Recently, Phil Collins, one of the biggest adult contemporary stars of the 1980s and 1990s, announced his retirement from the world of music, due to family obligations and some of the injuries that he had obtained from a life of drumming. For a minute, reading about Collins' sad exit from music, and his knowledge that he wasn't relevant anymore, I felt sad for Collins, who has been a perennial target of many people's mockery, including my own.
But then I remembered "Jesus He Knows Me", a song written by Phil Collins and released with Genesis, on their album "We Can't Dance", in 1991. In the song (and video), Collins portrays a sleazy, greedy televangelist who seeks money from his listeners, and is predictably corrupt with both lust and greed.
And there is very little else to say about this song. The video has some clever points, and Collins is a funny actor as the televangelist, but there is nothing else in its music or lyrics that is notable. Its like Collins took one of the hundreds of synth-pop tracks that probably litter his studio, and then wrote down the most obvious observations he could about televangelism, and sang them over the track. Greed, lust, hypocrisy, check. The problem with this is that there is nothing new said in this song, and even in 1991, making fun of televangelists was about as witty as asking "what's the deal with airline food". And this isn't an isolated incident, most of the political or social commentary that Collins' scattered amongst his soft love ballads was equally as banal and trite. And he did sell well over 50 million albums. So, in other words, while it might be mean to hate Phil Collins for his mediocrity, it is somewhat easier to hate a mediocre person who thinks he is smarter than you.
Also, of course, with the religious subject matter, it does lead some credence to the idea that religion is constantly misunderstood and attacked. The song sets up a strawman and then attacks it, which for a person who understands that televangelism is only a small part of religious life in America, must be pretty annoying. It is a good example of how the liberal media distorts and attacks religion: but only if we think that "liberal media" is a synonym for "balding, pudgy, adult contemporary crooner".