller lists after the viral reaction video because the drop in the beat is still one of the best things ever – even though it’s 40 years old.
You might need to look up the lyrics because of how Collins sings them, but you cannot deny the other-worldly atmospheres that create the emotional foundation for the music.
That’s part of the reason why the beat drop is such a memorable experience. You’ve been built up to that moment.
You’re expecting something to happen, but there have been a few false drops included until you get there.
You also have Collins’ emotional singing. You can feel the hurt he felt at the time with his relationships disintegrating around him.
In the music video, you see him sitting in an empty room. It’s such a powerful song dynamic.
Collins took the cinematic approach to his music video for this song. It’s also a sound that epitomizes everything about 1980s music that you can remember from the era.
If you close your eyes when listening to this Phil Collins hit, you can almost hear Prince playing in the background.
What makes this composition stand out as a top hit is the multiple drum layers.
You’ve got the drum set working with the brass on one end of the audio spectrum, while an electronic beat with some sludge drives the narrative.
You can’t help but want to tap your feet or dance to this song when it lays. Just say the word!
3. Take Me Home
The cinematic theme continues with this Phil Collins music video. You’ll need to invest six minutes of your life into the song, but it’s worth the price of admission.
What’s so remarkable about this composition is that there’s almost nothing to it. You’ll get a simple drum pattern, a few electronic loops, and a straightforward chord progression.
All of that repeats for the entire song. Collins builds things up with some power chords as you progress to the chorus, but his powerful voice carries the composition the whole time.
When you reach the chorus over two minutes into the song, you’ll find that everything was worth the wait.
“So, take, take me home because I don’t remember. Take, take me home.”
There’s also the strangely pleasing awkwardness of Collins bouncing around to the beat as he tours several different cities around the world.
The 1980s might have been the Decade of Phil Collins, but you cannot ignore this 1996 contribution.
It enters with a drum flourish, provides a ska-like beat, and offers the traditional vocals that you love with his music.
Although there isn’t something substantial about the lyrics, it feels like a swan song for Collins.
He’s made it through the emotional tragedies from the decade before, and now he’s ready to start dancing into the light.
The energy found in this song is addictive, especially with the trumpet running its lines during the chorus with a bright attack.
It’s not the sing-along anthem that some people like to have with Collins’ music, but it’s still got a beat that’s strong enough to carry you home.
“How can I just let you walk away?” This song’s opening line instantly captures the listener, and it never lets you go until the end.
“How can you just walk away from me?” When you get to the second verse, you’re hooked into whatever memories you have that relate to the music.
It’s one of the few ballads that really resonates from Collins, especially since the piano replaces the drums for driving the music forward until you get through the chorus once.
You’ll get the beat drop at that point, with some extra hi-hats in the mix, to encourage you to start singing.
As with most of the songs from this era, you can hear the anguish as Collins struggles to come to grips with his heartache.
There might not be a better heartbreak song that was ever recorded.
When Collins made it to his third solo album, you could tell that he was having a creative moment. The hooks in his songs are some of the best he ever produced during his career.
What is remarkable about this title is that he improvised almost the entire composition while working in the studio.
As with some of his other compositions at the time, you’ve got multiple drum layers to drive the melody.
You don’t even need to listen to the lyrics to appreciate how Collins composed this piece.
When the drum strikes hit, you can feel each beat hit your heart. As Collins eases into the chorus, more syncopation comes into the piece to get your head bobbing and the feet moving.
The grind heard in Collins’ voice as he progresses through the song adds to the piece’s grittiness.
If this composition were from any other artist, it would probably be their top hit.
For Collins, it’s a mid-range masterpiece. That’s how far above and beyond he was during the 1980s.
7. Easy Lover
When the cymbals crash at the beginning of this song, you’re not quite sure what to expect. The drums start a bit slow, but they gradually build into a massive groove.
Collins hits you right away with the song’s hook, and you’re stuck listening to it to end.
The rhyming pattern you’ll get in the song is unique and progressive, creating a line that repeats with an added observation.
“She’s an easy lover. She’ll get a hold on you, believe it.”
Before you know it, you’ll be on your knees with this song, but it’ll because you’ve been dancing until you’re exhausted.
Once you think you’ve had it all, Collins puts in a massive guitar solo for a bridge that could be a part of any modern rock song.
It builds your energy back up until you’re ready to start going again.
If you grew up in the 1980s and your parents listened to the radio, they probably turned the volume up to sing along with this song.
It’s time to restore that tradition!
When the world made it to 1985, Phil Collins was the king of the music industry. He played both ends of Live Aid at that point, and everything he created was turning into a hit.
When some artists reach this point, they start creating strange compositions or experiment in different genres. Collins took a different approach.
With this song, you’ve got that small drum machine and another one of his famous introverted ballads that everyone can relate to in some way.
It would be fair to say that the Easy Listening radio category was invented to keep playing this song at will.
The song stands out because Collins, who got his career started as a drummer, is seen in the music video playing the piano with an empty beer glass on top.
The most poignant line from his musical career is also in this song. “Maybe I should call you, then I thought – maybe you’re not alone.”
When Tarzan came out, a new generation of music lovers got introduced to the musical wizardry of Phil Collins. “Come stop your crying, it’ll be all right. Just hold my hand, and hold it tight.”
Movie songs often include scenes from the film as part of the video. You won’t see that with this Collins masterpiece.
What makes it such a remarkable piece for a ballad is that the screen is often divided to show two different worlds, but that we can still be together as one.
“We’re not that different at all,” Collins sings at one point.
All of the Phil Collins trademarks are incorporated into the composition, including the key change in the bridge.
You can hear the drum machine working with the kit cymbals, but he gives you a second bridge to enjoy when you expect progression.
It’s one of those songs that strikes an emotional chord in everyone. Don’t be surprised if you feel a few tears headed your way!
10. Separate Lives
This song doesn’t make many lists, but it could be argued that it is Collins’ biggest hit.
Anyone who had to leave or had their first love disappear can relate to what he sings in this composition.
The female vocals that come on top of his voice in the chorus are the perfect addition.
“You have no right to ask me how I feel. You have no right to speak to me so kind. I can’t go on just holding onto time. Now that we’re living separate lives.”
It’s the question Collins asks in the first verse that stands out the most. “Do I feel lonely too?”
You can’t forget about the movie White Nights with this song. It’s about an expatriate Russian dancer on a plane forced to land in the Soviet Union.
If you’re a fan of Phil Collins, you’ve got to add this song to your collection. It could be his most underrated piece.
Bonus Pick: Like China
What makes Phil Collins such a unique artist is his willingness to embrace some eccentricity. He’s willing to go places where the corporate music world hesitates.
This song emphasizes his accent more than other compositions, which draws your attention to the music immediately.
The lyrics are quite funny, especially when you look at it through the lens of a parody.
“I’ll be so careful, I’ll hold you like china… You won’t feel nothing, I’ll hold you like China.”
That’s what any girl would want to hear the first time, isn’t it?
What makes the listener crack a smile is that Collins complains about how her parents hate him, but he doesn’t understand why they feel that way.
“I always straighten my tie and comb my hair.”
Even her brother isn’t the biggest fan of him in the song. “I know your brother thinks that I’m a limp-wristed wimp from the other side of town.”
It makes you wonder what Collins was doing in his younger years before he joined Genesis.
When you get to the bridge, the solo is remarkably progressive for the era.
It’s reminiscent of something you’d hear from Jethro Tull in the early 1970s, especially in the song “Aqualung.”
What Are Your Favorite Phil Collins Songs?
Phil Collins had a run in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s that made him become The Beatles of the era. It’s rare for an artist to have that much of an influence on the industry.
What’s even more remarkable about Collins’ music is that people are ready to write it off without giving it much of a chance.
Even on my list, I didn’t include “Groovy Kind of Love,”
which spent 25 weeks on the U.S. charts and peaked at the No. 1 spot.
If you get the chance to listen to the originals or the remasters that were released in the past few years, you’ll have a real treat!
Those are my top ten Phil Collins songs (plus a bonus one!). Do you think anything else from his catalog deserves to be on this list?