Phil Stacey – “If You Didn’t Love Me”

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After having a bit of fun at Count Stacey’s expense in my 2008 Country Preview Series, I decided that it was only fair to give Phil and his “Philnatics” a thoughtful review of debut single “If You Didn’t Love Me.” And what better timing than on Day 1 of American Idol’s seventh season.

The best compliment I can muster for this is to say, simply, that it’s not that bad. Co-written by Gary LeVox from Rascal Flatts, “If You Didn’t Love Me” is considerably better, lyrically and melodically, than most of the material on the trio’s latest album Still Feels Good.

There is a solid emotional core that binds this lyric together; we all have people to whom we are greatfull for their love and support, and so there is a fundamental truth to the song’s message. And that message is otherwise well executed–even the entirely unnecessary inner-repeat of “If you didn’t love/If you didn’t love me” at the beginning of the chorus, an entertaining parlor trick if not literarily masterful, adds to the song’s overall sense of compositional competency.

Unfortunately, that’s where my praise for this record ends.

What troubles me the most is the same thing that troubled me every single time I watched Stacey perform on American Idol 6: the fact that while he is a capable singer, his voice has little color.

If you stripped away from your favorite male country artist all of the sonic qualities that make him sound different than every other singer, you’d be left with someone who sounds a lot like Stacey–an artist whose voice, not possessing any particular twang, grit, depth, throatiness, whininess, or other significantly defining characteristic, is the epitome of vanilla.

There are certain dangers that come with a show like American Idol. It can thrust artists into the public view before they’ve paid their dues, before they’ve taken the time to go through the process of refining their art and learning what works and what doesn’t. What’s even more dangerous than that, however, is the fact that Idol has the potential make an artist and his fans think he’s better than he really is. And I’m afraid that’s the case with Phil Stacey–a nice person, a good guy, but not someone who can be reasonably considered a top-tier vocalist.

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