Monday, March 12, 2012

Against All Odds by Phil Collins

“Against All Odds” is one of those songs that continues to be omnipresent in our culture. I heard it last week at a J. Crew store and just the week before it was featured on Up All Night.  We often overlook music we hear all the time as being musically insignificant. For years, “Against All Odds” was one of those songs for me.

On the surface “Against All Odds,” is a cheesy 1980s ballad. The instrumentation immediately dates this song and while many people like Phil Collins’ voice, it’s doesn’t hold a universal appeal.  The way I began to really understand the subtlety and depth of this song was listening to Mariah Carey’s version.

It’s not that Carey’s version is all that different. The studio recording of her cover is exactly the same length as Phil Collins'. I would not argue the Carey does a better performance. That simply isn’t a fair comparison as these are two singers who sing in completely different styles. What Mariah Carey allowed for me is to hear this song fresh after years of hearing it as background music.

Break-up songs cover a wide complexity of emotions and Collins manages to encapsulates so much of them in this song. The first line of the verses starts with anguish that immediately melts in sentimentality. This juxtaposition of emotions immediately draws us in as pain and joy come crashing together.

The plea of the chorus is “take a look at me now” which contrasts “the memory of your face.” He hope that if the other person looks at his face she will be drawn back into the relationship.  However, it's against odds.

As the song journey’s forward there is another plea to just turn around but it’s to no avail. As the second chorus enters, the song becomes more desperate. Heartbreak sinks in, as all she can do is “wait.”  He can’t make her turn around. At the end song not against the odds that they will get back together, it’s against all odds. It’s not going to happen. Where there once was a slim chance of this working out there is nothing.

There are no lines in this song like in many songs about relationships that talk about love directly. Instead Phil Collins goes deeper into what it means to be loved and what that feels like. The one-line that expresses the love between them is “you’re the only one who ever knew me at all.”

Think about the people in your life that you truly love. They know you in ways that other people don’t and allow you to not have to “be” anything but yourself.  Being able to be that open and free with another person is liberating and beautiful. If you’ve got this you can’t let it go without a fight. Even if it’s against all odds.

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